Why Doesn’t My Baby Like Tummy Time and Why is it so Important?
Parents were particularly encouraged to give babies tummy time after the success of the Back To Sleep campaign - the drive dramatically reduced the incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But following the campaign, the medical profession noted a rise in torticollis (when tight neck muscles prevent them from turning their head in both directions), flat head syndrome and developmental delays. Parents are now encouraged to engage with their baby in protected tummy time every day.
When a baby is placed on their stomach they build muscles in their neck, shoulder and arms, in addition to strengthening their core. This helps little ones develop the muscles they need to lift their heads, roll, sit, crawl and walk. It also prevents them from developing flat head syndrome, a position which is caused when they spend too much time on their back.
The irony is that babies often dislike being placed on their tummy because they don’t yet have the strength to push themselves up and look around. So, is there another way?
Is There an Alternative to Tummy Time?
Parents who use slings often worry that carrying their baby will hamper their development.
Maybe someone has muttered the common misconception, “they’ll never learn to walk if you carry them”. But the reality is quite the opposite and using a sling actually aids development.
The movement your baby experiences in a carrier can help them to build their core muscles; carrying in an upright position in a sling, and even more so in arms, helps babies engage their stomach and back muscles in response to your movement. Even though they are well supported, a sling encourages a more active role than the passive position they are in when in a cot, pram or car seat.
Being in a sling also gives your baby the chance to hold their head up and strengthen their neck muscles; they can then lean back on you when they’re tired.
The wonderful thing about babywearing is that most babies and parents enjoy the activity and find it a comfort. It brings a range of other benefits and developmental advantages. So you can help your baby strengthen their muscles and core in a way that feels less stressful than tummy time. It’s also easy to fit into your day as you can pop your baby in a sling while you go about doing other things.
Do I Ever Need to Do Tummy Time Again?
Well, yes. Carrying your baby can complement and enhance tummy time but it should not replace the need for tummy time altogether. When lying on their front babies are encouraged to push against gravity horizontally, which is important for development and something that can’t be completely recreated by babywearing. However, if you carry your baby often this will help build their neck muscles which may make tummy time more enjoyable for them.
How Can I Help my Baby to Enjoy Tummy Time?
You don’t need to just pop them on the floor, you can lie on the floor too and play or sing to them. Placing them on your tummy while you lie back is another great alternative and usually more comforting for your baby - it also allows you to have a wee lie down.
Like most things it’s all about moderation. Using a sling is fantastic for supporting babies' healthy physical development. It has been proven to help strengthen many of the muscle groups that that tummy time focuses on and, as a result, can help make tummy time more enjoyable. There’s no limit on how much time your baby spends in the sling. There are so many practical advantages and the closeness will benefit both of you. Be led by your little one and enjoy some floor and tummy time too, it all helps with development.