I remember carefully cradling my oldest daughter in my arms with all those new-parent jitters. I’d never held a baby before, and was worried about properly supporting her neck muscles. Then suddenly we blinked, or at least it felt that way, and we hit an important milestone: tummy time.
Periods of tummy time throughout the day once baby’s neck muscles are strong enough to start holding her head up, around 4 months of age, allow her to develop proper motor skills. Pushing her body up, using her arms, leads to rolling over, crawling and eventually learning to stand. For most babies, getting used to this can be tricky since they’re most comfortable being on their backs—the recommended position for sleeping to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
So how can you help make this transition as fun and exciting for baby as it is for you and dad? For starters, don’t leave baby alone on her tummy. Until she develops the strength to turn her head sideways and look up, the scenery is boring and lonely, staring down at the floor. Get down to her level and keep her company, while encouraging her to look up at toys or boldly colored objects.
While a comfy blanket works well for supervised tummy time, play mats are also a fun source of entertainment, as well as adventure for baby. There’s a wide variety on the market including ones with music, lights and Velcro closures that also help with fine motor skills to learn how to open and close objects. In time, baby will love her new sense of independence and you’ll be longing for the relaxing days of tummy time once you’ve got a speedy toddler moving about the house.