Why is tummy time important?
- For strengthening the back muscles to assist later on with sitting.
- To strengthen the neck muscles.
- It is essential for the development of proper head control, as well as for the development of good postural control of the rest of the body.
- Helps babies learn to push up, roll over, sit up, crawl, and pull to a stand.
- Tummy time lays the foundation for the development of appropriate gross and fine motor coordination in childhood.
When to start:
- You can start tummy time from birth – with your newborn lying skin to skin on your chest.
- From about one month old they can be placed in this position on their own and they will slowly start developing more head and neck control as well as back and shoulder stability which will eventually allow for reaching.
- Care should be taken when they are still young and battle with head control. No pillows should be used. It is wise to be with your baby when you place him on his tummy so that you can ensure that he does not smother.
- Always do this during the day when you can keep an eye on them.
- As his back and shoulder muscles continue to strengthen, he will begin to push up with his forearms resting on this floor. This position continues to strengthen shoulder muscles in preparation for crawling.
How to do it:
- Let your baby lie on a firm, but soft surface, such as a soft carpet or a mattress.
- Generally, babies tend not to like being on their tummies, and need to have you around to distract them a little.
- If they fuss and cry when on their tummies, help them get used to it by putting them on your stomach either on the floor or on a reclining chair.
- The best distraction you have is yourself – get on the floor with them – babies love it when you are on their level. Sing them nursery rhymes, play peek-a-boo or move their favourite toy in front of them to get their eyes to track it or to get them to reach for it.
- Place a mirror in front of them so that they can look at themselves.
- Swish your baby through the air to music, supporting him with your arms and hands under his body and chest.
- Lie baby across a beach ball or exercise ball, or a rolled up sleeping-bag, and rock him gently to and fro and sideways: this will also stimulate his vestibular (balance) system and help him get used to being in different positions.
- Just remember to start with short, frequent periods in this position and your baby will slowly develop endurance and tolerance for being on their tummies.
Written by Tamaryn Hunter – BSc (Occupational Therapy) – Occupational Therapist