As parents we are advised that our babies should have tummy time but it never seems to be very well explained as to why our babies should have tummy time and what actually constitutes as ‘tummy time’.
During my classes, mummies often tell me that their babies really don’t like tummy time and they find it difficult to prioritise it when the baby is so obviously distressed by it. Nobody wants to see their baby upset. In my classes for both Baby Massage and Baby Yoga we look at introducing tummy time in a way that is both acceptable to you and your baby.
Firstly, lets look at some of the reasons for doing tummy time;
When our babies are born, their spine is formed in a ‘C’ shape due to the nine months of being in foetal position. Our adult spines are ‘S’ shape and the only way of helping the spine to the required shape is to let your baby make friends with gravity by introducing tummy time. It is the gravity that will help straighten out the spine. By six weeks old a baby will be able to lift his head in line with his spine against gravity when placed on his tummy, which will strengthen the neck muscles too and develop good head control.
It helps babies develop their gross motor skills by strengthening their core muscles. From sitting, crawling and walking, our babies need to have core strength to do all of those things. By introducing tummy time, in time your baby will be able to pull himself up into table top position (up on hands and knees) and this really helps develop their arm, leg, hips and shoulders as well as their core.
The floor is your baby’s first playground and the time for play on her tummy will provide her with the opportunity to move from side-to-side, which can help with balance, coordination and postural control by activating the vestibular system.
Now we know why we should be doing tummy time, how do we do it?
The thought of tummy time conjures up the image of our babies laying flat on the floor, on their tummies, on their own. This usually makes a baby fussy and it’s not really surprising when you think how a small baby will feel very vulnerable left on the floor and not safe in your arms. Looking at a floor isn’t very exciting either and there won’t be visual stimulation to distract your baby. To rectify this, you could place a mirror in front of your baby to encourage him to lift his head to look at the baby in front of him and also a rolled up towel placed under the arms can help lift him.
For a newborn baby, skin to skin time is the perfect time for tummy time. By laying your baby on your chest your baby is till in prone position but he has the comfort and smell of you. It’s also the most amazing bonding activity.
Another way of doing tummy time is by placing your baby in ‘Tiger in a Tree’ hold. This amazing hold is perfect for young babies and very settling for your baby. Your baby is in that all important prone position (tummy time) but with the comfort of you. It especially great for colicky babies as you are placing your hands on the tummy which can cause a lot of discomfort.
How much tummy time should a baby have per day?
The guidance is;
Alert newborns – 3 – 5 minutes, 2 to 3 times per day
3 months – 20 minutes per day in short, frequent periods
When your baby is happy and content to be on their tummy then you can build it up so that your baby spends between 40 and 60 minutes per day.
Remember: babies should be supervised during tummy time and if your baby becomes distressed then try again later.
Timing is everything….. avoid tummy time play immediately after feeding, when fussing and of course never let your baby sleep on their tummy.
How does Baby Yoga help with tummy time?
In our baby yoga classes we spend a lot of time in prone position but often without the baby even realising she is doing tummy time because it is all done through play. Here are a few of the favourites;
Baby Swings – placing babies in the prone position in the parents arms and we gently swing from side to side whilst singing. This usually results in smiles, squeals and giggles.
‘Roly Poly Sausage Babies’ - we roll them down our legs. Lots of prone position again being used. Back Massage – using a song we take a little time to massage our babies backs
Different Holds Whilst Walking – changing up positions and speed as we walk and try various holds such as up against the shoulder, tiger in a tree and bundle hold
Tummy time is so important for your baby’s development and it has an effect on your child not just as a baby but for many years to come. Although that it the subject for another blog…..