Tummy time

Many moms know to place newborns on their backs when it’s time to sleep. Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to suffer from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But babies still need to develop their neck, shoulder and arm muscles. The best way to help your newborn build her muscles is to give her some tummy time while she’s awake.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great tips for strengthening your baby’s muscles. When she’s awake, place her on her stomach to see how much she can move on her own. A baby younger than 2 months old may struggle to raise her head to look around, but may still be able to lift her head for a few seconds.

While your baby is on her stomach, extend her arms and place a rolled-up receiving blanket underneath her chest and arms. Keep your newborn on her belly for a few seconds at a time each day until she can work her way up to holding her head up for longer. You can motivate her by bringing yourself down to her eye level so she can look at you. You can also try placing a rattle or other attractive toy in front of her to get her attention.

These exercises will strengthen your baby’s neck and arm muscles, so that when she’s around 4 months old, she’ll be able to hold her head and chest up. Once she achieves this milestone, she’ll need less head and neck support when you hold her. Her new upper body strength will help her remain steady and upright when she’s learning to sit up at around 5 months of age. She’ll also need these skills when she’s learning to roll over and crawl.

As with all baby activities, keep a close watch on her and never leave your baby unattended.

August 2008

Most common questions

How can I soothe my baby if she has colic?

About 1 in 5 babies develops colic - usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas from crying. There's no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby's discomfort. One way is to walk her in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying her tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing her back. The pressure against her tummy may relieve her discomfort. Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby's health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby's colic. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.

How should I take my baby’s temperature?

If your child is younger than 3 years, taking a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Here's how:

  • Clean the end of a digital thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Rinse it with cool water.
  • Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the end.
  • Place your child belly down across your lap or on a firm surface. Put your palm against his lower back, just above his bottom. Or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest. Rest your free hand against the back of the thighs.
  • With the other hand, turn the thermometer on and insert it 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the anal opening. Don’t insert it too far. Hold the thermometer in place loosely with two fingers, keeping your hand cupped around your child's bottom, until you hear the beep. Remove it and check reading.

What do I do if my baby is constipated?

Your baby's bowel moments depend on her age and eating habits. Every baby is different. Some babies have a bowel movement right after each feeding. Others have it only once a day. It also is normal that a breastfed baby (3 to 6 weeks of age) passes stools only once a week. Formula fed babies should pass stools at least once a day. If your baby is having irregular bowel movements but her stools are soft (no firmer than peanut butter), this isn't a sign of constipation. But if your baby's stools are firm, she seems fussy or cries when having a bowel movement, she might be constipated. Talk to your baby's health care provider.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).