Life with a new baby is full on! Whether you're home with your newborn or eagerly awaiting their arrival, there's a lot to learn and adjust to. Once you've started to figure out the basics, one great way to bond and help your baby's development is through tummy time. You might have heard the term and wondered what all the fuss is about, so let's take a closer look.
When peadiatricians discovered that we could reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by having babies sleep on their backs, everyone was overjoyed! But along with the reduction of time spent in their natural position (on their tummies), we started to see a rise in flat heads and slower development. Enter tummy time. It's literally what the name suggests: parents are encouraged to place their babies on their tummies for a few minutes a day.
One great, easy way to start with tummy time is to lay baby tummy-to-tummy on mom and dad. Lie down in a comfortable place, with your head on a pillow. Place baby on your tummy or chest, with their head closest to you. You can smile, talk or sing to your baby, encouraging them to lift their head up to look at you. And you can make it an extra special bonding time by doing this skin-to-skin.
Once you've got tummy-to-tummy time under your belt (or you're feeling a bit more mobile yourself) you can graduate to more independent tummy time. Lay baby down on a blanket on the floor, far from cushions, any pets or any soft toys that could smother them. Lie down next to your baby, and sing or talk to them to encourage them to look up at you. If your baby is fussing or crying in this position, pick them up and try again another time. If you're ready, you could also try this: lie down on your back, with your head on a pillow. Pull your knees up, and place your baby on your shins so that their head peeks over your knees. Holding their hands, you can gently move your legs about while holding your shins parallel to the ground.
Babies who spend time on their tummies get stronger, faster. Looking up helps them strengthen their necks, shoulders, arms, spines, backs, and legs. All this helps them to develop at a better pace, crawling, feeding themselves and learning independent play much sooner than babies who spend time on their backs. You can start with just a few minutes, and gradually work up to about 20 minutes a day.
So there you have it. A quick and simple exercise to do with your baby, that lets you bond and spend time together, while growing and learning. And remember, this is something that anyone can do with the baby. Just do it in a safe, comfortable place with a responsible adult close by at all times. Older siblings love to lie on the floor near the new baby, making it a lovely bonding experience for them, too.