‘Tummy Time’ is very important for babies and today we take a look at why that is, and what exactly tummy time entails. The NHS defines tummy time as follows:
“Tummy time is time your baby spends on their tummy when they are awake.” (NHS)
The idea behind the activity is a simple but crucial one: to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles as well as improving coordination and motor skills. These are important for newborn babies because they have comparatively heavy heads for their size, not much physical strength and poor coordination and motor skills when they’re first born. Tummy time allows them to improve in all these areas. After regular tummy time, they should become more able physically, they’ll gradually become more mobile and, crucially, will be better able to keep themselves safe. You could even argue that tummy time is a survival thing at its core.
Tummy Time Benefits
Tummy time benefits babies in many ways, including:
|• Tummy time strengthens neck, core, trunk, back, shoulder and arm muscles, helping babies to be more able physically.|
|• It improves physical coordination as well as hand-eye coordination as they learn to reach for toys etc.|
|• It improves a wide variety of motor skills, both fine and gross, helping babies better function as individuals.|
|• It helps babies to alter their head position and movements at will, so they’re better able to control what/who they can see, what they can gain access to and what/who they interact with.|
|• It helps babies to make sense of stimuli around them, for example to be able to turn their head or position in order to see what made a particular sound nearby.|
|• Tummy time also helps babies avoid skull deformations such as Positional Plagiocephaly (a.k.a. Flat Head Syndrome) that might otherwise occur if they’re permanently on their backs.|
|• Tummy time helps babies avoid Positional Torticollis, a neck issue that also might otherwise occur if the baby is always on its back.|
Tummy Time – What to Do
So, we’ve seen the benefits and importance of tummy time, but what exactly does it entail? Well, the wide-awake baby is turned onto its stomach (this is also known as the ‘prone’ position) and is encouraged to raise its head, arms, etc. This must be under constant, unbroken supervision, for the child’s safety. Tummy time should commence right from birth, according to the NHS (∞). Newborns are initially very weak and therefore may not initially warm to tummy time, so a few things may help to make the introduction more bearable for them:
- Start off by lying them on your chest, facing you.
- Placing a rolled-up towel or blanket under their upper chest and arms will help to support and raise their trunks a little.
- Encouragement will also help. For example, by turning the activity into a game like peek-a-boo, perhaps lying down, facing the baby.
- You can also try it with the baby lying across your lap rather than on the floor, so you can better help them.
- Another option is to cradle them with your hand/upper arm supporting them underneath.
- When they’re a little older, lying the baby on a rug or blanket on the floor will be more comfortable for them than a hard floor directly. Not too soft/deep, though, due to the dangers of suffocation when they’re face down.
- Ensure their head is supported when needed as their necks are very fragile at such a young age.
- And, of course, ensure that they can always breathe freely at all times.
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines (∞) recommend “at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day while awake … more is better … [it] can be increased gradually, starting from a minute or two at a time, as the baby becomes used to it.”
It’s important for parents to encourage the infant and to persevere. Start off for very short periods of time when they’re first born, but repeat it several times throughout the day. Remember, it will be very hard for them initially. As they get stronger and more used to it — and a little older — gradually increase the time spent doing tummy time. Nearby toys may also help to encourage them to make an extra effort by the time they’re around 3 months old. Then, once they’re around 6 months of age, they should be much stronger in the arms and trunk and able to achieve the press-up position naturally. Before you know it, regular tummy time practise will result in them becoming more able to independently move around, grab toys, roll sideways and back, lift themselves up on their arms, lift and turn their head and so on. Coordination, strength, motor skills and hand-eye coordination will all improve. By the age of 7 to 9 months, you may find they can crawl and, around 9 months, they may well also be able to achieve a sitting position unaided. Around this point, your tummy time job is complete and there’s no huge need to continue — although it’ll do no harm if you do.
- Only allow your baby to do tummy time when he/she is wide awake and alert;
- Only allow your baby to do tummy time when you are wide awake, unlikely to fall asleep and are able to supervise the baby throughout the whole activity.
Those precautions are critically important for the baby’s wellbeing. Babies should never be allowed to sleep face down or even on their sides, otherwise there is a real risk of suffocation and even death. That’s why both baby and adult need to be fully awake, fully alert and the supervising adult watching at all times during the tummy time activity.
Tummy Time at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham
We do, of course, follow guidelines and best practise for safe tummy time at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham. It’s all a natural, integral part of what we do as part of our weekday childcare services for babies. It’s also part and parcel of nurturing children under our care to reach personal bests in every area and to thrive as individuals.
High Quality Childcare in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick
Leaps & Bounds offers the highest quality childcare at it’s Edgbaston nursery and pre-school near Birmingham. We’re also conveniently located for those looking for the best nursery or pre-school service near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, each of which is just a stone’s throw away. To enquire about a nursery/pre-school place for your child, or to ask any questions, please get in touch. We also invite you to book a tour with your child to see the childcare setting in action for yourself. Please choose an option to get started: