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Month Two: The Importance of Newborn Baby Tummy Time on Your Infant's Breathing

Month Two: The Importance of Newborn Baby Tummy Time on Your Infant's Breathing

Guest post by Holly Sanford, RN

Thanks for joining us for our newborn baby breathing series! If you missed it, last month we covered everything you need to know about newborn baby breathing. 

The importance of newborn baby tummy time is well documented and therefore essential for parents to incorporate into routine care. Since the Back to Sleep campaign was launched in the 1990s to encourage safe sleep and decrease SIDS cases, babies spend significantly more time on their backs. While sleeping on the stomach is not recommended for young infants, babies still need to spend extra time on their stomach during the day while awake to get that mini workout in.

If you are reading this and feel discouraged because your little one hates tummy time, don’t give up! We will touch on some ways to incorporate positions that will help your baby tolerate tummy time.

newborn baby tummy time for bonding

Why newborn baby tummy time?

          Muscle Strengthening—Tummy time helps babies develop strength and coordination in their core, back, arms and neck muscles. Some of these muscle groups are involved in respirations and may even strengthen breathing. If your baby happens to roll over in the middle of the night, it will be more likely to reposition in a more comfortable and safe breathing posture if needed. Through repetition, tummy time helps babies develop the foundational skills needed for scooting, crawling, pulling up and walking.

            Skull Formation—Babies who are on their backs for prolonged periods of time may develop a flat spot on the skull known as positional plagiocephaly. Tummy time relieves the resistance of a firm surface against the head, thus allowing time for natural shaping to take place.

            Bonding—Tummy time promotes bonding between caregivers and babies. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to play with your infant whether you interact with them on a play-mat or look into their sweet little face as the two of you lay belly to belly.

newborn baby tummy time

Newborn Baby Tummy Time Instructions

  1. Start tummy time for full term infants after they come home from the hospital.
  1. Try not to engage in tummy time directly after a feed. This may cause abdominal discomfort or increased reflux. You will also have more success if the baby is not overly tired or hungry.
  1. Engage your baby in tummy time two to three times a day for three to five minutes. As the baby develops tolerance, gradually increase to three to five sessions for fifteen to twenty minutes a day.
  1. Make tummy time fun by adding contrast cards, a textured toy, or an object that creates sound. You can also place the baby on your own belly and make entertaining faces as they look at you! 
  1. Never leave the baby alone during tummy time due to an increased risk of suffocation.
  1. Don’t force the baby to endure tummy time if they are upset. Give them a break with lots of cuddles and then try a different method. If you have a baby that generally hates tummy time (like mine), continue to offer the opportunity a few times a day. Try placing the baby in a football hold and walk around your home to show it interesting objects. You can also carefully fly the baby around like a little airplane to enjoy the ride!

Tummy time is important but it doesn’t have to be a chore! You can easily make it part of your routine if you do it after your baby wakes up or after you change their diaper during the day. The key to successful tummy time is consistency and direct involvement with your baby. Like coaches cheer on their players, fully engage in encouraging your baby each step of their tummy time development!

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Holly Sanford is a mother and a pediatric nurse of 9 years with a lifelong passion for helping children and their families. In her free time, she loves cooking new recipes, traveling to unique places and staying active with her family. 

Tummy time will be more fun when baby can breathe better

More giggles ahead!

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