I consider myself a pretty low-key mom, but when it came to tummy time, I was literally whipping out my phone's stop-watch and timing how many minutes my little one was logging. I was a full-on "Tummy Time Tiger Mom." Like me, you've probably heard about the value of tummy time, but are you familiar with the things you should never do during tummy time?
Before we get into the tummy time "don't" list, let me first acknowledge that some babies will go along with tummy time willingly, and others will cry their heads off and make you feel like you're putting them through legit torture. My first daughter was the former, my second the latter, so I've been there. Trust me. But even if your wee one goes into hysterics at the mere site of the floor, just know that you're doing him or her a real solid. Tummy time helps your baby develop the strong back and neck muscles they'll need to accomplish other milestones like crawling, sitting, and walking, Dr. Richard A. Honaker, MD explains in an interview wth Romper.
I interviewed Dr. Honaker, the Senior Medical Advisor for yourdoctors.online, and Dr. Jarret Patton, pediatrician and children's health advocate, to find out what the big no-nos are when implementing tummy time. Here are the top five things you need to know.
1. Don't expect your baby to be a pro from the get-go
The American Association of Pediatrics recommended that you start tummy time right away with your newborn baby. But the key is easing in.
"You’ll want to gradually introduce tummy time to your infant. The child initially might not like tummy time and may cry and protest and want to be picked back up. However, by starting with one or two minutes a day, you’ll be able to extend that time so they’ll be getting five minutes a day, then multiple times a day," advises Dr. Jarret.
2. Don't do tummy time if your baby is hungry or full
When you have young infant, it can seem like they're constantly either hungry or feeding, so when is a good time to hit the mat?
"Happy, playful time would be a good time to introduce tummy time, " recommends Dr. Jarret. "They will certainly protest it if they’re hungry. And particularly in a kid that’s prone to having reflux or spitting up, going straight to the belly after they eat won’t work either. You will want to wait at least half an hour to do tummy time after eating," advises Dr. Jarret.
Dr. Honaker adds that a good time to do tummy time is right after a diaper change, when your baby is feeling clean and relaxed.
3. Don't forget the props
Some babies just aren't going to be big fans of the tummy time position, but there are some tricks to get them to like it a little more.
Dr. Honaker recommends putting toys in a circle around them or using a mirror or a toy with flashing lights to engage them. He also recommends getting down on the floor with them, right at eye level, and making eye contact. You can encourage older siblings to do the same.
"Do whatever you can to make it more pleasant to be in this new position," says Dr. Honaker.
4. Don't forget to make it comfortable
For those with wood, linoleum, or marble floors, you're going to want to put a blanket or towel down, since those surfaces can be cold.
"Make sure you're using a pleasant-feeling surface — something warm and soft but not plush, because babies do need to have some friction to push off of," suggests Dr. Honaker.
You can also place a rolled up towel under their arms to prop them up so they don't find it uncomfortable, or even place them on your own legs so that tummy time feels like play time, adds Dr. Honaker.
5. Don't ever leave your baby unsupervised
The most important thing you need to remember with tummy time is that you need to keep an eye on your baby at all times. Even if you think it's a safe environment, there are always things you can't control — your dog suddenly thinking it's a good idea to sit on the baby's face, a sibling handing your baby a snack they can't chew, or your little one suddenly being able to roll over and off the bed.
Dr. Jarret cautions, "Children should never be given tummy time unsupervised. This can lead to accidental injury or suffocation."
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.