The importance of Tummy time

As you look at your baby, brand new and perfect, legs still slightly turned in, you may start to think, why does my baby even need tummy time? Mainly to encourage your little one to start moving, build up muscle strength and of course get them active. This can be easy to forget (I understand how sleep deprived new mums are), and tummy time can turn to no time, so try your best to stay on top of it.

Benefits of tummy time include:

  • Greater head control- so your little one will be able to look up and around them.
  • Develop your baby’s coordination
  • Get them ready for crawling- And as they get a little older, they will also start trying to push up from the tummy position and straighten their arms which strengthen their muscles and give them the skills they need to learn how to crawl.

If your baby has a touch of flat head either from an instrumental birth, ICU or they just have a favourite side to lie on (flat head happens when baby tends to lie their head to one side when they are very young) then tummy time can also help with this. Tummy time relieves the pressure on baby’s head as it is usually upright or wobbling during tummy time which help’s to develop you baby’s head into a more rounded shape.

Getting started

The best time to start is when your baby is happy, awake, and alert, and then place them on their tummy. Tummy time doesn’t have to be on a playmat, it can be on a blanket on the floor, on your lap, or in your arms.

At first, your baby won’t be able to move much. But you can still encourage them to start wriggling their little arms and legs, and move their head. Giving your baby time to play on their tummy will also give them a different view of the world. Staring at Mama’s lovely face, the ceiling or the same old baby mobile can get a little boring after a while! While your baby is lying on their tummy, get down to their level so that they know you are nearby. Keep talking, making funny noises, or singing to them while they lie on their stomach. This will encourage them to start trying to move their head to see you and baba will also try to move their arms and legs in delight at the funny sounds Mama is making!

What if my baby doesn’t like tummy time?

If baby doesn’t like being laid on the floor, start by giving them tummy time in your arms. Lie back in a chair and rest baby on your chest.. This way they’ll become used to lying on their tummy, but will still be close to you. While you are in this position, you can also try holding your baby so that they’re peaking over your shoulder or why not try hold baby in the rugby position (think of Brian O’Driscoill with baby Billy for inspiration) so to do this lay baby on their tummy across your forearm, and use your other arm to support them.

As you will quickly come to realise, very few baby’s like tummy time. They will cry and moan for it to finish and this is hard for any Mama to listen to as naturally when baba cries, you want to pick them up and make it all better but it’s important to stick with it and allow for a couple of minutes, two or three times per day, building up gradually as the weeks go on and baby gets older.

There is of course a sense of caution when it comes to little baby so remember to always supervise your baby’s tummy time, and never put your baby onto their tummy while they are asleep. Sleeping on their tummy may increase your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).

Try to make tummy time a part of your baby’s routine. If you place your baby on their tummy after every nappy change, or after a nap, they’ll begin to expect tummy time and become used to it.