Tummy time – why it’s important for your baby and how to start

Posted on October 11th, 2019

Here’s why it’s important for your little one to spend time on her tummy every day.

The importance of tummy time

Tummy time during waking hours is a very important part of growth for a baby. It helps with muscle development and will give your little one a new perspective on life, as she will see things differently while on her stomach.

Occupational therapist Maryna Rosentrauch explains the benefits of tummy time and how to get started:

The importance of tummy time

  • Tummy time teaches your little one how to push herself up and eventually crawl, and it will help your baby learn how to roll over, sit up and pull herself to a standing position. It’s easier for your little one to roll from her tummy to her back than from her back to her tummy.
  • Co-contraction of the shoulder muscles needs to be developed to prepare babies to use their limbs effectively against gravity so that they can crawl and develop good motor skills later on. This is achieved through tummy time as your baby pushes herself up on her elbows when she’s lying on her stomach.
  • Tummy time also helps to strengthen your baby’s neck muscles for good neck control so she can stabilise her head when she’s sitting, standing or walking.

ALSO SEE: ACTIVITIES TO HELP BOOST BABY’S DEVELOPMENT DURING THE FIRST YEAR

When should you start tummy time?

You can introduce tummy time to your little one as soon as you are comfortable and familiar with handling your baby’s tiny body. Tummy time should be fun for both mom and baby. It should never feel like exercise to baby as this will put her under pressure and she’ll start disliking the idea of lying on her tummy.

When is the best time for it?

The ideal time for tummy lying is a little while after your little one’s nap or after a nappy change, as she will be in a quiet-alert stage.

How long should tummy time last?

Tummy lying should be done for 10 minutes a day to start off with. You can split this time up into shorter intervals throughout the day.
Keep an eye on your baby’s reactions when she’s lying on her stomach.

ALSO SEE: 6 play mats to make tummy time fun

When is tummy time not a good idea?

Babies with heart conditions need to be closely monitored when they’re on their tummies. If you’re not sure whether or not it’s safe for your little one to be on her tummy, ask your doctor.

No tummy time can mean…

  • Baby will have a poor crawling pattern or might not even crawl
  • Bum shuffling
  • Your little one might have poor pencil / crayon skills
  • She might also have poor fine motor skills
  • Poor head control
  • Poor posture / postural insecurity.

ALSO SEE: ENCOURAGE YOUR BABY TO ROLL OVER WITH THESE AVTIVITIES

3 ways to make tummy time fun

  • Place a mirror or activity mat on the floor underneath your baby – this will keep her busy and interested in staying on her tummy for a longer period of time. Or even better, you be the activity mat. Place your baby on your tummy for some special bonding time.
  • Once your baby’s neck is strong enough, help her get a better view by propping her up with a rolled towel or receiving blanket. This should be placed under her chest with her arms stretched out in front of her. You can also place your baby on your lap with her chest and upper body resting on your thighs. Raise one thigh slightly to make it more comfortable for your baby, and rock your leg gently. Talk to your little one while she’s lying on her stomach. Shake her rattle, play peek-a-boo or make funny faces to distract her.
  • Tempt your little one to reach out by scattering her favourite toys on the floor around her. This is a very good muscle-strengthening exercise for her.

Can my baby sleep on her stomach?

A baby shouldn’t sleep on her stomach as it can increase the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Pregnancy, birth and parenting expert, Sister Lilian believes babies should preferably sleep on their backs to help avoid SIDS. But if a baby simply prefers to sleep on her tummy or sides, there’s not much you can do about it. “They will spontaneously turn into the preferred position or cry until you help them to. Be particularly careful not to overdress your baby if she’s a tummy-lier and don’t pile too many blankets on her, as the main concern for a tummy-lier is the inclination to overheat. Many babies do prefer this position and are quite safe, so try not to worry too much.”

Living And Loving Staff

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Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.