So often as new parents we are told about the importance of tummy time, and that it’s good for baby to spend supervised time lying on their belly. That’s usually where it ends though. The benefits aren’t fully explained – it’s treated as a stepping-stone to crawling while there are so many other benefits of tummy time. It’s also extremely unpleasant for parents when your newborn doesn’t seem to enjoy lying on their tummy on the floor. Maternal and paternal instincts kick in and we want to pick that baby up. Which leaves us feeling confused as to how something that is supposed to be so beneficial for baby, can be so unpleasant. Luckily there are many other ways in which tummy time can be achieved!
Tummy time has so many roles to play in a child’s development, more so than what you would think.
Speech development and feeding
During tummy time, a baby will experience a certain amount of pressure on their face and jaw which will aid in strengthening the muscles in that area.
Tummy time can aid in digestion as while baby is in the tummy time position, their stomachs are being gently massaged. This allows any trapped winds to escape, as well as promoting digestion.
Strengthening neck and upper body muscles
Babies develop from head to toe, so the neck muscles first need to strengthen before anything else can happen. This happens with baby lifting their necks up.Once the neck muscles have strengthened, the rest of the upper body muscles follow on.
Helps with hand-eye coordination
Having objects in front of them while doing tummy time helps improve hand-eye coordination. Babies will try to reach for the objects in front of them, and get to practice this skill.
Preventing flat spots from developing on baby’s head
With it being recommended that babies sleep on their backs, it means they spend a lot of time in the same position. This can lead to flat spots developing on their heads. Increasing the amount of time spent on their bellies can help prevent this.
During tummy time most of baby will be touching something, whether it be the floor or a blanket or toys. They are also looking at their surroundings, which can help develop vision.
Tummy time doesn’t just have to consist of laying your baby on the floor on their belly. Newborns especially aren’t the biggest fans of this form of tummy time. It’s only really when their neck and upper body muscles have strengthened somewhat that infants start enjoying spending time on their bellies on the floor. There are many ways that tummy time can be achieved, besides floor tummy time.
- Chest to chest: lay baby with their chest on your chest (,if you’re breastfeeding it works well having baby in a tummy position to feed)
- Belly on lap/knees: baby can play while lying on their belly across your knees. This is also a nice position to burp baby in, while getting some quick tummy time in!
- Babywearing: my absolute favourite! I’m a huge babywearing advocate – the benefits are endless. Babywearing helps strengthen some back and neck muscles, essentially what tummy time on the floor does.
- Elevate with pillows: instead of placing baby directly on the floor, you can prop his/her chest up by placing a small pillow underneath. This allows baby a different view point, while strengthening those muscles.
- Flying airplanes: when baby has developed some good head control, you can either let baby rest their belly on your shins (while you hold baby), with you lying on your back. Or you can stand and hold baby firmly with both hands and fly them around the room. Babies love this as they get such a different viewpoint!
- Change scenery: placing different books or toys in front of baby while they’re doing tummy time helps to act as a distraction. Baby will be so entertained (even for a couple of minutes), they might not even notice they are doing tummy time!
- Mirrors: following on from above, placing a mirror in front of baby provides some new entertainment for them, and the opportunity to get in another few minutes of tummy time.
- Tummy time during nappy changes: once you’ve taken off baby’s nappy, roll them over onto their belly for a short amount of time. This enables them to have some nappy-free time, and to have short bursts of tummy time (it all adds up).
The latest South African 24-hour movement guidelines for birth to five years suggests that a newborn baby, up to a year should be doing about 30 min of tummy time daily. This sounds a lot, but can be achieved through short bursts throughout the day. If baby doesn’t get sufficient tummy time, there are some problems that can occur later on – he/she might shuffle along on their bum instead of crawling, fine motor skills might not develop adequately, and poor posture and head control might occur.
The changes your baby will go through in the first months of their life will blow you away. By allowing them to practice tummy time daily, you’ll soon have a baby pushing themself up, rolling over and then crawling!
If you experienced any challenges with tummy time, or have some interesting hacks to help babies (and Moms!) enjoy tummy time more? Please let us know below!
Please remember all tummy time should be supervised!