We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘tummy time’, but what does it mean exactly? How does it aid in your child’s development?
What is tummy time?
Simply put, ‘Tummy Time’ refers to giving your baby time on their stomach whilst you are supervising and are down at their level. It is a great way to strengthen the muscles in their abs, upper body, back and neck and helps to encourage them to crawl and move on their own. Importantly it is also design to help prevent preventing flat spots from forming on the back of their head.
What are ‘flat spots’ in babies?
These flat spots are known as positional plagiocephaly and can be caused by lying in the same position, putting pressure on the same part of a babies skull. It’s important to encourage movement in your baby for this reason. It’s also great for babies development generally.
You can also help prevent flat spots by limiting the amount of time spent in car seats, swings and bouncers and by changing their sleeping position. e.g. point their feet one direction for a week, then point them the opposite way in their cot the next.
What are the benefits of tummy time?
There are a number of proven benefits to tummy time.
- Strengthens baby muscles in the upper body, neck and back
- It develops the skills they need to crawl, rollover sit up and stand
- Prevent them getting a flat spot on their head from lying on their back so much
- Helps develop co-ordination
- Can help alleviate trapped wind
- Exposes baby to different environments and sensory experiences
- Provides a great way for you to bond with your baby
- May have an impact on physical milestones such as sitting up, crawling and walking
- Helps encourage baby to follow things with his eyes.
- Improves motor skills
When should you start tummy time?
With the best practice of babies being placed on their back in their cot during sleep to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), typically the time that they spend on their tummies is a lot shorter. It’s important therefore, that you start to encourage tummy time with your new baby soon after they are born.
You can place them belly down on your chest, with you lying down just a few minutes at a time. This will help to get your baby used to this position. Once you are happy with that and you make developmental progress you can begin to move your baby to the floor. Make sure there’s nothing on the floor that could hurt your baby if his head flops, and if you have a wooden floor you may want to consider getting a playmat or other soft play item to help.
What positions and ideas can I use for tummy time?
The simplest position to start with, is for you to lie down on a bed or sofa and to have baby resting on his front, propped up on your stomach – tummy to tummy. Baby will immediately be drawn to your face as you talk to them. As you raise your back position slightly, they will begin to look up at you further. Laying down a blanket or a tummy time mat on the floor also works well, and it is perfectly fine to launch straight into this position.
How to do tummy time and keep your baby interested.
Come down to your baby’s eye level and talk and play with them. Placing a toy just out of reach will also encourage your baby to focus on this and to reach out and attempt to move towards it which will in turn strengthen their muscles. You may want to try turning pages in picture books or magazines which will also help to develop baby’s eye strength and keeps them interested. Put a non-breakable mirror next to your baby so they can see their reflection. Try tummy time in different places, like outdoors on the grass on a blanket.
The below video gives you some more great ideas to try.
How long should tummy time last?
It’s a good idea to add a minute onto each tummy time session if you can, every three or four days. If your baby gets tired or looks like they aren’t enjoying it, then stop. Work up to around 40 minutes to 60 minutes of tummy time each day. It doesn’t have to be all at once – 6 sessions of 10 minutes is equally as effective. If your baby loves tummy time and is happy to play on his front for longer, change their position regularly – about every 15 or 20 minutes, just so they are experiencing new positions and sensory experiences.
What if my baby hates tummy time?
Don’t be surprised If bubs gets cranky or cries – this is totally normally, and the trick is to start getting them used to that position and work up to longer sessions. Straight after a feed is also not recommended as the pressure on their tummy could cause them to throw up on you, not what you want for the first experience! If you are finding tummy time tough, another simple tip is to use a rolled up towel propped up under their arms to provide additional support.
It’s important that you always supervise your baby’s tummy time, and never put your baby onto his tummy while asleep, even for short naps. Sleeping on his tummy may increase the risk of cot death, though this is rare. Always put your baby down to sleep on his back. You should also only do tummy time when your baby is awake and alert, and you’re there to keep an eye on them.