Newborns are sweet. They sleep peacefully — we hope! — they eat all the time and they mostly just lie flat on their backs. Tummy time is the simple act of putting your baby on her tummy. This can be done from birth and is a great way to help avoid a flat head, but most importantly to help your baby develop strong muscles and motor skills.
It is recommended that you always lay your baby on her back for sleep in order to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). And while you may not be too worried about Positional Plagiocephaly (commonly known as a flattened head caused by being in the same position for long periods), when your baby is awake, you should try to keep her off of her back so she can build a strong neck, head and shoulders.
From birth, you can place your baby on its tummy on your lap or on your chest for short periods several times a day. You might want to wait until her umbilical cord stump falls off, but if she doesn’t seem to mind, it’s ok to go ahead. As your baby grows longer you may place her on a blanket laid out on the floor. You could also use a nursing pillow, where you can prop her up on her tummy — pillow across her chest with her arms over the pillow.
There is no correct amount of time that you should keep your baby on her tummy, but try to do it often and for as long as she will let you. Once she starts crying or fussing, it’s time to stop and try again later.
Some babies don’t like tummy time, but you can make it more enjoyable for them by placing their favourite toys at eye level and don’t be afraid to get down on your tummy as well! Make eye contact, sing to her and make her favourite funny faces. Laying her on a colourful blanket or activity mat will help keep your baby entertained which will lead to more tummy time! What baby wouldn’t appreciate a new view of the world? You should also try holding her in different positions when she’s awake. Both of my babies loved being held with their tummies on my forearm.
Remember that just because they fuss a little and you may think that they don’t like it, doesn’t mean you should stop trying… It’s just the start of many things that parents do with their kids for a healthy development that shouldn’t be ignored just because the baby doesn’t like it.
Tummy time helps babies develop strong muscles and helps them learn to push up, roll over and sit up. It’s not easy for your baby to keep her head up at first because her muscles are weak and she’s used to sleeping on her back, which takes no effort at all! But by three months of age your baby should be able to lift her head and push up on her arms while on her tummy.
The more you do it the more they will get used to it and even enjoy it! Just think about how strong her neck, upper back muscles, head and shoulders will be. And let’s face it, a baby on its tummy is in the perfect position to launch into a crawl!
One very important thing to remember: Never leave your baby unattended.