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Baby Tummy Time: The Good, The Bad, And How To Do It Right

Over the last 25 years, science has managed to figure out that baby tummy time is both critical to motor skills development and a potential cause for SIDS. Damn you, nature, you cruel, fickle bastard! Before you curl up into a ball and hide (on your back, side, or tummy — whatever, you’re good and grown), here’s the tummy time truth and what you can do with it.

Numerous studies have identified stomach sleeping as a likely cause for SIDs, so you should never place a baby younger than one year old on their stomach to sleep. Easy enough, and in fact the rate of SIDS fell by more than half since the doctors made the connection. However, one-in-40 babies today show signs of early motor skills delay — a 150-percent increase over 25 years that may be an accidental byproduct of the 12-15 hours of daily tummy time they miss while sleeping on their backs.

Flickr / Logan Ingalls

Clearly, tummy time is crucial for muscle, coordination, and motor skills development, so you’ll want to schedule some for your kid as early as possible. And because it’s way more fun to give your baby nicknames like “Itty Bitty Beast Mode,” you can do so in the form of infant, newborn, and baby “workouts.” Right from birth, you can start small and build to about an hour total per day by 3 months. This should be spread out over all their awake time and achieved in small spurts, like so:

For newborns: Place them stomach-down across your lap, on your arm while carrying, or on your chest while you lay down. This will help develop those neck and back muscles and soothe all that crying. Bonus!

For babies 3 weeks old and up: Play airplane or prop up their chest and arms on a blanket and play with them on the floor at their eye level. Their bewilderment is your entertainment!

By 3 months, your kid should be pushing up on their arms and holding their head up. Essentially taunting you for being unable to hold a plank longer than a barely-formed human with a walnut brain.