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It’s Tummy Time! – S1 E12

Tummy time is the best exercise for growing babies. It helps them develop important motor skills and build up muscle strength so they can progress to rolling, crawling, and walking. But exercise isn’t always fun, and an upset baby can make tummy time a difficult activity.

On this episode, we offer tips to make tummy time fun for your little one. Rebecca Parlakian, Senior Director of Programs at ZERO TO THREE joins host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez to help you learn how to incorporate tummy time into your busy schedule.

Podcast Resources:
Top 5: What You Need to Know About Tummy Time
Tummy Time Activities
Guest: Rebecca Parlakian
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Rebecca Parlakian is the Senior Director of Programs at ZERO TO THREE based in Washington, DC.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Being a mom is a tough job, but I know you’ll agree with me that it’s also the best job you can have.

So to help support you in raising your babies and toddlers. We’re here to give you quick [00:00:30] tips, helpful lessons and guidance from parenting experts.

We’re so glad you’re here to join us for another episode of The Parenting Brief. On this week’s episode, we’re talking about exercise, for your baby, that is .One of the best things you can do to help your baby develop their motor skills is to make sure they get their tummy time. Placing your baby on their stomach, while they’re awake, can kickstart those motor skills [00:01:00] and strengthen their muscles so they can progress to crawling and walking. Tummy time is super important for their little bodies to stay healthy, but for some babies, they don’t think it’s that much fun

and they will tell you that loudly. If you struggle to make tummy time fun for your kiddos, don’t worry. We have tips and tricks for you up next.

Here to talk about tummy time and how to incorporate it into your baby’s daily [00:01:30] routine is Rebecca Parlakian.. Rebecca is the Senior Director of Programs at ZERO TO THREE and a mom as well. Rebecca, thanks for joining us today.

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:01:40] Hi, thanks so much for having me.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:01:42] This is such an important topic. I know with both of my kiddos, tummy time felt like a chore sometimes.

So I’m really excited to hear how we can help parents along the way and how important it is. So can you just start by explaining what tummy time is and why it’s such an [00:02:00] important part of developing motor skills?

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:02:02] Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, tummy time, really, just refers to the time that babies spend awake and playing on their stomachs.

It’s an activity that we want to do with a baby and an adult that’s nearby and supervising. And of course, babies always sleep on their backs. So this is only awake and play time. And, you know, it’s important for babies because it gives [00:02:30] them a chance to build those important, you know, shoulder muscles, the trunk muscles, arm muscles, even hand and finger muscles because they’re pressing down with their hands.

And so all of this is kind of, you know, a baby workout in a way. And really builds their gross motor skills or their big muscles, and that can help them learn to roll. It can help them learn to crawl and it can help them learn to get into a seated position. So [00:03:00] it does give them a nice foundation for the next big physical skills that we expect to be coming,

you know, next, which of course for babies first it’s rolling and you know, then they start to get onto all fours and then they start to crawl. Sometimes they crawl backward first, but eventually the goal is to crawl forward.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:03:21] And then they start to move in all sorts of ways.

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:03:24] Yes, exactly.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:03:26] So at what age should a parent start to implement tummy time?

[00:03:30] Rebecca Parlakian: [00:03:30] Well, you know, what’s interesting about tummy time is that you really can start it from, you know, the first few days of life. But you know, a lot of babies will protest how many time I know that mine did. And that’s because, you know, baby humans don’t like to be put in a position that they can’t get out of.

And they can’t get out of the tummy time position right away. And when you first put them on their tummies, their necks aren’t super strong. So they’re, [00:04:00] you know, having a hard time holding their heads up. So we really recommend for our little littles to just put them on their tummies for just a few seconds at a time.

Right. So we’re just kind of building up the tolerance for that position. And eventually you’re building up to two or three times a day, three to five minutes at a time. And eventually they’re spending up to about 30 minutes in tummy time across the day, not [00:04:30] necessarily all at one time. And we start, like I said, when they’re little babies and you know, you kind of continue tummy time until they’re rolling.

Because at that point they choose what position to be in, not us.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:04:43] What tummy time milestones should parents be looking for as their babies start to move more?

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:04:49] Yeah so we expect babies to roll from front to back and back to front at about seven months. So if you’re doing regular tummy time, this is about the [00:05:00] time, this period that you’ll begin to see that happening.

And usually babies will roll one way first, like let’s say, back to front. And then they kind of get stuck there because they haven’t quite figured out how to roll back. So you may need to give them a little help here and there, but seven months we’ll start to see that happening.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:05:22] And what constitutes tummy time? Is it laying on one of those mats or a blanket? Is it holding [00:05:30] them? Like what really counts as that tummy time?

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:05:33] Well, you know, I think a lot of parents really have that vision of a baby on their tummies like laying on a mat or a blanket or the floor and playing with a toy. That absolutely is tummy time.

But if you have a baby like mine, then you kind of have to be creative sometimes with tummy time because they are just not having it. So, you know, other alternatives to tummy time is you can sit on the floor and put the baby [00:06:00] over your thighs on their tummy, for example, and rub their backs and sing to them.

Some babies will tolerate that a bit more. You can even transition them into tummy time by starting in a sideline position. So having them laying on their sides and you know, we’re laying on our sides, facing them and we can talk and play. We can also think about tummy time even, you know, holding them chest in our arms, right?

Or holding them over [00:06:30] our arms. We really just want to give them opportunities to be holding their heads up, pushing their hands up. So, you know, for babies who really do protest or for very young babies, we can kind of experiment. And then as they, you know, experiment with these alternate positions. And then as they get stronger and more confident, then we can do the traditional tummy time on their tummies.

You know, we can lay a book out in front of them and share a story together and tummy [00:07:00] time we can put an interesting toy you know, just out of reach in tummy time to give them a motivation to wiggle forward. We can put them on their tummies and blow bubbles if they like bubbles. There’s a lot of ways we can think about making this position fun, again, for those short, you know, three to five minutes at a time.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:07:20] I think one of the really important things that you’ve been talking about is how that tummy time really is interactive with mom or [00:07:30] dad or caregiver, whoever that may be, that it’s not just about putting baby down on their tummy and walking away so that you can get something else done. This is really that interactive time and opportunity in addition to the tummy time and the really important developmental skills that is taking place, but also such a great opportunity to bond and talk, get in some of that early literacy and language skills while you’re also doing that tummy time. But that it’s really that [00:08:00] interactive component.

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:08:01] Yeah. And I think the other way to approach tummy time is kind of building it into daily routines.

Right? Cause like all of us are so busy. It’s just like, how can we, you know, add a little tummy time to things we’re already doing. So, you know, one thing I would do with my kids when they were doing tummy time is like when I had them on the changing table, before I pick them up off the changing table, I will just roll them over onto their tummies for like 30 seconds on [00:08:30] the changing table.

So it was kind of like just this short little dose of tummy time, you know, after diapering. And how many times do we diaper a day? Like approximately 6 million, right. And it’s the same thing, you know, when I would get them out of the bath, I, you know, we had like a fuzzy bathmat on our kitchen floor. I would put their towel over that.

And then when I got them out of the bath, I would put them on their tummies for like 30 seconds again, while I tried their backs and the back of their legs. So again, it was just this routine we already [00:09:00] had that I was adding tummy time into.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:09:03] So we’ve talked a bit about the benefits and the purpose of that tummy time.

What are some challenges if babies aren’t given the opportunity to build those skills?

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:09:14] Well, I think one of the primary challenges that’s been established by the research is the prejudice accolade, like, you know, having the flat back of the head from spending so much time on their backs. And of course that’s not a long-term issue.

It can [00:09:30] be easily remediated, but I think that’s sort of the primary thing that we see. We also, you know, see that children who have more tummy time did roll and crawl earlier than babies who were given less tummy time, but these weren’t long-term concerns. So it’s not like, you know, babies who didn’t have as much tummy time never learned to set up or crawl or walk.

I mean, they absolutely did. It’s just, we’re seeing [00:10:00] that babies who have the opportunity to build these muscles and build this coordination on the early side regularly over time, they master those milestones a bit earlier compared to other babies.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:10:14] Great. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Rebecca, and thank you for all of the helpful advice.

Rebecca Parlakian: [00:10:19] Anytime. Thanks for having me

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:10:29] For [00:10:30] more tummy time tips, check out the links in the show notes. We have more episodes on the way to answer your parenting questions. So make sure to give us a follow on your favorite podcast app. While you’re there, you can also share the episode with the other parents and caregivers in your life until next time.

This is Jessica. You’ve got this, Mom .

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