Tummy time is one of those weird little moments that’s a huge part of your life for a very short time—and a few months later is completely irrelevant. At the time, though, figuring out how to keep your baby happy during tummy time is a HUGE DEAL! Babies want to be held, not left on their bellies, and they are not shy about letting us know!
You may have heard that carrying your baby in a sling has the same benefits as tummy time activities. Is this true? Well, yes and no.
Letting a baby explore from the ground exercises the arms and leg muscles in ways they aren’t used when sitting in a carrier. An older infant on the ground can explore how to lift their own weight, where a worn baby is just not in a position to do that.
However—and this is a big however—being worn does allow the baby to build up their neck and back muscles. A baby worn on the chest can push away from her parent and then rest back down when she’s tired, without feeling distressed. In the same way, she can lift her head up and place it down without being upset about separation. Their little skulls also benefit (as my son’s physical therapist was excited to point out) because babywearing helps children avoid flat spots that they can get from lying on their backs for long periods of time.
So what’s our recommendation? For arm and leg muscles, if your baby truly hates traditional tummy time, try reclining and placing her on you instead of on the floor. And most of all, carry your baby when possible, to encourage development of those neck and back muscles, while keeping the head nice and round.
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