pediatric physical therapy, Dr. Amie Dougherty, tummy time on exercise ball

Hi there! My name is Dr. Amie and most clients call me Mrs. Amie. I am a pediatric physical therapist with over 10 years of experience helping little ones and their families achieve gross motor success through purposeful play. If you are expecting or have a newborn, chances are you have heard the words “Tummy Time”.  Keep reading if you want to learn tips and tricks on how to keep tummy time enjoyable and a fun experience for the whole family.  

First things first, tummy time is important AND it is not the only thing your child should spend doing during their waking hours. It is just one piece of the puzzle. Positioning your child on their side, their back, and holding them upright during play are all just as important. We have muscles on all sides of our body and to develop strength those muscles must be worked against gravity. Unrestricted floor time and variation of play is KEY. It promotes symmetrical gross motor development and it is much more fun! 

Did you know tummy time can begin as early as day 1? Yep! Did you know there is no magic number of minutes or hours per day? Yep, that’s right! Quality over quantity will improve you and your child’s experience and set your child up for gross motor success. Remember, the best environment for tummy time is a firm surface such as a playmat when you child is happy, alert, and supervised.  

Here are my top tips to set you and your little one up for tummy time success: 

  • Incorporate short intervals into your daily routine, think after diaper changes, after bath when applying lotion, or after a clothing change. 
  • Roll your little one from their back to their belly when starting tummy time AND roll them belly to back before picking your child up when they show signs of fatigue. This provides vestibular stimulation and gives tummy time a purpose; you’ll be showing and empowering your child on how to get in and out of the position.  
  • Make tummy time fun and engaging! When you’re at the gym it is really hard to work out in silence when everyone is staring at you, right? The same goes for tummy time, it's hard AND it is a wonderful time to bond with your little one. Get down on the floor too, your face is the BEST toy. Sing songs, read books, use poppers and crinkle toys, try sensory play with water or a water mat, even flashing battery powered noisemakers are wonderful if you and your child are into them. 
  • Did you know tummy time is more than just placing your child on the floor? It can also be on your chest during skin to skin, in a wrap or baby carrier with arms tucked under the chest, on the floor with chest and arms elevated on a boppy pillow or Snuggle Me/Dock A Tot, in your lap with hands reaching for toys on the floor, in your lap cupping their arms under their chest while look around, in your arms like an airplane, or even on a therapy ball rocking forward, backward, side/side. Honestly, there are so many more ways, the sooner you realized tummy time isn’t just flat on the floor – you and your child will be happier! 
  • So, how can you make tummy time effective? Make sure your child’s arms are tucked under their chest and bring the elbows forward and under their shoulders. When your child is pushing up and away from the floor, they are strengthening their shoulders, neck, and back muscles in preparation for future milestones (aka rolling, sitting, and crawling). 
  • What if tummy time on a flat surface is too hard for your baby? No worries! Elevate their chest above their booty to decrease the effects of gravity and make it easier for them. My favorite tools are boppy pillows, the prop-a-pillar, your leg, your chest, therapy balls, wedges, and even the bolster part of the Snuggle Me/Doc A Tots. By making tummy time easier we can make it more enjoyable, allowing your child to build endurance, preparing them for tummy time on the floor.  

If you notice your child struggles to lift their head and look around the room by 3 months during tummy time, only looks to one side, or cannot consistently keep their arms tucked under their chest it may be time to consider a consultation with a pediatric physical therapist. All babies develop on a continuum and a pediatric physical therapist will be able to assist you with individualized tips on how to set your child up for success.  If you are in DFW and have concerns about your child’s gross motor development reach out to Milestones At Play, we are happy to help! We offer in-home and virtual developmental wellness and pediatric physical therapy sessions to meet you and your child’s needs, a referral is not required to get started! You can book online and find us at www.milestonesatplay.com and on Instagram @milestonesatplay.

Let’s play with purpose together!  

Dr. Amie Dougherty

Dr. Amie Dougherty

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