Tummy time is an essential skill your baby need to learn. Just as the name suggests it involves baby lying on their tummy, or prone position, rather than on their back. The most important part of tummy time is that you must interact with baby. Tummy time should start from birth and will continue up until baby can sit upright without support.
Importance of Tummy Time for Babies
Without Tummy time your baby may show delays in important milestones such as rolling and crawling. The interaction with baby helps them to enjoy spending time in the prone position. Official safe sleep advice is to place baby on their back to sleep. Newborn babies can sleep up to 20 hours a day, which means a lot of time of their backs. This can lead to developmental problems for your baby’s fast changing body.
Benefits of Tummy Time
Let’s look at the benefits of tummy time for your baby.
- Develop Muscles – Tummy time will develop your baby’s back, neck, shoulder and arm muscles. All of these muscles are essential to progress your baby’s motor skills for rolling, sitting and crawling.
- Coordination – Interaction with your baby during tummy time help your baby to progress there hand-eye coordination skills.
- Stretching – Babies can suffer from ‘twisted neck’ or torticollis due to womb positions, childbirth or prolonged lying on their back. Tummy time allows baby to get a full stretch from the neck down the spine.
- Prevent flat head syndrome – This is a condition which caused your baby’s skull to become misshapen. It usually develops at a few months old due to prolonged periods of lying down. Tummy time is a great way to avoid this happening to your baby. Read NHS advice on flat head syndrome here.
- Bonding – Lots of skin to skin in the early days helps parents to bond with baby. The touch releases a hormone called oxytocin which increase the bond between you and baby.
Tummy Time for Newborns
Tummy time should begin as soon as you baby is born. Most parents are reluctant to start early as your baby has no head control. These are our tips for tummy time with a newborn.
Skin to skin
Start your baby with tummy time early by having lots of skin to skin on your chest. The touch and sound of your heartbeat and voice will make baby feel safe in this position. It’s also a great way to establish your milk supply or observe baby for hunger cues.
Tiger in the Tree
This is a position when you hold baby lying across your forearm. Its a great way to get baby used to tummy time and can help to relieve colic for your baby. Parent often favour this position for singing lullaby’s as you can easily move baby up and down to the rhythm.
Use a sling
Busy family life means we don’t have the luxury of too many lazy days with baby. Consider using a baby sling around the house or when out and about. It tackles the problem of flat head caused by excessive use of bouncers, car seat or prams.
Mums often opt for a side lying position when breastfeeding during the night. This can lead to baby lying on one side more than another. A great ‘tummy time’ position is laid back or biological nursing. Your baby lies on your tummy as you lay on your back. It’s a great position for mums with large breast or a fast milk ‘let down’.
Take it slow
Use the first month to allow baby to adapt to a tummy time position. At this stage interaction can cause them to become overstimulated. Making them feel safe and secure in this potion will help you to progress to adding interaction into the mix.
Developing Tummy Time
Once your baby is around one month old they become more curious of the world around them. You can begin to add a lot more interaction to tummy time.
As you baby begins to stay awake more during the day you’ll need to keep them entertained. Start placing your baby on the floor on top of a play mat or pillow for up to a minute. Slowly build up this time as you interact more with baby. Try to make tummy time a part of your daily routine.
If you baby is unable to support their head remember to alternate the side you turn their neck to. As baby begins to lift the head remember to interact with them using your face, voice or toys, equally on both side.
Tummy time doesn’t need to be all about play, you can make it relaxing for baby too. Use some baby safe oils and massage their neck and back during tummy time. This will help improve blood flow to hard working and fast growing muscles.
Read your baby
It’s important to observe your baby and how they are coping with tummy time. Remember to take it slowly. If by seems distressed, stop immediately and try again another time. Read out tips below for knowing when to avoid tummy time for baby.
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Tummy Time Activities by Age
All babies are different, however you may want to know roughly when your baby will reach certain milestones. Your interaction with baby during tummy time will depend on their age and motor skills.
At around one month old your baby should reach these milestone:
- Stares at Faces
- Responds to sound
Everything is still quite fuzzy to baby as they can only see short distances. Try holding baby close to your face and speak to them. The will recognise your tone and look in your direction. Smiling and making faces will help them to begin mimicking you.
During this month your baby should start to:
- Follows objects
- See Further
As you baby can now start to see further it’s a great time to introduce toys. Noisy toys are great to help them recognise a difference between object and voices. Use the toys and move them around, your baby will start to follow them bay moving their head around. Help you baby adjust from skin to skin only to more floor time by getting down to their level.
Three to Four months
Your baby will start to move around more and you’ll start to see:
- Head control
- Mini Push ups
Your baby will be able to interact a lot more during these months. This is a great time to encourage plenty of tummy time on the floor. An activity mat has lots of areas to hold your baby’s attention. A soft mirrored toy will really spark your baby’s interest.
Five to Six months
You’ll notice a huge change in baby’s abilities during these months, they begin to interact with their surroundings more including:
Your baby will begin to move their arms and leg around more. Help encourage them to coordinate with lots of movement to songs or reaching for toy. Continue with regular tummy time until your baby is able to sit unsupported.
When to Avoid Tummy Time
Your baby may appear to dislike tummy time by crying every time you place them into position. It’s important that baby is ready for tummy time, otherwise they will quickly become upset. Common reason baby cries during tummy time are
Discomfort – Try to avoid tummy time after a feed. Imagine how you would feel lying on your tummy after a big meal. This is particularly important for babies who suffer from reflux as it can cause baby to vomit.
Tired – It’s important to introduce tummy time slowly. Some babies may only tolerate a few seconds at a time. The important thing is to persevere and build up the length of time baby can manage.
Overstimulated – All the interaction of tummy time can sometimes cause your baby to become overwhelmed. Try to avoid tummy rime after you’ve had lots of visitors or a busy day.
Full Nappy – Always check baby’s nappy before you start tummy time. A changing mat can be a great soft area for baby to begin tummy time before they can support their head.
Safe Tummy Time
It’s important you make tummy time a safe activity for your baby. Check out these tips for safe tummy time:
No Sleep – Your baby should not be placed on their tummy. Make sure your baby has a good air supply and is awake at all time.
Observe – Never leave baby in a tummy time position without an adult present. Don’t leave the room for even one minute, your baby may restrict their air supply or vomit causing them breathing difficulties.
Safe environment – Your baby’s tummy should always be placed on a firm surface during tummy time. A prop can be used for the chest and arms such as a rolled towel or pillow. Always place baby on the floor and never or a raised surface where they can roll and fall.
5 Best Tummy Time Aids
Tummy time is a great way to interact with your baby. Check out these items which can help make regular tummy time a lot easier for you and fun for baby.
We’ve already discussed that baby slings are a great way for baby to get tummy time through the day. A mei tai or wrap style sling allows lots of skin to skin. The allow you to get on with your daily life whilst keeping baby close and having tummy time.
A baby play mat is a great way to transition baby onto the floor for tummy time. It provide a soft area for baby to play. These mat often have love of areas which are textured or noise to entertain baby. A special tummy time mat often has a slanted top or pillow to support your baby’s chest.
Babies love to look at faces. Once they can hold their head up place a play mirror in front of your baby. They will love to stare and interact with the cute baby smiling back. A play mirror helps your baby to coordinate the two side of their brain for development.
Toys which stimulate your baby’s sight and sound sense will provide lots of stimulation. These are the senses which are developing before your baby learns to sit upright. Tummy time toys which are soft, textured and noisy always go down a treat. They help you interact with baby during the early day and they encourage independent play as they grow.
We always recommend support your baby’s chest during tummy time. Look out for an activity mat which has one, or use a rolled up towel. If you have a nursing pillow they are the perfect curved shape to support baby during tummy time. They can also be used to curve around baby as they learn to sit unsupported.
Tummy Time FAQ
When should I Start tummy time?
We recommend staring tummy time as soon as baby is born. Getting your baby to feel safe and comfortable in a prone position can help avoid any problems as they grow. Start with lots of skin to skin on the chest and then progress to the floor.
Am I too late to start tummy time?
If your baby is unable to unaided then it not too late to start tummy time. Start slowly and you’ll see big improvement with your baby’s progress.
How long should I do Tummy time?
Start with up to a minute a day in the prone position and build up every few days. Once your baby is around 4 months old they should spend around 20 minutes a day having tummy time. You may need to reduce this if you baby is uncomfortable. It’s important to persevere and keep trying. Adding tummy time to your routine will make it become a habit for you and baby.
What if my baby doesn’t like tummy time?
Check that you are avoid in all the situations we’ve listed above which are known to make baby cranky. If your baby continues to become dislike tummy time even during ideal times, discuss with your health visitor or doctor. There may be an underlying medical reason which requires follow up.