5 Tips to Get Cranky Baby through Tummy Time
For some mothers, "tummy time" are the two most dreaded words in our new vocabulary. Ever since the Back to Sleep movement began, doctors and pediatricians start talking to mothers about the importance of tummy time as early as two weeks into your little one's life. As cute as the term sounds, tummy time isn't always cute. In fact, many babies not only resent being laid on their tummies to play, they absolutely hate it! And guess what. My baby is one of those.
His anger toward tummy time surprised me, because for the first few weeks, he acted like he loved it. We would roll him over on his tummy and he would immediately start sucking on his thumb. He soothed himself and seemed as content as could be. But by the time he was about six weeks old, everything changed. As soon as we would roll him over, he would start crying and screaming to the point that his face turned purple. It became a such a horrible ordeal that I began dreading tummy time as much as Levi. Sometimes I would skip it altogether because I felt it was hurting him more than helping.
I started seeking out advice. I talked to my mom, to my doctor, and to other mom friends who had this problem with their babies. All in all, Levi and I are working through our issues and are slowly getting tummy time back to an enjoyable experience. It's taken a lot of hard work and whole lot more patience along the way. Here are my five big tips for keeping baby happy and relaxed during tummy time. I'm not a baby expert and my boy still throws tantrums half the time, but I've found that the more I stay consistent with these tips, the more likely Levi is to accept time on his tummy.
1. Keep it short and sweet
There is no reason to keep tummy time sessions long, especially in the first few weeks of incorporating it into your baby's day. Start with 1-2 minute sessions scattered throughout the day. If your baby seems content, go ahead and extend it to longer periods. If your baby is like mine, don't be surprised if you can start with longer sessions at first and then have to revert back to shorter sessions. That's okay! The whole point of tummy time is teaching your baby to use different muscle groups for moving and playing. If she's too upset, she's not going to learn this. Shorter, happier stints will benefit baby much more than long drawn out sessions full of crying and screaming.
2. Start and end with your baby's most comfortable position
Does your baby enjoy playing on his back? Does he like to be propped up so he can look around? Start each session with your baby's most comfortable position and end it there as well. Levi loves to play under his baby jungle gym, so I start him out on his back and play there for a few minutes before rolling him over. When we're done, he's most comfortable coming off his tummy into a seated position on my lap. Once tummy time is over, I pull him into my lap and we usually read a book. This calms him down and helps him move on from tummy time faster and into a better mood.
3. Be interactive and encouraging
Your baby loves nothing more than being close to mommy and daddy. Get on your tummy with him and stay close to his face so he can see you. It's harder for him to see when he's on his tummy (which is part of the reason so many baby's hate it!), so make sure he can see you easily. He also loves to here your voice and sounds of encouragement. Sing silly songs, pat his bum, or distract him with his favorite toy. Even if he still grows fussy, he'll have the comfort of knowing you're there cheering him on and can rescue him if he needs it.
4. Use a receiving blanket for propping
This one was a total game changer for us. My mom suggested this as a way to alleviate pressure off his belly. She thought maybe his tummy hurt from all of his weight pressing down on his stomach. I tried it and within a few sessions he was happier during tummy time and finally pushed himself up onto his elbows which opened up a whole new world for him! Simply roll up a receiving blanket into a little log shape and position it under your baby's chest and armpits. This also keeps his face a tiny bit off the floor, encouraging him to lift his head and shoulders to look around.
5. Find tummy time alternatives
Tummy time is not the end all be all of your baby's development. If tummy time just isn't working, find other alternatives. Carry him over your shoulder instead of cradling him so he learns to hold his head on his own. Help him sit up in your lap when playing with his toys and reading stories. His core and neck strength with increase just by sitting! When he's laying on his back, sing songs involving hand and arm motions and move his arms for him. It really doesn't take much for a baby to get in his exercise and build his muscles at this stage. And once he can hold his head on his own, exersaucers are a great way to get them off their back and building those muscles. The important thing is to make his active time fun!
6. Don't stress!
Okay, I know I said there were five tips. But here's a bonus one. And here's a secret: this is the most important one! I think when it comes to anything for new moms the biggest key is to not stress. But this is also the hardest lesson to learn. Worry comes with the territory. However, every baby is different and develops at their own pace. Just because your baby hates tummy time or isn't making as much progress as someone else's baby her age does not mean anything is wrong with your little one. Remember what I said earlier? Tummy time is not the end all be all of your baby's development. So if she hates it, don't push it so hard. In time things will get better and she'll realize it's not so bad. But in the meantime, follow these tips, tune out the other mamas bragging about their babies (we all do it because it's exciting when our babes learn something new), and do what you think is right for your baby. Keep her happy by doing the things she does enjoy often and without pressuring her to make giant milestones according to a certain timeline. She will when she's ready and it'll be so much more enjoyable when she succeeds without tons of pressure and all on her own.