Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 1 – Tummy Time

This week and next week we’re examining the major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year and offering tips for helping your baby progress.  Many of these tips are straight from pediatric occupational therapists and pediatricians who know the tricks of the trade.

Your baby’s health and development is your top priority.  By breastfeeding your baby, you’re nourishing her insides with the very best nutrition on the planet.  Working with your baby on developing strength for major physical milestones and gross motor skills complements all of your hard work in breastfeeding your baby.  Combined, these gifts you’re giving your baby will help her thrive.

major developmental milestonesWhat are the major developmental milestones in your babies first year?  Your pediatrician may ask you about many developmental milestones, but the ones we’re focusing on this week are major physical skills, known as gross motor skills, that also have a sensory component.  These include: rolling, sitting, crawling, standing and walking.  But before any of that can be done, your baby must learn to use her body by spending time on her tummy, back and sides.  Today we’re focusing on the tummy.

After you have a baby, you hear a lot about tummy time.  And we mean A LOT!  That’s because tummy time is very important for your babe.  First of all, it allows her to spend time off of the back of her head to avoid flat head syndrome.  But that’s really just an added benefit.

The real reason tummy time is so important is that it is the foundation for all of the other major physical developmental milestones.  Tummy time helps strengthen your baby’s head, neck, back and core and she will slowly gain coordination and balance through the process.  Tummy time is also linked to many other crucial life skills such as hand-eye coordination, confidence and focus.  Since the “back to sleep” campaign in the 90’s when pediatricians realized it is safest for babies to sleep on their backs, strengthening the upper body and core muscles through tummy time is even more critical.

Tummy time should begin when your baby is a newborn.  It can be done in short sessions throughout the day.  Most occupational therapists recommend up to an hour of tummy time per day for young infants.  You’ll notice that your baby will get stronger as she practices tummy time more often and gets older.  At first she may on rest of her head on the ground but soon she’ll start to lift and turn her head, push up on her elbows, bear weight on her hands and even reach for toys.

Many parents dread tummy time because it can be a miserable experience for babies.  It is hard work, after all.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:  Tummy time can be done in a variety of ways.  Lying face down on a mat is only one example.  You can also do tummy time on an exercise ball, in your baby’s crib, on the changing table, laying across your knees or lying on your chest.  In fact, any time your baby is not lying on her back and is holding up her own head is strengthening the essential muscles required for gross motor skills.

Make tummy time fun for your baby by being vibrant and enthusiastic.  Talk, sing, smile and encourage your baby during tummy time sessions.  Use sensory toys to engage your baby including rattles, mirrors, books, toys that talk, toys that crinkle and just about anything that is interesting to look at.  Your very own face may be your baby’s favorite object so use that to your advantage during tummy time.

Tummy time is your baby’s first workout and the basis for strength and coordination of other major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year.  Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the importance of back playing as it relates to gross motor development.

Sources:  MamaOT, Pink Oatmeal, Golden Reflections Blog and Starfish Therapy