More and more babies are being put to sleep on their backs as a result of pediatricians’ recommendations to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome while sleeping. While this practice is suggested for safety and health, many babies are missing out on crucial awake hours of TUMMY TIME due to the habit of placing babies on their backs.
What is TUMMY TIME?
Simply put, TUMMY TIME is any opportunity a baby has to spend on her stomach.
Why is TUMMY TIME important?
TUMMY TIME prevents the flattening of the head that can occur when a baby spends too much time lying on her back. TUMMY TIME gives the baby the chance to progress in the natural blueprint of movement sequences that enable her to stand up in the vertical position. In particular, TUMMY TIME helps develop the spinal curves and muscle strength needed to move onto all fours and begin balancing. This leads to creeping, crawling, scooting, standing, and walking upright. This sequence is called Developmental Movement. Without going through these movements the brain does not achieve its full opportunity to develop the corpus colosum, which enables the right and left hemispheres to transmit information between one another. Many learning challenges can be traced to missed developmental movement patterns in the first year of life…. particularly crawling.
What are the Developmental Movement Patterns?
Developmental Movement Patterns are based on three forces: PUSH, PULL, and REACH. There are four basic components: NAVAL RADIATION, HOMOLOGOUS MOVEMENTS, HOMOLATERAL MOVEMENTS, AND CONTRALATERAL MOVEMENTS. Naval Radiation occurs when a baby is first born. If you watch your baby closely you will see that her breath and movements initiate from the radius of her body, which is at her navel. This has been the center for her nourishment and connection to mother for the first nine months so it is no wonder that this is where the movement begins. Homologous movement is from head to tail. This is seen with the lifting of the head and chest, the pushing of the hands and arms into the floor to lift and reach the head and eyes, and then the lifting of the tailbone upward into what looks a lot like the yoga pose called “awkward pose” or “knees, chest, and chin.” The feet may try to push into the floor. Sometimes there is a push pull kind of rocking from head to toes that occurs. As homologous movements develop, naval radiation movements lessen. The baby becomes even more alert and curious as the senses engage more fully and the body develops muscle and bone strength. Homolateral movements are same side. Often we see the baby put her foot into her mouth and hold it there with the same hand. This is both homologous and homolateral. Creeping or, army crawl, on the belly like a salamander is a homolateral movement. Jumping Jacks are an upright homolateral movement. If we try to walk homolaterally we end up walking like Frankenstein. It is awkward and the flow of breath and movement through the center of the body is constricted. Contralateral movements cross the midline of the body and consequently trigger the corpus colosum of the brain to transmit from left brain to right brain and vice versa. This is where singing or babbling becomes speech. There are many ways for babies to go through these patterns. It is important for all babies to crawl. Even if a baby walks first it is important to try to get the baby to crawl too. One can go back through the Developmental Movement Patterns again and again in life to relearn them and retrain the brain. It is even possible to do this with people who have experienced strokes.
How to do TUMMY TIME
During TUMMY TIME talk, sing, and play with your baby. Keep her interested and engaged! Use toys, scarves, and instruments to help. This is a great bonding time for baby and caregivers! Titrate the experience. That means do it a little at a time and keep building it up over time. Diaper changing time is a great opportunity to add in some TUMMY TIME and play. This happens multiple times in a day so it could become a routine part of diapering. Massaging your baby on her tummy amidst diaper changing is a wonderful way to create a relaxing and soothing Tummy Time experience. Singing favorite lullabies or other gentle songs while doing this is beneficial for everyone.
Frequency and duration of TUMMY TIME
Try to work up to about 30 -40 minutes a day spread out through different segments of the day.
When to Begin TUMMY TIME
You can begin placing your baby on her belly as soon as the umbilical cord has fallen off. Newborns will begin by rooting around with their heads and work to begin lifting their heads. Babies of three months and up who have learned to lift their heads and hold them up will be pushing on the floor with their hands and arms to look around more and track sounds or objects. They will look more like they are in baby cobra or sphinx yoga poses.
What if my baby fusses during TUMMY TIME ?
Many parents tell me their baby does not like TUMMY TIME. While it is true that many babies will struggle and fuss during TUMMY TIME early on, this is not a reason to stop doing it! The real issue to look at is WHY it might be a struggle for a baby. First, consider that the baby spent its first nine months of life in the liquid floating space of the womb. The world of gravity is a real surprise after a life of floating! Secondly, during infancy the head is the biggest and heaviest part of the body. It is bigger than the baby’s bottom! Imagine if your head was bigger than your bottom! It would be a struggle to lift your head up too wouldn’t it? Thirdly, the baby’s spine has minimal curves when born. The developmental movement patterns help to develop those curves, which create the foundation and architecture for the body to stand up. All of this requires a lot of effort and work for the baby. It is a bit like adults hitting the gym after a long period of not working out. Afterwards our bodies ache, and during, it is often a push to stick with it. It is the same for babies. Whatever you do, don’t make up your baby’s mind about whether she likes it or not. Babies are intelligent and pick up everything you do and say. You don’t want to inadvertently set a negative precedent. Babies change and grow constantly. So give your baby a chance to keep trying. Don’t push it to frenzy. See what your baby’s edge is and then stop. If your baby cries at a level of true discomfort then stop and soothe her. Try again later. There is plenty of time.
What if my baby scoots on her bottom or does not crawl before standing?
If your baby scoots on her bottom instead of crawling offer the chance to crawl through a play tunnel or under some kitchen chairs. Crawl around with your baby and model it for her. Babies love to imitate! If your baby stands and walks before crawling try to continue offering opportunities to crawl.
Bonding with your baby through Tummy Time and Renewing Yourself
Resting on your own tummy next to or opposite your baby is a wonderful way to model relaxation, full breathing, and playfulness. It gives you the chance to view the world from your baby’s perspective. Let your mind calm and tune into the wonders of the senses that motivate your baby’s curiosity: sight, smell, touch, sound, and movement. Connect in to how your baby experiences life and enjoy the break from your hardworking “thinking” mind! This offers you a chance for renewal and restoration while bonding with your baby.