"Help my baby hates tummy time!" is is not an unfamiliar call from new parents.
Do you find that your baby hates tummy time, and screams whenever you try to attempt it? Don't worry, this is perfectly normal!
Most babies find the position uncomfortable as they have not yet developed the neck and upper body muscles to maintain it properly. However, that is precisely why baby tummy time is important: it helps your child build the upper body strength they need to sit up and lift their head. If you're wondering when to start tummy time or what to do when a baby hates tummy time, this article is the perfect resource for you. It will give you plenty of tips and tricks to help your child get used to the position and hopefully come to love it!
When done right, it can be a great sensory experience and a good opportunity to bond with parents and have fun. You could use toys, vary the locations and even join in with your child to show them that tummy time can be great fun.
If you found this article about what to do if your baby hates tummy time helpful, you might enjoy reading this post about a 9-month-old baby not crawling or this one detailing activities suitable for a [6-month-old baby].
Why Is Tummy Time Important?
What parents and medical professionals call "tummy time" is time that your baby spends on its belly, awake and supervised. This process was encouraged by doctors and pediatricians after it was recommended that babies always sleep on their backs.
Whilst much safer for sleeping, babies spending more time on their backs means they are not necessarily developing the muscles necessary for sitting or standing up and can also cause them to develop a flatter head. Spending time on their belly enables them to build up the muscles in their neck and upper body, as well as practicing lifting their head up and encouraging them to carry weight on their arms.
The development of these motor skills is essential for babies to learn more movement such as crawling, sitting up, and walking. Tummy time for babies is also important to develop their coordination and balance, as they might start to roll at this time, too.
When should you start tummy time? Immediately after your baby's birth! How much tummy time you should do in a day varies on your baby's ability but as a baseline, you should start laying your baby on their belly a couple of times a day (two to three at first) for a few minutes, totaling about 30 minutes a day. With time, and as your child grows used to it, you should increase the amount of tummy time in a day.
When reading this article, please remember that not all babies follow the exact same developmental milestones; some babies skip the crawling stage and go straight from scooting to walking, for example. As such, don't be surprised if your baby does not reach these tummy time milestones at the same time as others!
Why Do Some Babies Hate Tummy Time?
You might find as you try tummy time that your baby is reluctant and screams when you place them on their belly. This can be due to a number of reasons, some of which are listed below.
Being on their tummy is not a natural position for a baby, and it can be very uncomfortable at first. Babies have not yet developed the muscles they need to maintain a good posture on their tummy and to lift their head and chest off the floor, meaning they will be struggling to get up from a sort of "face planting" position. They are likely to find this tiring and frustrating, leading to screams and cries.
Developing these upper body muscles is a lengthy process that can be tiring for both children and parents. It can take up to six months for babies to develop the muscles they need to sit up and prop themselves up.
Additionally, your baby might feel abandoned and lonely when you place them on their tummy, especially on the floor. They might not be able to see you and feel the need for attention, which explains their screams and crying.
What Can I Do To Help?
Here are some tips and advice to handle your baby being reluctant to try tummy time. If you are wondering what to do when baby hates tummy time, read on!
Start Small But Often
Just two to three sessions of a few minutes a day is a good benchmark, to begin with before upgrading to longer periods.
Start Right After Birth
Starting newborn tummy time early means your child will get used to it faster. In the few days after birth, you can practice it on your own chest and tummy, if it is comfortable to do so, face to face with your baby, speaking to soothe them.
Place a tummy time pillow or a rolled-up towel under your baby's chest to prop them up. This will encourage them to support their weight on their arms which will help them build upper body strength.
If they find this activity distressing, find ways to distract your baby when they are lying on their tummy. Use toys they like, sing a song, or face them and speak to them to make them forget about tummy time. There exist some fun tummy time mats with different textures and toys you can use to have fun with your baby and stimulate their senses while practicing. Make it interactive and turn it into a fun playtime with toys!
Another way of making this activity more pleasant is giving your baby a massage while they are lying on their belly, if they like them.
Make sure to vary the environments that your child is doing tummy time in. This process can be useful for your child to explore the world a bit, so making it repetitive is likely to make it extra tedious. You could try doing tummy time in the same position as burping, with your baby resting on your shoulder; this lets them explore the world from a higher angle and is likely to distract them from tummy time. Alternatively, you could try doing tummy time on a springy exercise ball: hold the baby tight and lie them on the ball, moving them side to side slowly. The most important thing is ensuring your child is comfortable during the process: avoid cold, hard surfaces like the floor if you can.
Choose When To Do Tummy Time Tactically
Practicing tummy time when your baby is relaxed and happy is likely to help with the crying. Make sure your baby has been fed (but not too recently as they may get acid reflux otherwise) and their diaper has been changed before you start tummy time, for example.
Don't Give Up
If your baby is getting frustrated or starts screaming or crying, resist the temptation to pick them up from the floor immediately. Instead, try comforting them in a way that does not require them to stop tummy time like massaging their back, speaking to them, or singing a song.
Should I Be Worried?
The majority of babies find tummy time frustrating and uncomfortable at first. Be patient, give them breaks between sessions, and do not overdo it. Your child will most likely get used to it and gradually will stop screaming and manifesting reluctance.
Remember that not all babies develop following the same milestones and timeline (not all babies crawl, with some skipping straight to cruising), so don't worry if your child does not develop the strength to lift their head or roll at the same time as others. However, if after more than a few months your child is still refusing to try tummy time and screams every time, you could consult a pediatrician for advice. If you are ever worried you should speak to a medical professional.
If you found this article about what to do if your baby hates tummy time helpful, why not take a look at what to do if your [babies are waking up too early] or if your [baby has climbed out of their crib]?
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