Tummy time is an extremely important part of your baby’s development, the strength and skills your baby develops whilst on her tummy help her to lift her head and look around, push up with her arms, roll over, sit up, crawl and eventually pull herself up to a standing position. You shouldn’t let the fact that ‘all babies do this eventually’ stop you from encouraging your baby’s development. Babies should ideally spend more awake time on their tummies than in car seats, on swings, sitting in chairs or lying on their backs. This also helps to avoid your baby getting a flat head (Plagiocephaly).
My baby hates tummy time
Tummy time isn’t easy, babies are no longer used to being on their tummy, you of course have to put her on her back to sleep as this helps to mitigate against the risk of SIDS but, with a little encouragement from you and a bit of determination from you both, you will find that a gradual introduction of tummy time helps your baby get used to the idea and stops her from feeling too uncomfortable when in this position. The Motor control your baby will gain from being on her tummy develops in a ‘cephalocaudal’ fashion, which means she will first gain control of her head, then her shoulders, then her abdomen and this continues down to her feet. Developing head control first allows her to visually explore everything around her.
Introducing tummy time to a newborn
Whilst I’m not suggesting that you place your newborn on the floor as soon as you get home, you should encourage tummy time from day one.There are things you can do to get your baby used to being on her tummy so when the time comes to put her on the floor, it wont be too alien/scary or too uncomfortable.
Skin to skin
Whether you are Breastfeeding or not, you should still have plenty of skin to skin contact with your newborn. As well as using this time to bond with each other, use it to get your baby used to being on her tummy. If you lie on a bed propped up by a pillow, you can place your baby on your chest so that she is leaning on you. Very often, even newborn babies start lifting their head whilst in this position and will try to look at your face. Once your baby is comfortable with this, you can then start lying flat on the bed.
Who ever thought tummy time could be such fun? To turn your little one into a flying aeroplane, lie on the floor (on your back), lift your legs up and bend your knees so they are at a right angle, (your shins should be horizontal, parallel to the floor), place your baby on your shins so her head is on or just over your knees, support your baby under her arms and get ready for take off. Your baby will love seeing your face, hearing your aeroplane sounds and the sensation of slowly moving backwards and forwards. The added bonus to this is it’s also a fab workout for you!
Buy a gym ball
If you don’t have a gym ball already then buy one (from £4.99), not only are they fantastic for fat loss, muscle toning and core strength but also make a fantastic, comfortable place for your newborn to get used to being on her tummy. Place the gym ball next to your baby, lean your baby onto it and simply roll her back wards and forwards for a few minutes. Be sure to fully support her and take it nice and slow and you will find with each prolonged forward roll of the ball your baby can (or at least tries to) lift her head up. If there are two of you then you can turn this into a game of peek-a-boo too by sitting opposite each other, one of you in control of the ball and baby with your partner peek-a-boo-ing!
Whilst you may not think cuddling is going to develop her motor skills, if you stand up and cuddle your baby as if you were winding her (so her head is above your shoulder) and allow her to support/hold her own head as much as possible then that’s exactly what you are doing. The stronger your baby becomes, the longer period of time she will be able hold her head up and look around, and the best thing of all is she can always cuddle into you if she gets tired!
Everyone loves a game of peek-a-boo. I recommend doing this on a bed to begin with. If you place your baby on your bed so that her head is near the edge, she won’t have to lift her head very high to gain a good view of the room and won’t feel uncomfortable as it is a softer surface. Even better, and if you are able, sit on the floor next to the bed, hide out of your baby’s view and magically re-appear in front of her eyes. Peek-a-boo! Obviously make sure that you are ensuring your baby’s safety at all times and don’t do this once your baby is able to roll over.
Roll over after every nappy change
Whether you are changing your little one on a changing mat or on a changing table, a good habit to get into is to roll her over after every nappy change. If you remember to do this every time she will get used to it and come to expect it. Try to incorporate it into a song such as “Ten in the bed and the little one said roll over, roll over”. You can then continue singing to your little one whilst she is on her tummy, letting her know that you are still there and you are both having the time of your lives on your tummies…
Finally, get down and play
If your baby is comfortable lying on you, holds her head well when having a cuddle, looks around the room whilst lying on the bed, enjoys her time on the gym ball, doesn’t immediately cry when you roll her after every nappy change and enjoys being an aeroplane then you can feel confident your little one is ready to lie on the floor, on her tummy and play. The best thing you can do is lie down next to her with plenty of smiles and words of encouragement. There are some nice toys for floor play that will also help in distracting/ encouraging your baby. If she seems uncomfortable to begin with then only do this for a minute or so, it is a good idea to time how long she was on her tummy for and try to improve on that the next day.
If your baby doesn’t like tummy time, try her for just one minute to start with and increase this by 10 seconds everyday, in 4 weeks time, she will be stronger, confident, comfortable and on her tummy for at least 5 and a half minutes each and every day. After 12 weeks this will add up to around 14 minutes every day!
How did your baby cope with tummy time? Do you have any additional tips or advice that can help other parents?