Tummy time is one of the most important activities you can do with your new baby.
Tummy time is best started from birth and in the early days it may be on your chest when you are lying down. Your baby will want to look at you as you are their favourite ‘toy’ and they will lift their little head up and try to get eye contact. Even a newborn baby is able to lift their head and turn to the other side when on their tummy.
It’s important that tummy time is done when your baby is awake and supervised as we know that the safest position for your baby to sleep is flat on their back. This reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
As your baby grows rapidly in the early weeks and months, so does their head and if you are not doing tummy time regularly their head will quickly become too heavy and they quickly begin to dislike tummy time.
Even if your baby dislikes being on their tummy, please try to continue some short periods of tummy time as it is very important to strengthen their back, neck and shoulders ready for later pushing up and crawling. It promotes motor development and reduces the risk of flat spots on the head by regularly taking the weight off the back of the head.
The safest place to do tummy time is on the floor as one day they will learn to roll. Place a rug or mat on the floor for comfort and a nice clean space.
There are many strategies to increase tummy time even if it is disliked, I call it tummy time by stealth:
- Carry your baby over your arm on their tummy
- Lay baby on your chest when you’re lying down
- Bath them over your arm on tummy
- Lay them across your lap on tummy
- Try placing them tummy down on a large exercise ball and gently roll forward and back by holding their ankles
- Get down on the floor next to or in front of them
- Try a mirror on the floor, babies love looking at themselves
- Try an activity mat with interesting colours and textures
- Play some fun music or sing to your baby
- Give your baby a back massage
As your baby gets older and stronger tummy time sessions can get longer.
Don’t leave your baby on their tummy if distressed as it may set up a worse aversion to tummy time. Pick them up and try again later.
With practice, your baby will gradually be able to lift their head higher and for longer periods with more control. By 8 weeks of age your baby should be able to lift their chin up off the floor and hold it up for some time. If they are not able to do this by this age, give then more tummy time as often as possible, with practice they will get there.
By 4 months of age, most babies have rolled from their tummy to their back. This is usually accidental as their head is heavy and if their arms are out in front of them all they need to do is turn their head and they will ‘fall’ over and onto their back. They will gradually learn to do this deliberately. You can help by gently rolling them to ‘show’ them how. Rolling from back to front is usually a little later as they need to roll over the lump of their shoulder. Again, you can show them how by gently rolling them back and forth.
Enjoy this playtime with your baby, tummy time will lead to other fun play on the floor.
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