Tummy time: Why does my baby need it?
‘Tummy time’ is the term used to encourage parents to get their babies to spend time on their tummy every day. It strengthens their neck and back muscles in preparation for rolling, crawling, sitting and eventually walking1.
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Introducing ‘tummy time’
The safest position for a baby to sleep is on their back. However, the introduction of this recommendation has meant that many babies no longer spend as much time on their stomach and this is thought to potentially delay the development of their core strength, back and neck muscles2.
A little ‘tummy time’ every day is a simple way to help support their development3. You can start when your baby is only a few weeks old as long as you supervise carefully. Even a few minutes a day will help to develop neck muscles and arm and leg strength.
Tummy time tips
Some babies really don’t like tummy time at first, so be patient as your baby gets used to this new feeling. It can be quite uncomfortable until they build up some core strength.
With newborns, your first step is to try skin-to-skin contact on your chest. You can support them and they will feel comfortable and safe. As they get a few weeks older, try putting them somewhere soft on the floor, like a baby mat. Talking and singing to your baby will reassure them that everything is ok.
As their neck muscles get stronger, rattles, mirrors and books can be used to help persuade your baby to look around and push up. It will also distract them if they are uncomfortable.
Build up tummy time gradually and before long they’ll enjoy being in this position. They’ll roll over onto their front all by themselves at any point between 4–6 months onwards.
Tummy time positions
- Winding your baby after a feed, or lying them onto your chest builds their core strength, and are things you’re probably doing already.
- When they’re small, try lying your baby along your forearm with one hand supporting their head and their legs hanging over your arm.
- If your baby is on the floor, lie down beside them and encourage them to look at you. A rolled towel can be used as extra support.
- Lay your baby flat across your lap, tummy-down and gently massage their back.
- Feeling more confident? Hold your baby gently on an exercise ball and roll back and forth.
- Set aside a regular time every day for tummy time. Choose a point when your baby has been fed and winded and is alert enough to engage in activity.
- Remember this should be fun. Don’t push your baby to do anything they aren’t ready for.
- This is a great opportunity to get your partner involved too.
1. Wen LM et al. Effectiveness of an early intervention on infant feeding practices and “tummy time”. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2011;165(8):701-7.
2. Baby Brain. Tummy Time for baby – and why it’s important [Online]. Available at: http://baby-brain.co.uk/tummy-time-for-baby-and-why-its-important/ [Accessed: December 2016].
3. BBC. Babies need ‘tummy time’ to develop [Online]. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/5128144.stm [Accessed: January 2017].
Last reviewed: 9th December 2016
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