You may have heard the term 'tummy time' as a parent of a newborn and assumed it was just a simple fun activity for your baby. However, it is also a crucial technique to assist your baby in developing muscle strength and motor skills.
Interested in learning more? Continue reading to learn more about the advantages of tummy time, how to give your baby tummy time, and how to make tummy time enjoyable for your child.
What Is Tummy Time?
Tummy time entails putting your wide-awake infant on his or her stomach for short periods of time while keeping a watchful eye on them. This activity is beneficial to your child's growth because it strengthens the neck and shoulder muscles whilst improving motor skills.
During tummy time, keep in mind that your baby should be attentive, awake, and supervised at all times.
What Are the Benefits of Tummy Time for Your Baby?
Offering tummy time to your baby every day provides a variety of benefits:
- Awake tummy time helps strengthen your baby’s upper body, especially the muscles in the back and neck, and also helps your little one gain flexibility and muscle control.
- Babies who regularly spend time on their tummies may be more likely to learn how to crawl before the age of 8 months old.
- The motor skills and strength your baby develops during tummy time will be needed for rolling over and sitting, then crawling and eventually walking.
- Tummy time gives your baby the chance to observe and explore their surroundings differently. This new perspective and the balancing skills it provides help to develop spatial awareness and strengthen the link between the left and right sides of your baby’s brain.
- Tummy time can be beneficial for babies with torticollis, a condition resulting in tight muscles in the neck. Tummy time, combined with exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist, can help a baby’s tight neck muscles relax. Spending time on the stomach while awake can also help avoid what’s known as ‘flat head syndrome’, where flat spots develop (usually temporarily) on the back of your baby's head.
- Tummy time is a great way of playing with your baby and strengthening the bond between you both.
When Should You Start Tummy Time?
Tummy time sessions can begin while you and your newborn are still in the hospital or as soon as you’re discharged. It's a good idea to get your baby acquainted with the activity as soon as possible. When it comes to tummy time, you don't have to be concerned about the umbilical cord stump. Tummy time will not harm your baby because the stump has no nerve endings. It will be alright as long as you follow your midwife's or doctor's recommendations on how to properly care for your baby's umbilical stump.
Tummy Time for Newborns
Follow these suggestions for conducting tummy time for newborn babies from 0 to 3 months old, since they are only beginning to establish head and neck control:
- Sit in a reclined posture in a chair, on a bed or on the floor and place your baby belly-down on your chest or on your lap, while they’re wide awake.
- Look into your baby's eyes, smile, and converse in a pleasant sing-song voice to interact with them. This is also a fantastic method for you and your new baby to bond!
- Keep tummy time to a minimum at this stage — start with only a few minutes at a time, two or three times a day. As you see them enjoying the activity, gradually increase the length and number of sessions.
Tummy Time for Older Babies
From roughly 3 months on, here's how to offer your older baby tummy time:
- Place your baby belly-down on a play mat that has been covered with a blanket or towel. Get down on the floor, close to your baby and interact with them by dangling a toy close to their face. To encourage your baby to turn their head, place toys, objects or mirrors on the floor nearby. This will help strengthen the neck muscles and improve visual tracking skills.
- Increasing the length of your baby’s tummy time sessions a little at a time is a good idea. If you've been giving your baby tummy time since birth, you could aim for an hour a day (split into numerous sessions) in total.
- Most babies can hold their heads up and look around by the time they are four months old. Around the age of 5 months, your infant may begin reaching for objects and, a few weeks later, begin passing objects from one hand to the other.
- At around 6 months, your baby may begin to push him or herself up on their arms, as if preparing to crawl. It's possible that your baby will learn to roll over in the coming weeks.
How Often Should Your Baby Do Tummy Time?
Tummy time should be done two to three times every day. Newborns just require a few minutes at a time, but as your child grows bigger (and becomes accustomed to this exercise), you can increase the frequency and duration of sessions. If you start giving your baby tummy time from birth, by the time they’re three months old, they may be able to undertake up to an hour of tummy time per day, spaced out across several sessions.
Where Is the Best Place for Tummy Time?
You can begin tummy time with your baby on your chest or in your lap, when they’re newborn (between the ages of 0 and 3 months). Later, tummy time should be on a low, safe surface. The babocush helps support tummy time and is great for strengthening your baby’s neck, back and torso as well as helping prevent flat-head syndrome, and promoting cognitive development. The babocush encourages the airways to remain open and relaxed, reducing the time taken to burp your baby.
Tummy time will benefit your baby's physical and sensory development if you practise it every day. It's a crucial approach for your baby to acquire the motor skills and muscular control they’ll need for all the exciting milestones ahead.