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.
What Tummy Time should look like each month:
How do you know if your baby is making progress during Tummy Time? Check these abilities to ensure they are continuing to develop.
At 2 weeks, baby should be...
- Using Tummy-to-Tummy, Tummy Down Carry, and Lap Soothe positions
- Working towards Tummy Time on the floor
At 1 month, baby is...
- Turning their head during Tummy Time
- Attempting to lift their head up (even if it is for a second)
Tummy Time Tip: Get down on the floor at baby’s eye level. Baby loves your face and voice!
At 2 months baby is...
- Spending a few minutes in a tummy time position throughout the day without getting upset
- Doing the majority of tummy time exercises on the floor
- Possibly tilting their head to one side
Tummy Time Tip: Face baby in different directions in their cot each night to assist develop neck muscles by turning to look at you in a different direction.
At 3 months, baby is...
- Starting to put weight on their arms, with elbows at a 45-degree angle behind their shoulders
- Gaining head control and being able to elevate head between 45 and 90 degrees without tilting head to either side
- Spending 1 hour every day on Tummy Time
- Beginning to visually tracking toys or rattles that you move around during Tummy Time.
Tummy Time Tip: Place baby on an exercise ball with their tummy down, holding their sides for support. Slowly move the ball toward and away from you, making it easier for baby to lift and hold their head.
At 4 months, baby is...
- Lifting their head up 90 degrees and keeping their head centered
- Pushing up on forearms and bringing chest off floor. Elbows will be under their shoulders at a 90 degree angle or in front of shoulders.
- Lifting head and moving neck to track toys, voices, and faces
Tummy Time tip: Use mirrors during Tummy Time to help keep them stay engaged.
At 5 months, baby is...
- Starting to push up on hands with straight elbows
- Starting to move hands forward to reach for toys that are placed nearby
Tummy Time tip: Do baby push-ups. Place hands under baby's chest and tummy and use moderate lifting cues to encourage baby to push up on hands for short periods of time.
At 6+ months, baby is…
- Self-directing Tummy Time
- Reaching for and collecting toys of various sizes while lying on their tummy
- Capable of pivoting in a circle while lying on their tummy
- Back-to-tummy and tummy-to-back rolling
- Your baby is starting to prefer being on their tummy. They can play, move, and explore more easily when they are on their tummy.
Tummy Time Tip: Encourage baby to roll and move about while on their tummy. Use toys to keep them motivated!
Tummy Time Tips For Success
If baby isn't enjoying Tummy Time, try some of these ideas!
- Avoid Tummy Time just after feeding.
- If baby is being cared for by multiple persons, ensure sure all caregivers understand that Tummy Time is a natural part of baby's daily routine.
- If baby is resistant to Tummy Time, do a couple minutes of it after every diaper change or bath so baby learns to expect it.
- If your baby cries during Tummy Time, try completing Tummy Time exercises when he or she is most content.
- If your baby falls asleep during Tummy Time, place them on their back rather than their tummy.
- Make Tummy Time enjoyable! Sing lullabies to relax and comfort baby during Tummy Time, or use rattles, toys, and mirrors to improve visual tracking. If your baby falls asleep during Tummy Time, turn them over.
Because newborn babies from 0 to 3 months old are still developing head and neck control, follow these guidelines for tummy time:
- While your baby is wide awake, sit in a reclining position in a chair, on a bed, or on the floor and place them belly-down on your chest or on your lap.
- To communicate with your baby, look into their eyes, smile, and chat in a nice sing-song voice. This is also an excellent way for you and your new baby to bond!
- At this period, limit tummy time to a few minutes at a time, twice or three times per day. Increase the length and intensity of the exercise when you observe them enjoying it.
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.
Other Ways to Help Prevent Flat Spots on Your Baby's Head
In addition to tummy time, parents and caregivers should attempt the following other methods to help prevent flat spots on the back of baby's head:
- When your baby is not sleeping, keep them upright. This is sometimes referred to as snuggle time.
- Reduce the time your baby spends in car seats, bouncers, swings, and carriers.
- Change the direction your baby lies in the crib from week to week—for example, one week have your baby's feet point toward one end of the crib, and the next week have your baby's feet point toward the other end of the crib.