What is tummy time, when should it begin, and the importance of it
Nowadays, parents are reminded to place babies on their backs during sleep for safe sleep practices. Babies are also spending larger periods of time each day in swings, bouncers, car seats and other pieces of equipment. In turn, these babies are lacking the exposure to being on their bellies during awake periods and experiencing what we like to call supervised TUMMY TIME!!
TUMMY TIME starts from the moment babies are born, when the baby is placed on mommy after delivery for some skin to skin. Placing the newborn baby on your chest during skin to skin, and throughout those first couple of weeks of life, provides your baby the “tummy time” experience that us therapists love! The main goal for tummy time is giving the baby the time to lift their head against gravity and turn their head to both sides, eventually learning to prop up on their elbows then forearms. This helps with development of back, neck, core, and arm muscles and helps to avoid developing a flat spot on the back of his/her head. In addition, tummy time helps in visual development, social engagement, eye contact, and so much more!!
It is important to start to give your baby supervised tummy time regularly from 30 seconds to 1 minute, and gradually increasing that time as he/she ages. I usually tell parents either before or after every diaper change, give them some tummy time exposure. Also, during the newborn phase, it is considered tummy time when the baby lays on your chest or on your lap. Any experience that gives them time on their belly with the opportunity to lift head against gravity counts! If your baby screams/cries or lays head down/falls asleep, try again later, but don’t give up! It is important your baby learns to enjoy this position during awake periods, and most do! This is a workout for babies, so sometimes it takes more effort for babies, but it is so important for development.
Tummy time should start to be transitioned to a mat, carpet, or blanket after a few weeks old. Once your baby gains enough muscle to lift their head up, they will start to prop themselves up on their elbows, then eventually gain enough muscle to prop up on their hands. This is the beginning to building muscle and coordination needed to get up on their hands and knees in prep for crawling…. And crawling is VERY IMPORTANT! (We will get to crawling in another post). Tummy time does not stop. Even when your little one is crawling, pulling up to stand, or wanting to walk.. still provide tummy time for your kiddo. Older kids even benefit from tummy time, for example when they are coloring or doing puzzles, have them lay on their belly. It is great for building stabilization, strength, and so much more!
Check out some of my favorite tummy time toys..