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Is your baby screaming within seconds of putting him down on his tummy? Are both you and baby crying after your fifteenth attempt to help her enjoy tummy time?
If so, I feel your pain! Little E hated tummy time to begin with, and sometimes it is still a struggle. In his first few weeks home, I would lay him on his tummy and within seconds he would be full on wailing!
Through the use of these tips, tricks, and tools I am about to share, we got him up to twenty-minute sessions of happy time on his tummy by the time was 2 months old! (Now, because of his boots and bar, he is struggling again, but that’s a different story. You can read about that here.)
Why is tummy time so important?
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but just for good measure, here it is again!
Tummy time is very important for your child’s development.
Here are just some of the huge benefits of tummy time:
– strengthens baby’s head, neck, and upper body muscles
– allows baby to explore how her body moves
– teaches baby how to move his body to coordinate crawling
– prevents baby from developing a flat spot on her head
– helps baby learn to roll over
– leads to fun and engaging play time
– creates independence in baby’s play
Due to the newer guidelines calling us to put baby to sleep on her back, she needs supervised time during the day to play on her tummy. Without this, she can develop flat spots on her head, and she won’t be as likely to develop important muscles and skills on time.
If it’s so good for him, why does my baby hate it so much?
This honestly varies from baby to baby.
One reason is that babies these days are used to being on their back…for sleep, in the car, in their swing, etc.
Sometimes it might upset baby if his stomach is full or he has gas.
Baby may even feel like you have abandoned her since she can’t see much from that position.
I know for Little E it often seemed like frustration at not being able to move the way he wanted to. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to be laid down on my stomach if I didn’t know how to turn my neck, hold my head up, or move my arms and legs where I wanted them to go!
What can I do to help my baby?
When trying to think of ways to help Little E, I thought of things that help me when I’m working out. I came up with four main things: practice, distraction, encouragement, and grace.
Just like I need practice when learning new work-out skills, Little E needs practice on his tummy.
This means more tummy time. I know that’s not what you want to hear when your baby sees it as torture…it sure wasn’t what I wanted to hear! But when I stuck it out and made more time for Little E to be on his tummy, it really paid off in the end.
Your little one is probably fussing and screaming because they are uncomfortable and frustrated. In order to make them more comfortable with tummy time, they need to grow accustomed to it…which means more tummy time.
I don’t mean longer time periods, necessarily. For me and Little E, this first looked like more sessions, not longer sessions.
Practice, practice, practice!
When I am doing a particularly hard work out, distraction can be exactly what I need to keep myself from giving up. For me, this looks like music, a good conversation, prayer, or a “fun” workout (dance, step, etc.).
For Little E, distraction came in many different forms. He is especially distracted by new and interesting sounds. Crinkles and rattles are his favorite right now.
When he would start fussing on his tummy, I would grab his Sassy Bumpy Ball, a ball that rattles, and shake it all around his head. This would distract him and captivate his attention enough that he would forget to fuss for a bit! Sometimes I could even use it as an incentive to get him to turn his head. (Score!)
The key to distraction during tummy time is variety! If there is anything I have learned about Little E, it is that he changes and grows every day.
I found an AMAZING resource in Begin With a Blanket: Creative Play For Infants. This amazing book is by Rachel Coley, an Occupational Therapist. For just $7 on Kindle, I have found so many great ideas in here for playing with Little E and keeping him occupied during tummy time. This book is not just another list of generic things you can do….it is based on her OT experience, and she has some really creative things that Little E has loved! The great thing is, it goes all the way up to 6 months, so I know I will continue getting great use out of it! (Get your copy here.)
Distraction helps to keep your baby’s mind off the pain and helps her associate tummy time with play and giggles.
Here are some of my favorite toys to distract Little E with during tummy time:
Sassy Bumpy Ball
This is one of Little E’s favorite toys! Even though he can’t grasp it yet, he loves the sound it makes. I always get at least 2 minutes of distraction out of this one! (1 of our 10 Best Baby Products we use every day.)
Get it here.
Caterpillar Let’s Count Soft Book by Eric Carle
This book is a great distraction for four main reasons: it’s colorful, you can read it to your baby, it crinkles, and it squeaks. Need I say more?!
Find it here.
Bright Starts Tug Tunes Elephant
This little elephant plays four different little tunes. Little E loves to look at it when he hears it playing.
Get yours here.
Bright Starts Lots of Links
These little links make a great rattling noise and have lots of colors for Little E to look at during tummy time.
You can get this here.
When I first thought about encouraging Little E, it seemed a bit odd. I mean, he’s only 1 month old…would he really even care?
But it totally worked, and it is so important to your baby’s tummy time success!
Even at such a young age, I found that Little E was much happier when I was cheering him on. And it wasn’t just my voice…it truly mattered what I said. When I said things like “good job,” “you can do it,” “you’re so strong,” and “yay Little E,” he was much happier and lasted longer.
Just like I feel I can push a bit farther on in my workouts when someone is there encouraging me, your baby can push a bit farther with your encouraging words and a pat on the back too (although pats on the rump work better in tummy time…pats on the back are a nice gesture, but don’t help your little one lift their chest up….speaking from experience >_<).
This one is the key! Have grace for yourself and grace for your little one.
It can be frustrating when you feel that, no matter what you try, you just can’t get your baby happy on his tummy. It can be especially frustrating if you feel that your baby is “falling behind” because he isn’t on his tummy as long as you would like.
Have grace and patience with yourself. You are doing a great job! Just keep persevering and loving on your little one, and they will make progress in their time. Every baby is special and unique. 🙂
It is also necessary to show grace to your little one. Little E can’t understand why it is so important for him to have lots of tummy time. All he knows is it is uncomfortable, frustrating, and sometimes even painful.
That’s why I made the important note in the practice section that I didn’t necessarily mean longer sessions.
If your little one is screaming and crying on their tummy, by all means, pick them up! Leaving them there will only reinforce to them that tummy time is torture and will increase their cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
Now I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too. “If I do that, my baby will never have more than 1 minute of tummy time.”
So here’s what this looks like. When I set Little E on his tummy at first, he would start full on crying within 20 seconds. So I would pick him up. Later on, we would try again. And again, within 20 seconds, he would cry and I would pick him up.
We continued this pattern, and as we continued it, he started lasting a little bit longer. As Little E got older, he learned to just fuss before he started actually wailing. When he would begin to fuss, I would throw in my tactics of distraction and encouragement. Using these, I could usually eek another minute or two out of him before he would start crying. But once he did begin to cry, I would pick him up and we would try again later.
In this way, through patience and many short sessions throughout the day, we were able to grow together until Little E could do twenty minutes at a time on his tummy before he got frustrated.
So keep practicing! Use distractions and encouragement to help your little one press on. And remember to have grace with yourself and your wee one.
I know you guys can do it!
Have some more tips for moms about tummy time? Leave them in a comment below!
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