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Tummy time – how to make it fun for your baby

Baby with cute hat on enjoying tummy timeWe are often told how important it is to make sure our babies get some ‘tummy time’ – but why is tummy time so important and what do you do when all your attempts are met with protests?

The main thing is to know that tummy time doesn’t just mean placing baby on their belly on a flat surface. For a newborn baby it can also be carrying them upright over your shoulder or in a baby carrier or letting them rest belly down on your chest while you recline. Both of these will help build strength in their neck and upper body and will help their brain to develop as well!

Why is tummy time important?

Tummy time will help develop your baby’s neck, shoulder, arm and back muscles. It will help develop their movement and balance skills.

Tummy time will also help reduce the chance of your baby developing a flat spot on the back or side of their head.

It also gives your baby the chance to view the world from a different angle – which helps their brain develop.

Since the introduction of the Sids and Kids Safe Sleeping Guidelines in 1990 the incidence of sudden infant deaths has dropped remarkably and it is extremely important that babies sleep on their backs. But parents have since grown less confident about placing babies on their front when awake. Try to do ‘sleep on their back, play on their belly’.

When can I start tummy time?

You can start tummy time when your baby is a newborn. Try the following tummy time positions while your baby is still developing the strength to lift their head.

  • Carry your baby face down with your arm under their belly.
  • Carry your baby upright over your shoulder or in a baby carrier
  • Rest your baby across your lap
  • Lie down and rest your baby on your belly so they can look up at your face.

These positions will make your baby feel secure while helping build their neck muscles ready for the next stage of tummy time.

How can I make tummy time easier?

There are ways to make tummy time a little easier – and more enjoyable – for your baby. Babies instinctively want to lift their heads when they are on their tummies and may get tired and frustrated easily if they are unable to – especially in the first few weeks. So start with just a few minutes each time and stop when they begin to complain.

  • Time it right. Make sure your baby is happy before trying tummy time. If bub is tired, hungry or full of milk they are probably not going to enjoy being on their tummy.
  • Put bub on a comfortable firm mattress or on a bunny rug/playmat on the floor.
  • Try putting a rolled-up flat cloth nappy or muslin wrap under their armpit and chest for more support
  • Prop your baby up on their elbows to make it easier to lift their head.
  • Make sure there is something interesting for them to look at. Put a toy in front of them and get down to their level to sing and talk to your baby.

When will my baby enjoy tummy time?

It might not seem like it when they are newborn but soon your little one will prefer to be on their tummy – rolling over at every opportunity! Especially if you give them plenty of practice carrying them in tummy time positions and putting them on their bellies to play.

  • 2-3 months: Your 2-3 month old baby should be getting more comfortable with tummy time, especially if they have had a lot of opportunities to be on their tummy. At this age they should be able to stay on their tummy for 10-15 minutes and can lift their head and look around.
  • 5 months: Your five-month-old baby might start to prop up on straight arms and pivot while on their belly
  • 6 months: Your six-month-old baby might start to transfer weight to one arm and reach out with the opposite hand. Soon they might prefer to be on their belly as they can play with their toys and begin to move around. Some babies love tummy time so much that by six months they’re already crawling.



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4 comments so far -

  1. Tummy time is only needed because we’ve lost the cultural tradition of carrying our babies on us (babywearing). A baby carried upright, facing inwards to their mother’s (or other main caregiver’s) chest (meeting the Visible & Kissable, or T.I.C.K.S. guidelines) is basically experiencing prolonged periods of vertical tummy time.
    Baby is happy because they are exactly where they’re biologically programmed to be, can be as active as they like & then relax against mother’s chest as soon as they tire, experience no rapidly escalating stress hormones because of separation from their mother, are active participants in being carried because their body makes constant adjustments to the mother’s movements (developing muscle strength & coordination, stimulating the proprio-vestibular system), learn social cues from close observation of mother’s face… the list goes on.
    Yet nobody is teaching new parents-to-be that the mother’s chest is her baby’s natural habitat. So the new parents are bewildered as to why their baby wakes & cries every time they try to put it down. And why their baby hates tummy time.
    When the baby is separated from mother, baby thinks it will die!
    So forget the poor second-rate substitute of tummy time & just carry your baby close in a wrap or carrier & you’ll have a happier baby, & a happy, more relaxed mother.

    • I don’t think what your saying is 100% correct. I don’t think tummy time hurts them at all..of course babies loved to be it a good idea to teach your baby that you will never put them down I think will create a really clingy baby who won’t allow their mums to eat or sleep or do anything other than be with them..that’s not healthy in my view u want your baby to go to other people such as too dad or other close family members..but then also don’t agree with sleeping with your baby unless they are sick…

  2. My baby hated tummy time so much that he learned to roll onto his back at 3 months old and smiled cheekily every time he did it. He never did like tummy time.

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