Ah, tummy time. That necessary evil. Babies are not fans. They’re stressed, uncomfortable, frustrated and they seem to be asking ‘why? why are you doing this to me?' And then, all of a sudden, after just a few times of laying them down, watching them get mad, they love it! They’ve discovered the joys of tummy time! Hooray!
But why Tummy Time?
Why do babies need any time on their tummies? Well, it’s great for their development because it helps strengthen baby’s neck and the surrounding muscles. They are not born being able to support their own heads, so in order to have better control, a little weight-training is needed.
How to begin: Please note, baby will make some grunting noises, but if they begin to cry, let them take a break.
Newborn: Start by holding baby a little further up your shoulder to burp them – this encourages them to try and steady the sway of their head, thus improving muscle control. There will be lots of flopping in the beginning – their head might suddenly lurch forward or swing backward, so put a supportive hand behind their head.
Month 1: Lay baby on your chest. (they will most likely love this position because it's warm and familiar) Over time, recline a little more and a little more, until they get used to being in the flat position. They will begin to lift their head off your chest to get a better look around. A word of warning: do not attempt tummy time after feeding them, there’s a choking risk and you are also likely to get thrown-up on.
Graduate to placing baby on their tummy facing away from you on your lap. Be sure to have their face and nose at the end of your knees, so their airway is not restricted in any way. Start with your knees higher than your hips (putting your feet up on the coffee table will achieve this). Over time, lower your legs until they are flat and baby is no longer lying on an incline.
Next, find a comfortable, clean, padded area (such as a play mat). Place a rolled-up towel on the play mat and position baby on their tummy, with the towel under their armpits to support them. Put a mirror in front of them to keep them engaged and interested – it works as a great distraction for the amount of effort they has to put in. Eventually, the towel will not be needed and can be removed.
Exercising a little tummy time every day is the goal, eventually working up to approximately 1 hour of tummy time per day (overall, not in one ‘sitting’) and leading to a four-month-old baby that is able to hold their head high.
If your baby is experiencing any difficulties with tummy time, consult your pediatrician for expert advice.