From the benefits of strengthening neck muscles to the perfect time to try those exercises, we help demystify Tummy Time and explain why it’s worth your baby’s – ahem – time.
In the first year of their life, a baby has a lot of milestones to reach. From that first moment they stand, to the first steps they take. These don’t come magically, like anything they need a little time and practice. And exercise.
Tummy Time is widely regarded by healthcare professionals as one of the most important exercises your child can do. It will help to strengthen their muscles and improves their development. But what is it? What do you have to do? And how does it help? Allow us to explain…
We spoke with health advisor, Moira, to get the lowdown.
Allow us to explain…
What is Tummy Time?
Tummy Time is a series of exercises that require baby to be on their stomach. As Moira explains: “Following the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign, babies nationwide found themselves on their back for much of their early days…”
This time on their backs meant babies were not engaging certain muscles that would eventually help with developmental milestones like holding their head unsupported. Tummy Time is a way to redress this balance so that babies can still get necessary time on their front while awake.
Why should my baby do Tummy Time? | What are the benefits?
We’ll let Moira handle this one: “Tummy Time is very important to encourage the motor development your baby needs for activities like sitting, rolling and crawling. It’s also an excellent position to prevent head flattening, as it relieves pressure from the back of their head. The muscles which lift the head are attached at the back and when they work, during Tummy Time, they can help to round out the lower part of the skull.”
The Tummy Time position is putting baby flat on their stomach. This way, a baby learns to take their weight through their arms, push up and move from side to side. All of which will help them to reach and crawl. “As a baby gets stronger it provides a good position to learn to move and explore their surroundings… “ says Moira.
Another important aspect of Tummy Time is that it helps with developing baby’s cognitive skills, thinking and reasoning. “When baby plays on their stomach, they are able to manipulate toys and play in their environment differently than they can when lying on their back. It gives them a different view of the world”.
When can my baby start Tummy Time?
Babies can start from day one but, as Moira explains: “Tummy Time activities should be dependent on baby’s age and temperament. For newborns in particular, activities should centre on carrying and calming baby.”
Can my premature baby do Tummy Time?
In short, yes. But make sure they are happy and comfortable. If they become irritated then stop. As with all newborns, in the early days it’s best to keep them close to you. Try laying baby face down on your chest while you lie flat, or across your legs. “Another approach is the ‘tummy down carry’ or ‘football hold’; placing one hand under the baby’s tummy and between the legs, to carry them facing down.”
If your child is settled and calm then you can afford to try them on the floor, face down on a mat or blanket. You can even use a rolled-up towel under their chest to raise them up. See below for some great Tummy Time accessories.
When is it best to do Tummy Time exercises?
You should only attempt Tummy Time when baby is happy, alert and awake. As Moira suggests, “It’s important to place baby on their tummy after routine activities such as nappy changing or bathing. Baby will begin to get used to Tummy Time as part of their daily routine… Also, it’s best if parents get down on the floor at baby’s eye level. Always supervise the baby during Tummy Time and never allow them to fall asleep on their tummy”.
How often should my baby do Tummy Time?
Moira says “Many sources suggest that parents should try to give their baby about 30-60 minutes of Tummy Time each day, using a variety of activities. This can be in a single episode or over several shorter periods throughout the day, increasing to 90 minutes as baby gets older.”
How can I monitor my child’s progress?
There are lots of helpful indicators, to show that baby is developing as they should, but the key is to monitor baby’s ability to move their head. Moira has broken this down into what you can expect to see and when:
“By 4 months they should be able to move their head to both sides when lying on their back and can lift or hold their head, neck and chest upward when placed on their tummy.”
“By 6 months the baby should be able to roll from their back onto their tummy and reach for an object with both hands.”
“By 9 months baby should be able to sit independently with good balance, moving into a crawling position. They can reach to place toys into the palm of their hands and transfer between hands.”
“By 12 months, baby should be able to pull up to the standing position at furniture, and ‘cruise’, babies can walk with both hands held, they can take items out of a container and can use a ‘pincer grip’ to pick up small objects.”
What do I do if baby doesn’t like Tummy Time?
“If your baby doesn’t like being laid on the floor, start by giving them Tummy Time in your arms” says Moira. When baby gets used to being held that way, you can eventually introduce them to time on the floor. A little and often approach works best – for example, 10 lots of 6 minute sessions over the course of a day.
When do you stop doing Tummy Time exercises?
There’s no set time frame, it really depends on how your baby takes to it. Once your little one learns how to roll over – or becomes more confident and independent in playing on their front, you can reduce the time you dedicate to the exercises, as they will continue naturally.
What items can help with Tummy Time exercises?
Our dedicated range of Tummy Time toys are a great way to get your child playing on their front. Here are just a couple:
1. Tummy Time Roll
These rounded pillows are a great way to support your little one during their exercises. Simply lay them over it so it supports their arms and shoulders. The variety of hanging toys and interactive features like rattles, crinkles and mirrors will encourage them to reach out and play.
2. Rug and Roll
Our rug and roll combination toys give baby a variety of Tummy Time experiences. The soft rug lets you lay them out flat in those early days, and as they gain strength, the roll will help them to develop their upper body muscles.
Our playmats are a soft, safe way to lay baby down. The soft, padded base will cushion them from harder floors, while the arches keep them safe inside. With lots of interactive features, melodies and lights, they create a great environment for development.
4. Activity Toys
Our engaging activity toys work in a similar way to our Tummy Time roll, only by using playful characters like these soft toys. These characters mean your little one can enjoy cuddling up to their new favourite friend, while also building their muscle strength and coordination.
Hopefully this answers all your questions around Tummy Time exercises. If there’s anything you think we’ve missed, let us know. If it’s useful to you, it’s bound to be useful to someone else too.
And please remember, every child is different and develops at a slightly different speed. Don’t be down heartened if you child doesn’t reach certain milestones at specific times, as long as they’re showing signs of development, then it can only be a positive thing. If you do feel concerned though, contact your GP for advice on how best to encourage Tummy Time.
If you found this guide useful, then don’t forget to check out the rest of our M&P Guide to… series.