The Benefits of Tᴜᴍᴍʏ Time, Moms Need To Read
The importance of Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time can’t be overstated. Daily practice helps babies develop strong neck, core, arm, and leg ᴍᴜsᴄʟᴇs.
We know that it’s safest for babies to always sleep on their backs, thanks to guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 1994, but that means infants spend up to 15 hours a day facing the ceiling. As a result, today’s babies have fewer chances to practice using their arms, back, neck, and head to lift themselves up. Read on to learn more about the benefits of Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time, with tips for starting the important practice.
How Important Is Tᴜᴍᴍʏ Time?
Leaving your baby on her belly for a few minutes while she’s awake helps her work all the ᴍᴜsᴄʟᴇs in her upper body, promoting ᴛʀᴜɴᴋ sᴛᴀʙɪʟɪᴛʏ ᴀɴᴅ ʜᴇᴀᴅ ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴏʟ. “Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time helps your infant build strength in his back, legs, arms, and neck,” says Joanne Cox, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston. “This helps with further development, such as rolling over and sitting.”
Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time also encourages your little one to practice reaching and pivoting, skills that are often precursors to crawling. And ʀᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜ shows that a lack of Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time can delay your baby from meeting physical development milestones like lifting her head, rolling over, sitting up, and more. Regularly spending time on his stomach also helps your baby avoid developing a Fʟᴀᴛ sᴘᴏᴛ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴀᴄᴋ of his head, which became more common after the AAP’s ᴀFᴏʀᴇᴍᴇɴᴛɪᴏɴᴇᴅ “Back to Sleep” campaign to help prevent sudden infant ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ sʏɴᴅʀᴏᴍᴇ(SIDS). In severe cases, head flattening, or plagiocephaly, can distort facial features. Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time is also helpful for babies with the ᴄᴏɴᴅɪᴛɪᴏɴ ᴛᴏʀᴛɪᴄᴏʟʟɪs, which causes the head to tilt unnaturally because the neck muscle is sᴛɪFF and ᴛɪɢʜᴛ. Finally, according to ʀᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜ published in Pediatrics in May 2020, Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time is associated with improved ᴄᴀʀᴅɪᴏᴠᴀsᴄᴜʟᴀʀ ʜᴇᴀʟᴛʜ ᴀɴᴅ ʙᴏᴅʏ ᴍᴀss ɪɴᴅᴇx (BMI).
When to Start Tᴜᴍᴍʏ Time
Begin at 2 weeks old with short sessions of 30 seconds to one minute. Try placing your newborn belly-down on your chest or across your lap so he gets accustomed to the position. To make it part of your routine, put your baby on his Tᴜᴍᴍʏ after each daytime diaper change. Just don’t do it right after a feeding, when pressure on his stomach may cause him to sᴘɪᴛ ᴜᴘ. Don’t be surprised if your baby fusses or simply lays his head down; just try again later. “Many babies don’t enjoy Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time at first, but gradually get comfortable on their stomachs as they build up strength, says pediatrician Ari Brown, M.D., author of Baby 411. “It takes some work to lift that head up and it isn’t always fun,” she says. “It’s a workout.”
By 2 months old, aim for three 5-minute sessions daily on a flat, cushioned surface, like a playmat on the floor. If she seems uncomfortable, try rolling up a receiving blanket and ᴛᴜᴄᴋɪɴɢ it under her armpits to give her support.
By 3 or 4 months, your baby should be able to lift his chest off the floor and lean on his elbows with his head upright. He may even be able to lift his arms off the floor, arch his back, and kick his feet. After 4 months, your baby may be strong enough to start rolling over during Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time—something that will surprise and thrill him endlessly.
As your baby grows, strive for a minimum of 15-30 minutes of Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time per day, while encouraging him to play longer. Once your child is rolling over and independently spending time on his stomach, usually by 6 months old, you can stop dedicated Tᴜᴍᴍʏ time.