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Tummy Time Tips

Tummy time doesn't have to be a battle. Here's how to make it fun for both of you. (Be sure to watch your baby when he's on his stomach: Falling asleep in this position increases the risk of SIDS.)

Start early Put your baby on his stomach for a few minutes at a time, several times a day, in the early weeks. That's one of the tummy time guidelines recently set by the Pathways Awareness Foundation, which advocates for early detection of motor delays. Lie down on a couch with your baby on your chest, lay him across your lap, or put him on his stomach on the changing table before diapering him.

Break it up Tummy time doesn't mean plopping your baby on the floor for an hour. Start small, and then gradually increase the time increments  -- try not to rush to him the second he cries. Pathways recommends several sessions that total about an hour of tummy time per day by 3 months of age.

Get involved Get down to your child's eye-level and entertain him with silly faces, smiles, or noises. "Your child will want to stay in that position because he has your full attention," says Pamela High, M.D., director of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. "If it's fun for you, it'll be fun for the baby."

Motivate him Don't rush to hand your baby his toys. Instead, put him on the floor with a plastic mirror, rattle, or stuffed animal that is slightly out of reach, and encourage him to go get it.

Offer some support If your child fusses, try letting him lie on your chest so he can see more easily without having to struggle as much to lift his head. Other options: Put a rolled-up towel under his chest and arms, or play "airplane," holding your baby tummy down and carrying him around the room.

Stick with it Even walking babies continue to enjoy activities such as a game of chase on their hands and knees.