You'd be hard-pressed to find a new parent who doesn't know the "back to sleep" mantra-babies need to be put to sleep on their backs in order to prevent SIDS. Since the "back to sleep" campaign began, the rate of SIDS has declined by more than 50 percent, but parents need to make sure baby spends time on his stomach, too.
"From a developmental point, it's an important position for babies to be in to develop the typical postures and patterns and muscle groups we expect to see emerging in the first year of life," explains Gay Girolami, pediatric physical therapist and executive director of Pathways Awareness in Glenview.
For parents unsure of how to fit in tummy time with their baby, Girolami and Pathways offer five different activities you can do throughout the day.
"You don't need a lot of toys to do this, just put it into your everyday life," says Girolami. She suggests starting in the newborn period and by 6 months incorporating an hour of tummy time every day. For more information on tummy time and other developmental activities, visit pathwaysawareness.org.
Lay baby across your lap as a soothing maneuver. "If they like contact on shoulder, they will probably like contact of being over lap," says Girolami. Support baby's bottom to make him feel secure.
Tummy to tummy
Lay down and place baby on your chest, making sure to support him the entire time so he doesn't roll off. "The heartbeat is reassuring to them and it's a nice cuddly time," says Girolami. "Lay the baby on your chest low enough so you can look at them and they can look at you."
Carry baby tummy-side down instead of upright. Don't forget to support his head and legs. "Parents can sneak tummy time in when it's convenient for them by carrying on the tummy. I find that a way that babies like a lot, because they are always looking for an alternative view of the universe," says Girolami.
Eye level smile
Get down on your baby's level and talk to him to encourage head movement. "For small babies who aren't going to roll, get down on the edge of bed in front of them so they can see you," suggests Girolami.
Start with just a minute or two at a time to get baby used to being on his stomach. You can use a receiving blanket (as pictured) to prop baby up for a different view. "In the newborn period, if you can work in these five positions, two minutes in each one, you're starting with 10 minutes. Then just keep increasing a couple minutes every week," says Girolami.
Jennifer Gilbert is the editor of Chicago Baby, associate editor of Chicago Parent and mom to Landon.