We are often told how beneficial it is for our babies to have some ‘tummy time’, but why is tummy time so important and what do you do when all your attempts are met with protests?
An important thing is to remember is 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. All of these positions will help your baby build strength in their neck and upper body and will give them a new perspective on the world, will help their brain to develop as well!
Your tummy time questions answered
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 Red Nose Safe Sleeping Guidelines in 1990 the incidence of SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy) has dropped by 85%  so we all now know how vitally important it is 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. Always supervise your baby during tummy time.
- 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.
- 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.
- Your five-month-old baby might start to prop up on straight arms and pivot while on their belly
- 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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1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2003). SIDS in Australia 1981-2000: A statistical overview. ABS, Canberra & Australian Bureau of Statistics (2001-).3303.0 – Causes of Death, Australia, 2001-. ABS, Canberra. Includes calculations prepared by Red Nose and confirmed by the ABS.