Tummy time is exactly as it sounds – allowing your baby to spend time on their tummy when they’re awake. It’s an important (and fun!) way to help your baby build strength in their upper body, including the muscles in their neck which builds head control.
Tummy time can start soon after you bring your baby home from the hospital. Just don’t expect too much. At first, your newborn will struggle to lift their head even a tiny bit while on their stomach. Tummy time is hard, tiring work! A few minutes at a time, several times a day, is a great start. You can gradually increase the amount of time your baby spends on their tummy as long as they are happy and comfortable – and always be there to supervise.
Take note of these tummy time tips and information on why it’s so important, and little by little your baby’s muscles will get stronger!
1. Start young
Supervised tummy time can begin as soon as baby is born! Placing your newborn on their tummy regularly throughout the day will help them slowly strengthen their head, neck, and shoulder muscles. They’ll need these strong muscles to develop certain motor skills, like rolling and crawling when they’re a bit older.
2. Choose your moments
Your baby is more likely to enjoy tummy time when they are alert. After a nappy change or when your baby first wakes up from a nap are usually great times. If your little one is tired, hungry, or fussy, don’t pressure them to do tummy time. Let them have a nap, feed if hungry, or sing them a song while holding them, then try again later. Your baby may not enjoy tummy time to begin with and may only be able to tolerate a couple of minutes at a time. Build tummy time into your baby’s daily routine and keep at it!
3. Stay close and prepare for action
It may be hard to imagine with your tiny baby, but they will eventually learn to roll over, crawl, and sit up by themselves. Spending time on their tummy will help them gain strength to later roll over, crawl, and sit up. Just make sure you never leave your baby alone while they are on their tummy. Your baby’s mouth or nose could be covered accidentally, which may put them at risk of suffocating.
4. Reduce head pressure
As well as building upper body strength, tummy time plays an important role in protecting your baby’s head shape. Newborns sleep up to 14-17 hours every day, which means they spend a lot of time on their backs! Spending too long on their back can cause the back of your baby’s head to flatten – otherwise known as Plagiocephaly. Spending longer periods of time each day on their tummy will help lessen the pressure on the back of your little one’s soft skull.
5. Find the best positions
When your baby is a newborn and has very little head control, they may need a little help to learn this skill. Place a rolled-up blanket or other support underneath their chest and armpits to give them a helping lift. Once your baby is older and stronger, and is more comfortable with tummy time, lay a blanket on the floor and place your baby on their stomach with their arms out in front of them. Alternatively, you could hold your baby on your chest as you recline on a couch or pillows for some great bonding and tummy time in one! Read some more fun tummy time moves here.
6. Don’t forget - Back to sleep
When your baby is awake, spending time on their tummy is important. However, you should always put them to sleep on their back. This position reduces the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).