Time on the tummy is important for building strength in your baby’s neck and upper body, but not every baby likes to be on his or her tummy. “All four of my babies didn’t like it when they were hungry,” says parenting psychologist Heather Wittenberg, author of Let’s Get Potty! The Baby Psychologist’s Guide to Potty Training. “I tried to make it fun and interesting and to try it when they were well rested, well fed and happy. But they just don’t like it.”
The good news is that if your baby is old enough to sit on his own, he may soon start trying to crawl and will move his muscles in this way. However, if your little one prefers to stand in a walker rather than try to crawl, be careful. Wittenberg warns: “They have been found to be dangerous, and they don’t help babies walk faster.” . Try a stationary activity center.”
If your baby is younger than you and you’re concerned that she hasn’t reached the physical milestone of tummy time (like the 4-month-old “push-up”), there are things you can do to make her tummy time more comfortable. Kelly M. Brown, M.D., a pediatrician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, suggests: “Try rolling a towel into the shape of a pool noodle and placing it under your baby’s armpits to support his chest, which will help encourage him to start pushing upward with his upper body.” . “Do this several times a day for a few minutes at a time, with your child on his tummy, lying next to him while entertaining him with facial expressions or toys.”
Add longer tummy time each day, and don’t pick up your baby during this time unless he is visibly angry or upset. If your efforts to encourage your child to lie on his stomach don’t improve things within a week or so, then consider contacting your pediatrician.
It may sound a little counterintuitive, but the more time your baby spends on his tummy, the stronger he will beーand the more he (hopefully) will enjoy it. In addition to putting a bulging pillow or rolled-up towel on your baby’s chest, try lying on your tummy; make faces, sing songs, and play with your baby’s favorite toys. Sometimes lying on your stomach (as long as you are supervised) can be more comfortable than lying on the floor.
If your baby is crying or uncomfortable when he or she is hungry, try not to automatically pick him up. Instead, start by comforting him in other ways, such as rubbing his back or singing soothing songs. Aim for a total of 30 minutes a day, but if your baby is really resistant, you can break up these times throughout the day. He doesn’t have to be in pain.