Before the relationship to babies sleeping on their tummies and SIDS was pieced together in the 1980s and 90s, most babies were put to sleep on their stomachs. Of course, we now know that this is not the safest way for baby to sleep, and we are encouraged to lie our babies down to sleep on their backs. Experts agree that the safest way for babies to sleep is on their back.
But experts have also noticed that the decreased time babies spend on their tummies has some developments that are not good for your baby. It has been shown that the lack of time spent lying on the stomach increases the instances of misshapen heads in babies, and may even impair fine motor skills. Because of this, it is vitally important that babies be placed on their stomach regularly.
The amount of time a baby should spend on his stomach having “tummy time” is a matter of some debate, but the reigning theory is that babies should spend about half an hour per day on their tummies. This time can be all at once, or it can be divided into several smaller time periods, as long as it totals thirty minutes per day.
Babies can begin having tummy time right away, but parents should only use tummy time when baby is awake. If your baby falls asleep during tummy time, roll her over onto her back so she can sleep properly without increasing her risk of SIDS.
Some babies will enjoy being laid down on their tummies, and others will fuss. One of the best ways to help a fussy baby during tummy time is to get down on your own tummy with them, face to face. Especially as they get a little older, babies will enjoy trying to emulate you, so let her see you moving your arms or legs. Some babies will also respond favorably if you make faces or noises at them, or if you give them a toy such as a rattle or stuffed animal.
An alternate way of having tummy time is to place baby on your chest, tummy to tummy. Some babies will tolerate this better than being lain on the floor. However you do tummy time with your baby, be assured that it will help him develop the motor skills he will need later for grasping, crawling, and standing.