In order for babies to grow in a healthy way, it’s essential for them to spend time on their tummies. Tummy time can start as soon as they come home from the hospital. It helps stretch the front muscles and strengthen the head/neck, shoulder, back, abdominal and hip muscles, all of which are needed to maintain proper alignment, movement and balance. Most importantly, tummy time can prevent serious issues such as plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) and torticollis (tightness and/or weakness of the neck).
Ready to get your baby playing on their tummy? Below is a guide to help you navigate through the ins and outs of tummy time.
Essential Points of Tummy Time:
- Never leave your newborn infant unattended on their tummy. Your baby may not be strong enough to lift their head up to breathe.
- Do not put your baby to sleep on their stomach.
- Your newborn will not tolerate tummy time for long periods of time. Some babies may only tolerate it for 10 seconds to one minute.
- Read your baby’s signals. They will let you know when they are tired of playing on their tummy.
- Incorporate tummy time into your general routines: diaper changes, massaging, burping on your lap. Short sessions throughout the day work well based on tolerance and temperament.
- Many newborns prefer tummy time on their parents’ stomachs or chests rather than the floor. Try lying down on your back and place your baby on your chest or stomach. Sing and talk and encourage your baby to look at you.
- A baby-proof mirror may also help encourage your baby to look up at themselves.
- Placing your baby on blankets with different textures will enhance their sensory experience while they play on their tummy.
You can read more about child growth in my new book, Why Motor Skills Matter: Improve Your Child’s Physical Development to Enhance Learning and Self-Esteem.
Tara Liddle, MPT
Regional Director of Pediatrics