Making tummy time fun for newborns is an invaluable resource for parents! Tummy time, when done incorrectly, can be difficult for babies to enjoy and may even lead to frustration or anger – exactly what we want to avoid with a newborn. These simple tips will help make tummy time more enjoyable for you and for your baby.
What is tummy time and when should we start?
Tummy time is a necessary part of a baby’s development. You can begin it the day you come home from the hospital. When your baby spends time on their belly while they play and explore, they get used to moving around the world from different angles, which will prepare them for crawling. Tummy time also strengthens a baby’s neck, arm, and back muscles while improving their hand-eye coordination when they reach out to touch objects, like a rattle or their face in a floor level mirror (we LOVE the mirror below).
The first thing you need to know about tummy time for newborns is that it’s not just a way of getting your little one acquainted with their limbs. Tummy time can be used as an opportunity to stimulate development in all areas: physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and more, which makes it an amazing asset for your daily routine.
After all, when you’re sitting with your baby during tummy time, it gives both of you an opportunity to interact. This communication is important for developing language skills as well as emotional intelligence and social awareness.
Babies who have spent time on their bellies also tend to be more confident in exploring other areas of their environment later on. This can help your baby become accustomed to new environments without feeling threatened or frustrated, a vital part of healthy development.
My baby hates tummy time! What do I do?
Some (most!) babies have a strong dislike for new and uncomfortable experiences, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid tummy time. If your little one is unhappy during this part of their day, try these things:
First, use different textures of material. Sometimes babies are just uncomfortable with something they’ve never felt before, so try using softer materials that don’t have as much traction (like silk). Try also giving your baby an opportunity to be on their back or side in order to explore other parts of their body – it’s important at this age not only for development purposes but helping develop tactile awareness, too.
Consider making up a song about what you’re doing for tummy time with your newborn. Singing about things like “knees up” or letting your baby know you’re going to turn them over will help break down the anxiety and make it seem a little more fun than before! Babies love when you softly sing to them!
Encourage eye contact by looking at your baby during tummy time so they can learn facial expressions and get comfortable gazing into someone’s eyes while lying down. (YOU are their favorite playtoy right now)!
Remember to talk to your baby, too – babies need encouragement, especially when trying something new. Use real language, not simplified baby talk. Coach your baby just like you’re speaking with a friend. It may help to imagine yourself as a yoga instructor.
Different tummy time positions for your newborn
If your baby hates tummy time, changing positions might help.
First, try laying your baby on their back and lay next to them. Now, roll onto your sides, side by side so that you are face to face with your baby’s feet resting in front of your stomach.
You can roll up a small towel and place it along the small of your baby’s back. This will help prop them up and get used to laying on their side, developing important muscles for rolling over, later on.
Choosing a tummy time mat for your baby
Place a foam mat or bath towel on the floor so it covers most of the space where you will be doing tummy time with your newborn. A mat is soft and provides comfort while your baby is laying down – doubling as extra support if the floor is slippery. This will help your baby feel secure, leading to less frustration. A mat will also provide extra cushioning for your baby’s head.
It’s up to you to decide what kind of mat best suits your needs in the space where you’re doing tummy time with your baby. If the house is chilly and you select a towel, consider using two towels instead.
You might be surprised to find that once you make tummy time more comfortable with a mat or towel, your newborn starts enjoying it much more!
Choosing a tummy time pillow to support your baby
One of my favorite ways to switch up tummy time is using a tummy time pillow. A pillow for tummy time is a good option if you want to make it more comfortable, but also want your baby to have some control. A few pillows will serve the same function as a mat and provide support while they use their legs or arms during tummy time.
Pillows can come in many shapes and sizes. You can use a regular pillow, but some pillows have been designed specifically for tummy time. The pillow should be about the size of your baby or slightly larger.
The best tummy time toys help distract and engage your baby
Babies enjoy tummy time, even more, when they have toys to play with. The best toys to use for tummy time are not too heavy. Babies can learn to use their neck muscles and arm strength by playing with light toys in this position.
These toys should be simple and made from natural materials to help your baby learn more about the real world. Toys should be high-contrast to hold a baby’s attention, but avoid electronic toys with lights, which can condition a baby to ignore any objects that don’t light up. Give your baby limited choices to avoid frustration–babies are easily overwhelmed when they have too much to choose from.
Alternative to tummy time for your newborn
If tummy time just isn’t working out right now, try an alternative such as wearing your baby in a wrap, sling, or carrier. Or laying your baby on your chest. This can help your baby get used to the position without being separated from you, which may be why your baby is frustrated or upset. If you’re wearing your baby, choose clothing that’s comfortable for both you and your baby. Keep the weight off your back by sitting instead of standing up straight. Holding your baby should be an enjoyable experience for both of you. If you’re laying your baby on your chest, remember to position them so they’re comfortable. You can lay a blanket under your baby’s head or place a pillow beneath it for support. You can also use a rolled towel instead.
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Final request – don’t force tummy time with your baby
Until your baby is comfortable with tummy time, don’t force it. The best approach is gentle and kind, and while not everything a baby experiences will be enjoyable or fun, we should do our best to make sure learning is.
Remember to give your baby plenty of time to explore their environment with your support. Your baby should associate tummy time with fun and learning, not frustration. With your gentle guidance, your baby will eventually begin to enjoy tummy time and all the health benefits – mental and physical – that come with it.
Free Guide to Setting Up Baby Activities
Stop wasting time and energy researching activities to do with your baby! I’ve taken our favorites and compiled them into one free guide to help you, complete with a fun, printable worksheet.