What is Tummy Time?

What is Tummy Time?
Babies spend lots of time on their backs so it is beneficial to give them a break from this position or your baby may risk developing flat head syndrome, also known as Positional Plagiocephaly. Tummy time is literally when you place your baby flat on their tummy instead of their back. Daily tummy time is recommended generally for all babies and in this article, we explore the benefits of tummy time and provide ways in which you can make it fun for you and your baby.   

Why is Tummy Time Recommended?
There are lots of benefits that tummy time provides your baby. One of the most notable is that it allows their backs and the back of their head to rest, as these are both the areas baby will be putting pressure on for most of the day and night. Constantly laying a baby on its back can in some instances cause the back of your baby’s head to misshapen and flatten, which is called flat head syndrome or cranial asymmetry. This is preventable by giving your baby time on their tummy.

Tummy time is also very good for your baby’s development. Physiotherapists have gone so far as to say your baby’s development may be impaired without regular tummy time. Tummy time helps babies learn to crawl, push to stand, sit up, crawl and roll over. Tummy time helps your baby strengthen their neck muscles because they will try to lift their heads to see what is going on around them. It also assists with both fine and gross motor development. Babies will usually kick out during tummy time, strengthening their gross leg muscles. This will eventually help your baby to start to roll around which in turn build their neck muscles. When your baby is on their tummy, they will usually reach out to grasp their blanket, their toys or even you! This helps develop your baby’s fine motor skills.

Babies often enjoy tummy time on play mats or jungle gyms which are brightly coloured, baby friendly environments often combined with stimulating toys. These colours and toys provide good stimuli for your baby which aids their development and increases their ability to learn both now and later in life.

How long should baby spend on Tummy Time?
Physiotherapists recommend that your baby enjoys 30 minutes of tummy time per day. This can be in one segment or broken down into a few minute sessions here and there throughout the day. Your baby may not be able to handle a full, 30 minute session, as their little necks will eventually get tired. Ideally, you should supervise your baby at all times during tummy time.  If your baby falls asleep, they should be picked up and put to bed in their usual manner, otherwise there could be a risk of suffocation.

Babies are more used to spending time on their backs. Initially, it may seem as if your baby does not like tummy time. However, because it has so many benefits it is something that is worth persevering with your baby. If you do tummy time straight from birth, then it should become a normal activity in their daily routine.

Babies can become bored and frustrated during tummy time, so it is a good idea to try to make tummy time as fun for your baby as possible. There are several good ways to do this. Lying down with your baby during tummy time will relax and calm them. You could sing to them, play with toys or chat to them, this makes tummy time an enjoyable experience for you and your baby and doing it this way can really help with the bonding process.

The most common form of tummy time is when your baby is laid flat on their tummy on a soft rug or play mat/blanket. However there are other ways to enjoy tummy time such as laying your baby on their tummy on top of you or laying them out over your forearms. Whichever way you choose, you should ensure tummy time is a comfortable, fun experience for your baby. 

Tummy time toys
You can enhance tummy time by purchasing an activity play mat or a tummy time pillow. These products are usually brightly coloured and come with accessories such as mirrors, toys and different sounds and fabrics. This means that not only do they provide a safe environment for tummy time but they also assist your baby’s brain and sensory development.

Mirrors in particular will grab your baby’s attention, prompting them to lift their heads to get a better view of the reflection, which is an excellent way to strengthen those important neck muscles. These mats may also feature toy bars with lots of dangling fluffy animals. Your baby will most probably react by trying to bat at them, which is good because it develops cognitive skills like spatial awareness and perception.

Musical play mats are a great way to get your baby to turn their head to a sound. The head turning motion will again, strengthen your baby’s neck muscles. Rattles and squeaky buttons will also have the same effect.

Is Tummy Time right for your child?
Tummy time, even a small amount a day, has massive benefits for your child, developing many key areas. Play mats and tummy time mats are relatively inexpensive products, providing your baby with not only developmental advantages, but also a fun filled environment to play in.

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