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You no doubt know that placing your baby to sleep on her back dramatically reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But did you know that putting her on her belly when she's awake is also important?
"When babies are kept on their backs for long periods, they don't have the opportunity to exercise their neck and trunk muscles," explains Annette Majnemer, Ph.D., O.T., a professor at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University in Montreal. "As a result, they may have delays in milestones such as being able to lift their heads against gravity, support themselves on their hands, roll over or sit up." Tummy time also helps prevent a baby's head from flattening. Majnemer offers these tips to make the experience more enjoyable for your baby:
Start early, go slowly: Place your baby on her stomach for a few minutes two or three times a day starting the day you bring her home. (If you don't expose your baby to this position early on, she may develop an intolerance to it.) Gradually increase the time as she gets stronger. Tuck a rolled-up diaper or blanket under her chest with her arms placed over the roll for extra support. Stop when she gets tired or cranky.
Keep it safe: Put her on her tummy only when she is awake and supervised.
Make it fun: Get down on the floor with your baby during tummy time. Talk, sing or jiggle contrasting-colored toys to encourage your baby to lift her head. Also try this: Lie on your back and place your infant on top of you, stomach to stomach. Babies love faces, and this position will encourage her to lift her head to look at you.