How Tummy Time Can Help Develop Your Baby’s Sensory System
In 1994 the American Academy of Pediatrics launched the “Back to Sleep” campaign, recommending that infants be placed to sleep on their backs in order to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While this was successful in decreasing SIDS by more than 50%, there was a noted decrease in achievement of motor milestones in babies.
Adding to the problem, children are now placed in bouncer chairs, swings and car seats more often and for longer periods of time. These “containerized” infants are showing an increase in torticollis (twisted neck), visual difficulties and vestibular (movement sense) processing difficulties.
Tummy Time Tips & Tricks
“Tummy time” during waking hours promotes strengthening of neck, shoulder and back muscles. The following are suggestions for successful tummy time with your infant.
Place your baby on your chest
The easiest way to start tummy time is having him or her lay on your chest. This closeness is comforting to the baby, regulates breathing, temperature and digestion, and encourages early eye contact. Your child may begin to initiate head and neck extension.
Add Movement to Tummy Time
Adding movement during tummy time such as placing them across your legs or rocking provides vestibular input. This will help your baby to understand movement and where they are in space.
Once your child is 3-4 weeks old they can be transitioned to a blanket on the floor. Use bubbles, cause-and-effect toys or the best toy (you!) to keep their attention. Getting down on the floor with your child may be the most motivating for them. Tummy time at this age will promote visual tracking, postural development and motor coordination.
How Tummy Time Can Help with Sensory Sytems
Tummy time can support development of a child’s individual sensory systems:
Tactile (sense of touch)
Change the surface that the child is lying on (blanket, mother’s skin) to provide a variety of sensations to the tactile system.
Proprioception (sense of body in space)
This provides active resistive input to core and upper body musculature. It is the foundation for proper body awareness.
Vestibular (sense of movement)
This allows for the child’s head to experience a variety of positions as well as lays the groundwork for beginning rocking on hands and knees and crawling.
When a child is in a swing or car seat, their peripheral vision is blocked by the edges of the seat. By placing a child on a blanket on the floor, they are encouraged to look up and around. This is further encouraged when you are down on the ground with the child. Bubbles, mirrors, and toys are great ways to encourage the child to look up and scan their immediate environment.
Tummy time is crucial to your child’s cognitive, sensory and motor development. This simple activity, easily completed in approximately 20 minutes a day, is both beneficial, bonding and fun!
This is a guest post from the Occupational Therapy Department of the Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor & Social Connections, Inc.