Welcome to our quick guide to Tummy Time. One of the most important things for babies during their earliest development is to build strength, muscles, motor skills and coordination. In particular, learning to lift and safely move their heads is one of the most crucial skills at this young age. Strength and muscle coordination in their neck is therefore very important. That’s not easy when they’re newborns in their first few weeks because their head is comparatively large and heavy compared with their little bodies at that age. Building upper body strength in arms, shoulders, core and back will also greatly help them in their physical development and mobility, essentially helping them to perform and survive safely as humans. Tummy Time is a key tool in learning to accomplish all of these goals — and many more.
What is Tummy Time?
Tummy Time is the period in the day where a baby under twelve months, under close adult supervision*, will be placed on their tummies (the ‘prone’ position) whilst awake. It can be started right from their first week and generally can take place for 3-5 minutes, two to three times a day. The idea is for them to learn to lift and move their heads, arms and upper body, mainly in order to build strength. There are, however, several additional benefits to Tummy Time …
What are the Benefits of Tummy Time?
As well as strengthening muscles in the neck, arms, core and trunk muscles, Tummy Time has a number of additional benefits:
- It helps to stop the development of deformations in the skull. ‘Positional plagiocephaly’ (or ‘Flat Head Syndrome’) might otherwise occur if the baby is only positioned in a limited number of positions, i.e. mostly on its back. Bear in mind, of course, that at this young age the baby’s skull bones are far more flexible than those of an adult, so such deformations are more likely if the baby’s head is always lying in the same position.
- Tummy Time also decreases the risk of the baby developing ‘Positional Torticollis’, which is a neck twisting problem that’s caused due to similar issues.
- It also allows the baby to control his or her head more easily. That’s important in many ways, including being able to control what they see, to become aware of their surroundings from a safety perspective and to be able to interact with toys, objects and other individuals.
- Making sense of sensory stimuli is also aided by the positive results of Tummy Time, as babies can better explore and gain improved sensory perception of everything in their immediate vicinity.
- Tummy Time also encourages babies to use and strengthen their arms, to support their weight, to reach out for objects and so on. Such skills are all a part of improved coordination, better fine and gross motor skills and ultimately they will all help lead the infant to independent mobility as they grow older.
Babies should only be placed onto their tummies when they’re awake and under continuous adult supervision. To avoid the risk of SIDS, babies should only sleep on their backs and never be allowed to fall asleep while on their tummies.
How to Encourage Tummy Time
Tummy Time may not come naturally to babies and indeed many babies will dislike it at first. That’s mainly because the very muscles that Tummy Time is designed to strengthen start out weak. Therefore, Tummy Time will initially be a struggle for many, if not most, and they may resist. It’s important to persevere, however. Parental encouragement is going to be required.
Try putting the baby in a prone position (i.e. on their tummy) on, say, a clean blanket or rug. Lie down on your tummy too and face them, encouraging them to stay on their tummies by use of a game like peek-a-boo. If you can, try to get them to raise themselves onto their arms or, eventually, hands. Move yourself around a little, so they move too and strengthen their muscles. If they’re finding it too difficult initially, a rolled-up blanket underneath their chest may help to start them off. Don’t worry if at first they can only push themselves up on their arms or hands only for fleeting moments; they will gradually improve as they try more and more.
You can also try the same thing with them lying on your tummy facing you, across your lap or cradled (supporting them underneath with a hand or arm), although the firmer floor option above will give them better resistance to push against, in order to build muscle strength. It’s also important to support their head when needed.
From the age of about 3 months, you can introduce toys and this will encourage them to move about more, e.g. to reach out and grab as well as change the direction they point their faces and so on. All of this will help build strength, motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
After 6 months, they should start to be able to support their weight on their arms in a raised, kind of ‘press-up’ position. This can be encouraged with some support (and play) from you and they’ll get the hang of it with practise. Soon enough, they’ll also be able to roll sideways in either direction and get themselves back into the prone position when they want to. They’ll soon master the art of passing a toy from one hand to another at around this time. They’ll also be able to get themselves into a sitting position before they’re 9 months old, or thereabouts.
Between the ages of about 7 to 9 months old, you may well find they’ve progressed to crawling. By this time, there’s no huge need for them to continue with Tummy Time, although it’ll do no harm and will continue to build their strength, coordination and motor skills if continued.
Standing will usually come soon too, particularly if encouraged and, of course, supervised for safety purposes. Then, in the blink of an eye, the ultimate milestone will be accomplished as they begin walking and life starts a whole new chapter!
Childcare Places at Little Cedars, an Outstanding Nursery & Pre-school in Streatham
We hope our quick guide to Tummy Time is a useful reference. Of course, at Little Cedars, we also ensure that babies up to twelve months old get to benefit from Tummy Time sessions at the nursery — we know how important it is for their development.
Little Cedars is a nursery and pre-school offering outstanding childcare services in Streatham. If you’re searching for a good nursery or pre-school near Streatham Common/Hill/Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Tooting Bec/Broadway/Common, Balham, Norbury or Colliers Wood, we’d make a great choice. Contact us for more information, to arrange a visit or to register your child for a place at the setting. We’re also always happy to answer any questions too …