Why tummy time is important for your baby’s development

Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that infants be placed on their backs to sleep at night and during naps. The Back to Sleep and Safe Sleep campaigns have contributed to a 40 percent decrease in sudden infant death syndrome in the U.S.

Pediatric experts around the world also recommend babies spend time on their tummies – when they’re awake – to help them develop strong muscles and good motor skills. Studies show only 30 percent of parents follow these recommendations.

Jade Elliott spoke with Dr. Lindgren, a pediatrician with Intermountain Healthcare about the importance of tummy time on this episode of the Baby Your Baby Podcast.

“When babies are on their tummy, they start trying to lift their neck, move their arms and legs and work their core abdominal muscles, which helps them develop motor skills and better balance,” says Peter Lindgren, a pediatrician with Intermountain Healthcare.

Spend 3-5 minutes a few times a day interacting with your baby on their tummy. Place baby on your chest to talk and play, but don’t let baby sleep there. And don’t fall asleep with baby on your chest. Place baby in a safe place on the floor where you can watch and play with your baby for a few minutes. Some babies might not like being on their tummy at first, but gradually work up to 30 minutes a day of tummy time.

Fun ways to help your baby exercise during tummy time

  •  Place a toy just out of baby’s reach, to see if they’ll move their head or arms.
  • Place several toys in a circle around baby to encourage baby to roll over, scoot or crawl.

Place babies on their back to sleep until their first birthday

Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep at night and for naps until they reach their first birthday.

“Once baby can roll over both ways, from back to tummy and tummy to back, you do not need to return your baby to the back position,” says Dr. Lindgren.

“Nothing else should be in an infant’s crib. Do not put blankets, pillows, bumpers or soft toys into the crib.”

Dr. Lindgen says pacifiers are ok, but you may want to delay their use for the first two to three weeks after birth if you are breastfeeding. Make sure there is nothing that could cover a baby’s mouth or nose while sleeping.

If baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier or sling, move them to a firm sleep surface on their back as soon as possible.

Vary baby’s position to help prevent a flat spot on the back of their head

“It’s also very important to spend time holding your baby and bonding. Varying baby’s position can help reduce the risk of developing a flat spot on the back of their head. Limit the time baby spends in car seats, swings and bouncy chairs. And don’t forget to change the side you hold your baby during feeding,” added Dr. Lindgren.

For more information visit intermountainhealthcare.org

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.