All parents have heard the "back to sleep/tummy to play" advice on based on the AAP on repeat. Now that babies must be put to sleep on their back (Dakota's swaddle even reminds me in case I missed the million memos), pediatricians recommend tummy time to strengthen the neck muscles and prevent the dreaded "flat head syndrome".
Unfortunately, now that we put babies on their backs from birth, they often hate tummy time. In addition, some Montessorians and RIE proponents argue that we should skip tummy time until our babies can roll onto their own tummy from their back on their own. They argue that the back is the only natural (unaided) position for baby. I think they have valid arguments, however, I also appreciated my husband's point that young babies don't really put themselves in any positions on their own, even their back.
I fall somewhere in the middle in my view of tummy time. While I do not think it is crucial in the first few months, I think it can be helpful in gross motor development, and also provides an interesting new perspective for baby. I like the idea of following Dakota's lead, and only placing her in tummy time when she is content to do so, and only as long as she indicates is enough. If Dakota really disliked it after a few tries, we'd probably skip it until she could roll over, but for now she enjoys it and sometimes even cozily rests on her tummy.
I think it's important to note that tummy time doesn't have to be on the floor, or without comforts. While Dakota probably spends a few minutes once or twice a day in tummy time on a rug or pillow, she also spends much more "tummy time" while resting on my chest after nursing, allowing her to look at my face. While sometimes this quickly turns into a boob snooze, more and more she is now lifting that big head of hers to take a look around.
Here are some of the other ways we've made tummy time more enjoyable for Dakota these first 2 months:
- Place baby on a super soft surface (her favorite is the sheepskin rug)
- Use a boppy or small pillow to elevate her head and hands
- Lie down next to her on the ground so she can see us
- Place a mirror or pictures in front of her or to the side
- Try different areas of house, to vary light and scenery
- Let her rest or suck on her fingers on her tummy
- Give her a chance to struggle a bit (but end when she's clearly getting upset)
- Talk to her and encourage her (note our dog helping with this!)
And that is how we are doing baby-led tummy time. For now at least. ;)