What is tummy time?
Tummy time refers to the practice of allowing your baby to spend some time on their tummy. This is undertaken whilst your baby is awake and under your or another adult’s, supervision. We emphasise the fact that your baby needs to be awake due to safety reasons, your baby always needs to be placed on their back when sleeping or about to go to sleep.
Why is tummy time important?
When your baby is laying on their tummy, you may notice that they try and push their head up high, so they can see better. This allows their head, neck, and shoulder muscles to get a little stronger. When the time is right your baby will be able to hold their head up, sit upright, and eventually walk.
When a baby is small their vision has not developed enough to see lots of colours and things in the distance. All they will see is blurred shadows around them and this isn’t usually enough to stimulate them. Laying them on a colourful mat on the floor, looking at some bright-coloured or black-and-white toys will change their scenery. For a very young baby, tummy time is their play time, so encourage lots of stretching for toys.
How old can my baby be for tummy itme?
You can start doing tummy time with your baby from the day they’re born. Just be mindful of the fact that your baby may find all this exercise exhausting. Therefore be sure to keep a close eye on them for signs of tiredness or fatigue. If they start crying or struggling and have had enough, it’s time to give them a break and a nice cuddle.
Giving your baby tummy time doesn’t need to be complicated so grab a nice soft mat, towel or blanket, and place it on the floor. You’ll then gently place your baby on top of it, on their tummy. For safety reasons always use the floor rather than an elevated surface, like a changing table or a dining table. Even if you’re supervising your baby at all times, you never know when your baby decides to start rolling, and you don’t want to be in a position to have to catch them.
Put a few toys in front of them or get onto the floor with them if you can, and just interact with them. It’s a great way for you two to bond and to let them explore your face from a different perspective. Give lot of eye contact and you may even get a smile.
You might also want to rest your baby on their tummy over your thighs or on your chest as shown in our Newborn Developmental Baby Massage class.
What if my baby doesn't like tummy time?
Realistically when they are very little, you can aim for about 3-5 minutes a couple of times a day. Always let yourself be led by your baby. As your baby gets older and stronger, they will be able to enjoy tummy time for longer stretches of time. You can then work your way up until you reach about a total of 40-60 minutes of tummy time per day.
If your baby doesn’t seem to enjoy tummy time don’t force it. Even if all you achieve is a minute or two, that’s great. You can follow your baby’s lead and increase the time as they feel ready to do so.
However, there are a couple of things you can try to make it a little more entertaining for your baby.
- Think about why they might not like it. Are they uncomfortable? Is this the right time to be doing this? Could they be hungry, hot/cold, in need of a nappy change, or too tired? If they are unsettled for any reason, it’s probably best to try at another time.
- If you’re sure that they are settled, but they’re still not happy, it might be that they may not like the idea of not seeing you. Place your face in front of theirs for eye contact. You can even try using a toy, or a plastic mirror so they can look at their own face. They won’t know they’re looking at a reflection of themselves, so they’ll like the idea of another baby pulling faces at them.
- Or maybe they’re just missing you, even if you’re right there. You can give your baby tummy time when you’re lying down by positioning your baby on your own chest. Always ensure you hold them while doing so, or over your thighs. They can still exercise their muscles and experience that sensation of physical closeness that they’re so used to from months and months inside the womb.
- Baby is still not happy? Try and sing a song or nursery rhyme as your voice is probably the most soothing sound they know.
Want to try Developmental Baby Massage?
If you want to make tummy time even more fun for you and your baby, why not join a class full of like-minded parents with babies of a similar age to yours? Our Developmental Baby Massage courses are available from birth to crawling and are designed to support your baby’s natural development whilst remaining baby-led. Caring for you and your baby’s individual needs.
The Natal Family