Tummy time- How important is it?
The 3 Most Important Reasons Why Your Baby Needs Tummy Time And How You Can Make It Fun
As a parent, you will be asked about tummy time by everyone from your family doctor to your playgroup leaders. Getting down on the play mat and hanging out with your baby is something we all know we are supposed to do but do we really know why? Other than being a great opportunity for you and baby to play and bond, tummy time contributes significantly to your baby’s physical and sensory development. Here is a quick run-down of what tummy time is really doing for your infant, how much tummy time they should get at different ages, and some ideas on how to keep it fun.
What Is Tummy Time Doing For Your Infant’s Development?
Until babies are able to sit and crawl, they spend the vast majority of their time being held or on their backs. Giving them the chance to explore the world (even if it is just their play mat at first) on their bellies is stimulating and supports both physical and neural development.
Building Strength and Motor Skills
Tummy time strengthens baby’s back, neck, and core muscles. It’s like a little baby work out! Strengthening those muscles helps your baby build the foundation needed to meet motor milestones like rolling, sitting, crawling, and more. Tummy time gives babies the chance to move their neck in a full range of motion. This is especially important for children with neck restrictions, Tongue-ties or Digestive Issues.
Using The Senses and Creating Awareness
Putting your baby on their tummy literally changes their perspective on the world. Placing them on different surfaces gives them the chance to experience different textures (blankets, carpet, foam mats, grass, etc.) on their arms, hands, and cheeks. It encourages baby to use their sense of touch (tactile sense) and can be interesting and stimulating to them. As baby wiggles, rocks, and stretches, their weight shifts and they gain a sense of body awareness. This helps them develop a sense of balance (vestibular sense) and confidence in the movements. All of this will come in to play as they grow and begin to roll and crawl.
Developing Hand Eye Coordination
Until they are several months old, babies have a limited sense of the control over their own bodies. Tummy time helps them observe their own movements. This, in turn, helps to develop hand eye coordination. By looking down at their hands, baby is seeing how they move and what they can do.
How Much Tummy Time Should Your Baby Get?
Babies can start spending time on the tummies more or less as soon as they are born. For newborns, this may be time laying on your chest resting or feeding. As they grow stronger, you can expand your horizons and start to explore the ground. When you first start experimenting with independent tummy time, remember the quality of the time is more important than the quantity. Here are some great tips to get your started:
Start Small: At first all your baby can manage is a few minutes. So, start with short tummy time sessions a few times a day and build up the duration. Follow your baby’s lead!
Keep It Fun: Not every baby is going to love tummy time, and that’s okay. Keep the experience positive. If they cry or become distressed, wrap it up and try again later!
Be There: Get down on the floor with baby if you are able. Often, being able to see, hear, and touch you will help relax your baby. You may get a few extra minutes in!
Suggested Times + Activities
Tummy time can happen as often as you like! Ideally, you will help your baby experience time on the tummy every day in a variety of locations. For the time to count towards the suggested minimum time for each age, the baby needs to be awake and engaged. Each attempt can be as long or short as your baby is comfortable with. The main point is that you do it and that you try to keep it a positive experience.
Newborn To 2 Months Babies should spend a minimum of 30 minutes per day on their bellies while they are awake. For babies this young, tummy time can happen on mom or dad’s chest or on the floor. Follow your baby’s lead! Keep your baby happy with songs, a light touch massage, or simply soaking each other in.
2 Months To 4 Months You should aim to have your baby engaging in tummy time for around 1 hour each day (45 - 90 minutes) Try placing your baby on textured surfaces to see what reaction it gets! Make sure to get down on the ground where they can see you and smile!
4 Months To 6 Months By this age, babies are much more interactive and should be able to spend more significant periods on their tummies throughout the day. The recommended minimum is 1-2 hours daily. Bring in some sensory play to keep them entertained and moving. Playing with ice cubes, paint in a bag, or textured balls are all great ideas. Get creative!
6 Months To 8 Months Try keeping your baby off of their tummy! By 6 months, babies are constantly wiggling, rolling, and exploring the world. They may be trying to crawl or sit on their own as well! Encourage them to master sitting and crawling before jumping ahead to cruising and walking.
Other Benefits Of Tummy Time
Did you know that tummy time can help ease fascial restrictions such as Tongue-ties? Tummy Time is a great whole-body approach to oral function. The entire front fascial line gets elongated in this position, stretching from the top of the head, through the oral tissue, the digestive tissues and continuing to the tip of the toes. The belly down position during tummy time facilitates the tongue's greatest range of motion and movement helps to free restrictions. This is one more reason making tummy time enjoyable for your baby will pay off.
Don’t Miss Out On Tummy Time
Tummy time is important for your baby’s development. It can also be a whole lot of fun! Part work out, part deep stretch, and part playtime, making sure your baby spends some time on their belly every day will help them thrive. Remember to start slowly and build yourself and your baby up to longer tummy time play with more activities.