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.
HELPFUL TUMMY TIME HINTS:
- 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.
HOW A PHYSIOTHERAPIST CAN HELP?
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.