Why is tummy time important for my baby?

Tummy time builds head, neck and upper body strength, it will help your baby to develop skills they need to crawl, roll over, sit up and begin to stand. Your baby will naturally start trying to lift her head to see what is going on around her, but she won’t be able to hold her head up for long periods of time until she is around 3 or 4 months old.

Tummy time also assists with shaping your baby’s head. If you baby is always lying in the same position, it is likely that her head will become flat and may not be symmetrical.

When should I start tummy time?

A full term baby can start tummy time soon after birth. Most full term babies will turn their head to the side, but you may need to assist her with this initially. Your baby needs to be awake, alert and supervised by a responsible adult during tummy time.

How often should my baby spend in tummy time?

Your baby should practice tummy time daily. There is no specific agreement in the literature as to how much is recommended. As a general guide, build up tolerance to tummy time – try tummy time for 1-2 minutes, 2-3 times a day, at different times of the day. Your baby can build up to 15-30 minutes a day. Avoid any one position for long periods of time. If your baby becomes sleepy during this tummy play time, put her onto her back to settle for sleep.

If your baby dislikes tummy time
Some baby’s, particularly those with reflux, dislike being on their tummy. If your baby doesn’t like tummy time at first, then try it in very short bursts. Pick them up for a cuddle if they cry, then try again later. You may find they settle if you gently rock them, sing songs or rub their back. If your baby becomes upset on her tummy, try a different time of day or different environment. Try tummy time in different places, like outdoors on a blanket, over your lap or leg, on a large ball, on the couch or bed where your baby can see you and you can maintain eye contact.


  • To provide support during tummy time, roll up a thin towel or blanket and place this under baby’s chest, positioning her arms over the roll with her elbows in front of her shoulders.  Face your baby at eye level while you talk, sing, or read out loud. This is a great opportunity to encourage eye contact and bond with your baby.
  • Put a non-breakable mirror next to your baby so she can see her reflection.
  • Books placed in front of baby’s face encourage her to lift her head and look. In the early days, books with simple, bold black and white images work best at triggering interest.
  • Lying on a mat on the floor is not the only way to do tummy time. You can incorporate tummy time into your daily routine of bathing, drying and dressing your baby.
  • You can place your baby across your lap for their tummy. As your baby grows stronger, you can put her on a rug on the floor to play.
  • Musical toys in the same position will get your baby lifting her head to listen and look.
  • Keep tummy time interesting and fun. Place safe objects and toys close to your baby. Move them from side to side in front of her face. This encourages her to move, lift and turn her head.
  • Try tummy time simulated carrying position:Place your baby over your forearm, providing support under their head, across the length of baby’s trunk and under baby’s bottom. This way baby can experience ‘tummy time’ while being carried.

Once your baby is rolling over and independently spending time on her stomach, usually by 6 months old, you do not need to continue with dedicated tummy time as your baby is more mobile and will get into and out of this position frequently over the day.

If you have concerns about the shape of your baby’s head, their neck strength or are unsure about how to position your baby on their tummy, a physiotherapist with Paediatric experience can assist. Sydney West Physio has 2 physiotherapists who have experience with Paediatrics:

  • Lisa Pagano based at Blacktown and Westmead outpatient rooms
  • Tanya Dickerson based at our Westmead inpatient and outpatient practices.


Having a six-pack v’s having real core stability

If you have been watching Ninja Warriors, I am sure you have been admiring the six-packs on display. Want to know how to achieve this? Firstly you need to understand what the core is!

What is the core?

The core includes the surface ‘beach’ muscles (rectus abdominis and the obliques), but also includes many other smaller, deeper muscles in the lower back, stomach and pelvis. These core muscles have a role in every movement that you do.

The deeper muscles work together with the surface muscles to provide effective ‘core stability’. Core stability means being able to maintain effective control of the spine and pelvis when you bend, twist and rotate, as well as when you maintain static positions (Kibler et al. 2006). By maintaining the stability of the spine and pelvis, the core muscles also provide a platform from which all other body parts can function with efficiency, control and safety.

Training for looks rather than function

The distinction between the abs that you can see and the core as a whole means that there are many people who may have a great looking six-pack, but are actually unable to hold their spine and pelvis steady during reaching, bending and loading tasks. The reason is that when most people train what they think is the core, they do it with the goal of improving the visual impact of the muscles. This is achieved (as with most body-building training) by performing exercises that isolate specific muscles to create definition in a desired area. This could include sit-ups, crunches, side bends and straight leg raises. While these exercises target muscles that are part of the core, they do so by activating single muscles at a time, and they never activate the core in a way that equates to activities outside the gym. In other words, there are very few movements in everyday life that resemble a sit up, so no matter how many sit-ups you do, they will never really prepare you for real-world loading. Additionally, some exercises that target the superficial muscles alone can actually increase the incidence of back pain and other injuries due to poor technique and muscle fatigue.

Training the core as a whole

Rather than training surface muscles in isolation, it is important to consider the role of the core muscles as a group. As the core’s role is to maintain spinal stability and provide a strong base for other movements, the focus of a core stability program is on effective stabilisation around the lower back and pelvic area. This should include activation training of the often neglected deeper core muscles such as transverse abdominis, the spinal extensor muscles and the pelvic floor (Ferreira et al, 2010). It can be quite difficult to learn how to activate these muscles if you have never trained them before. Physiotherapists are trained to assess and train these deep core muscles using advanced real-time ultrasound imaging. This can be extremely helpful in understanding how these muscles work and establishing an effective core training program. Once the focus is shifted from the surface muscles to the core as a whole, training is then progressed towards stabilising the spine during functional movements and real-world situations. This may be during 1:1 training sessions or in a physiotherapist-supervised Pilates class. Functional core stability training such as this can assist with injury prevention, pain reduction and improved tolerance of load (Hides et al, 2001).

Nic Toose is a Physiotherapist who has a special interest in core stability and Pilates. Nic works out of our Norwest rooms.


  1. Kibler, W.B., Press, J. & Sciascia, A. The role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Med (2006) 36: 189
  2. Hides JA, Jull GA, Richardson CA. Long-term effects of specific stabilizing exercises for first-episode low back pain. Spine. 2001;26(11):E243–E248
  3. Ferreira PH, Ferreira ML, Maher CG, Refshauge K, Herbert RD, Hodges PW. Changes in recruitment of transversus abdominis correlate with disability in people with chronic low back pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2010 ;44(16):1166–1172