As well as boosting your baby’s development, tummy time is a brilliant way to bond with your baby and gives you time to play together. And while your baby may not love it at first, it won’t be long until she loves her new view of the world.
What are the benefits of tummy time?
Tummy time is a great way to help develop your baby’s fine and gross motor skills – helping her learn to push herself up, roll over, sit up, crawl and eventually stand.
‘It allows your baby to improve, exercise and strengthen her neck control, which is fairly floppy when she’s a newborn,’ says Dr Rahal. ‘It also helps improve your baby’s orientation skills as it gives her a different view of the world.’
Tummy time can also help treat flat head syndrome as it takes the pressure off the back of her head and gives it a chance to round off.
Neonatal physiotherapist Hilary Cruickshank gives her 8 game-changing tips for tummy time!
After being curled up in your womb for so long, your newborn isn’t used to lying on his tummy, which is why he’ll most likely cry if you simply lay him down on his front in the early days. The key is to ease him gently into the process in a way he’ll find soothing and secure, and slowly build the muscle strength he needs to manage tummy time comfortably.
1. You can start from day one
Start by holding him so his tummy is against your chest when you’re sitting down. His neck doesn’t have any strength in the early days, so you’ll need to support his head. But he’ll start to use his neck muscles to push his head up to try to see you and, in this position, he won’t have far to drop back onto you when that becomes tiring. As he gets stronger, you can gradually lean back, supported by cushions, until you’re at a 45-degree angle. He’ll get used to feeling that pressure on his tummy while he’s all snuggly next to you.
At birth, your baby’s head makes up a whopping third of his body. When he’s all grown up, it’ll only be around an eighth. And to lift his big ol’ brain-packed head, he uses two sets of neck muscles. Sternocleidomastoid are the large muscles on either side, while the trapezius runs from his shoulders to the back of his neck. And because these muscles are fairly weak to begin with, he’ll lift his head with a jerky movement
2. Be patient ‘til he’s past the jerky stage
. But as they grow stronger, his head control and the ability to move it from left to right will become smoother. And your baby will be much happier if you only begin moving him into a fully horizontal position once he’s past the jerky stage and has some control of his head.
Safe sleeping advice means that babies don’t spend much time on their tummies, so it’ll take some getting used to. But letting your little one lay on you first, where he feels safe and secure, will really help.
3 Keep him close to you at first
Try laying on your back on the bed and holding your baby on your front. Or sit on the sofa, place a blanket over your thighs and lay your baby horizontally across your legs, holding him in place as he experiences being fully on his front. When he’s happy and relaxed doing this, it’s time to progress to laying him on top of a soft surface such as a towel or playmat on the floor.
Don’t spend a fortune on tummy-time toys just yet. It will take a while for your baby to develop the core strength to reach for them just yet, and he’ll be far more interested in your face and voice. Do some tummy time yourself, alongside him or head to head. Chat and sing to him, and let his natural instinct to respond to your voice and look for you motivate him to lift his head.
4.Your voice works better than a toy
If your baby doesn’t like being on the floor, the tiger-in-the-tree hold can help. Lay him on his tummy along the inside of your forearm, so his head sits in the crook of your elbow, with your hand holding his crotch.
5. Movement soothes him
Bring your other hand between his legs to help support his weight, letting his legs dangle on either side. Once you’re holding him securely, gently sway. He’ll be soothed by the motion while he gets used to being on his tummy.
Research has found that being on his front will help your baby’s digestion. Why? As your youngster lays on his front, the pressure on his tummy, and gentle massage it gets, helps get rid of excess gas.
6. Tummy time can aid digestion
To get maximum digestive benefit, carefully lay him on his front over a large exercise ball, with his arms stretched out in front of him. Hold onto him securely at all times. Rock the ball very, very gently, taking great care to make sure he’s safe and content during the movement. Once he’s happy and is strong enough to control his head during the movement, gently rock the ball side to side, too.
If your baby doesn’t like spending time on the floor, the tiger-in-the-tree hold can help. Commonly used for winding and easing colic, this technique is also great for getting your little one used to being on his front. Lay him on his tummy along the inside of your forearm. as his head sits on the crook of your elbow with your hands holding his crotch. Bring your other hand between his legs to help support his weight, letting his legs dangle either side.Once you’re holding him securely, gently sway. He’ll be soothed by the motion and become more comfortable with the idea of being on his tummy.
7. Movement soothes him
You might find that your tot can only manage a few seconds on his tummy to begin with, and that’s just fine! Don’t feel pressured to persuade him to do any more than he can happily cope with, but simply build plenty of moments into your day together. Be led by him- and if he’s just a little grumpy then it’s ok to encourage him to continue for a few seconds more, but if he’s at all upset, pick him up or gently roll him over.
8. 10 second counts
You’re build big foundations, so go slowly. Everything your baby achieves in the next few tears, such as feeding and walking, will have been nurtured during tummy time, so just enjoy watching his strength slowly develop - there’s no rush!
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