My baby doesn't like spending time on her tummy

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Samantha Toweel-Moore (occupational therapist) answers:

Most babies start to develop head control by three months and have fairly firm necks by four months. But each baby develops at their own pace. Babies lift their heads to get their eyes level with the surface they are lying on. If your daughter has too little resistance in her muscles when they are resting, or low muscle tone, she may lack sufficient muscle control in the muscles that extend her neck and back. This makes it difficult for her to lift her head.

Tummy time equates to your baby doing several sets of push-ups and stomach crunches. It’s hard work for your little one. She will really benefit from having you motivate, encourage and provide the know-how. To develop neck and trunk control she needs you to help her cope with short periods of tummy time, at first. Keep it entertaining and fun. You can extend the duration of play as she becomes stronger. When you hear her first groans try to distract her or change her position a bit to help increase her endurance.

Provide a kick start. (Just like you may bend your knees and cross your ankles when doing push ups.) Roll a hand towel into a sausage and place it under her armpits across her chest. This will require her to do less work. She will not feel like she may suffocate as she can’t lift her head with ease. For an alternative to the towel you could also place her tummy over your thigh so she is facing to the left of you and rock her gently back and forth, so she can get the idea of lifting up her head.

A mirror is a great motivator for her to exercise lifting her neck. It also provides stimulation as she will not recognise herself for several months yet. She will see her reflection as an interesting companion to discover. Another way to engage her in tummy time play is to lie on your belly face-to-face with her. Pull interesting faces and make sounds that she likes. Select one or two of her favourite noisy or light-up toys and place them at a height which requires her to raise her head to see it.

I would suggest you have her assessed by a neuro developmentally trained physiotherapist to clarify whether she needs some help or simply more time to overcome this challenge.

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