Tummy time describes the time a baby is spends on his belly while awake and under supervision. It is very important for your baby to get some tummy time every day. The amount of tummy time a baby should do per day is influenced mainly by the baby’s tolerance level and age. A 4 month old baby who has been doing tummy time for a month should have more tummy time than a 2 week old baby, for example. Tummy time should be done when your baby is happy. This may be after he is well fed and burped, after a diaper change, a nap or a bath.
Benefits of Tummy Time
Builds strength in neck, shoulders, core and back muscles
Tummy time is important for building strength in the neck, shoulders, core and back. During tummy time, babies learn to hold their heads up against gravity to look and interact with the world around them. Strength in these important parts of the body is needed for the child to achieve significant developmental milestones such as sitting up unsupported, rolling over, kneeling, crawling and walking.
Helps prevent flat head syndrome
Flat head syndrome occurs when the developing skull of a baby is flattened at some spots. The safest sleeping position for babies is on their backs, to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but babies lying on their backs all the time may develop flat head syndrome. Tummy time allows the babies to experience different positions and in effect helps prevent flat head syndrome.
Helps promote bonding
Tummy time should never be alone time for your baby. It is a chance to continue to bond with your baby as you play and interact with him while he is on his tummy.
Useful Considerations for a Successful Tummy Time
- The early bird gets the worm – Start early! Starting early with your baby makes it easier for the baby to get comfortable with the position and embrace it better. Tummy time can be started as early as the first week of your baby’s life.
- Slow and steady always wins the race – Every baby will have his own unique response to tummy time. Most will find the position quite uncomfortable in the beginning. Be patient and introduce it a few minutes a day and gradually increase the length of time till your baby gets comfortable. Aim for 30-60 minutes a day in the long run.
- Be engaging, creative and helpful – Vary the way tummy time is done. You, your partner and other responsible adults can take turns supervising your baby at tummy time. Do it on the floor, over your laps, on your chest, over your arms, over a blanket, pillow or towel. Have your baby look at age appropriate books, toys or your face during tummy time. Apart from you, your baby can also interact with other kids or the pet at home. Just be innovative so it does not get boring!
- Every second spent on the belly is worthwhile.
- Be sure to always supervise tummy time.
- Both you and your baby should be awake throughout tummy time.
- Back is for sleep and tummy is for play!
Written by Yvonne Ewurama Osei, (paediatric physiotherapist), edited by Babychildandco staff.