Your family doctor usually talks about tummy time for your little ones. You may wonder what tummy time is. Why is it important for your baby's health? How much time is appropriate tummy time? You're at the right place to get answers to these questions. Let's get straight into it.
What is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is a brief period when your baby lies on their stomach, with their weight on the forearms. This is best practiced during the daytime when your baby is awake. This practice helps your little one strengthen their muscles, especially their shoulders, and neck. It also develops the sensory, visual, and motor functions of your baby.
Why is Tummy Time important for the development of your baby?
Newborn babies and 1-3 months old babies are just beginning to learn neck control. Tummy time helps them strengthen the muscles they use for turning their heads, moving their necks, crawling, sitting, and standing.
Older babies start learning how to sit at 4-7 months. Tummy time is equally important for them. It helps them raise their chest against gravity by strengthening the chest muscles, forearms, and back.
Babies can develop flat head syndrome if they spend too much time lying on their back (it makes the back of their head flat). Tummy time prevents this problem and helps your baby change his position frequently.
Tummy time may help babies with torticollis (a condition when an abnormality in neck muscles causes tilting and twisting of the baby's head on one side) move their heads. It encourages your baby to look around.
What are the benefits of Tummy Time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests giving your baby tummy time from day 1 as it is important for motor development. The sooner, the better!
Effect on the Brain:
Tummy time promotes cognitive development, sensory integration, and awareness of the environment and people around them. It gives them a chance to process things differently by interacting with different people, places, and things.
Tummy time improves the visual motor system of your baby when he lies flat on his stomach and sees the world from different angles. It improves depth perception too. Tummy time strengthens his neck, arm, and hands when he tries to reach and touch objects, developing fine motor skills. His legs begin to stretch out in preparation for crawling and walking.
Moreover, in addition to development of fine motor skills, tummy time promotes gross motor skills too.
Effect on Neck and Spine:
During tummy time, when your baby tries to lift his head against gravity, it strengthens his neck muscles and spine and improves his head control. It improves the skeletal alignment and posture of your baby.
How long should you implement Tummy Time?
You can start tummy time right after the birth of your baby. You don't need to worry about the umbilical cord stump. It has no nerve endings, and tummy time can not harm your baby. It's a crucial technique for the development of your newborn. Here are details of tummy time duration by age:
During the first few weeks, you can try 1-2 minutes of tummy time 2-3 times a day.
You can try 10 minutes of tummy time during the first month and 20 minutes during the 2nd month until your baby turns 6 months old.
Recommended tummy time for 3-4 old month babies is 30-40 minutes a day.
5-6 and 6+ Months:
Your little one can lie on his stomach for a total of 1 hour per day. It is not necessary to try 1 hour at once; you can divide this period into short intervals.
All these intervals make the muscles of the arm, shoulder, neck, and chest strong. Tummy time helps your baby sit, crawl, and walk.
At what age, should you stop Tummy Time?
When your baby reaches 7-9 months and begins to crawl, tummy time is not necessary. You can help your baby crawl, walk, and achieve other milestones.
What does research say about Tummy Time?
A study conducted by Dr. Lyndel Hewitt indicates that tummy time gives babies an opportunity to lift and move their heads, strengthen trunk muscles, and develop motor functions. Tummy time also encourages your baby to roll the body and crawl.
Your baby starts rolling over from tummy to back by the age of 4 months. They typically roll over in both directions by the age of 6 months.
Ideas for Tummy Time with your baby: Making Tummy Time fun
If your little one dislikes tummy time, you need to make their tummy time more fun. Here are a few ideas to make tummy time fun:
1. Place Toys
Place safe objects and toys in front of your baby, move them from side to side, and let your baby play with them. It helps them move their neck.
2. Play Hide And Seek
Play hide and seek (peek-a-boo) with your little one while they have tummy time. Babies love playing peek-a-boo. Hide your face with your hands and then expose it. Repeat it a few times; your baby will get amused.
3. Try Different Places
If your baby doesn't like lying on the floor, try something else. Put a rolled towel or a small blanket under their abdomen. Try tummy time in different places like the TV lounge, outdoor setting, and their blanket.
4. Strengthen His Eye Muscles
Place a magazine or baby's book next to your baby while having tummy time. Turn the pages, and let them look at different objects. It strengthens their eye muscles.
5. Keep a Mirror
Keep a non-breakable mirror in front of your baby and let them see their reflection. It's a source of amusement for babies.
Spending time with your little one while doing Tummy Time
Newborn babies have vision, they can see, but their vision is not focused. They start focusing in the early weeks after their birth. Tummy time is the best time to spend, interact, and play with your little one.
By 2 weeks, your baby starts recognizing your face. Your baby makes lots of eye contact with you during tummy time and smiles as soon as he recognizes you. So, tummy time can make your bond stronger with your baby.
Sit on the floor with your baby. Play with them while they're having their tummy time. Tickle their hands, cuddle them, and play with their cheeks; babies love getting attention. Sing songs and rhymes for them. Eventually, your little one will start making different sounds and gurgling back at you. It develops the habit of listening and talking in your baby.
Spending time with your baby develops feelings of security, confidence, protection, and trust in your baby. It improves the mental and social growth of your little one.
Tummy time is a healthy activity for your baby. You can start it immediately after birth before getting discharged from the hospital. Make your baby's tummy time fun for them. Mothers need to be careful about handling babies while they have tummy time. If your baby is sick or suffering from any illness, don't try tummy time unless they're healthy and normal. In case of any problem, consult your doctor immediately.
1- Hewitt, L., Kerr, E., Stanley, R. M., & Okely, A. D. (2020). Tummy Time and Infant Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics, 145(6), e20192168. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-2168
2-What You Need to Know About Tummy Time | Tummy Time Tips. (2022, May 26). Pathways.org. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://pathways.org/topics-of-development/tummy-time/
3- Tummy time for babies: in pictures. (2022, March 25). Raising Children Network. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/play-learning/play-ideas/tummy-time
4- Colleen de Bellefonds, Contributing Editor/Writer. (2022, May 25). Tummy Time for Baby. What to Expect. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/week-13/tummy-time.aspx
5- Nevins, K. (2022, August 30). Tummy Time Duration By Age. Babocush Limited. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://www.babocush.com/blogs/news/tummy-time-duration-by-age