Tummy time is important for babies to build a foundation of core strength that will help them in many motor developmental milestones. Babies can start as soon as they are born for just a few minutes per day. This should increase every day until they are getting up to an hour a day of tummy time per day by three months of age.
Babies can be placed on a bed, sofa, or floor on a blanket for tummy time. You can get down on your baby’s level and encourage them to lift their head and make eye contact with you, building those neck muscles. You can also sit in a chair and place your baby on their tummy across your lap. Or, lie on the bed or sofa and put your baby on your chest on their tummy. Talk to her in this position, so she lifts her head and makes eye contact with you.
Babies need to sleep on their back, but during awake, alert playtime, tummy time has many benefits!
1. Neck Strength
Babies develop from head to toe, so they need to establish neck strength before they can have strength, stability, and dexterity in their arms and hands. Tummy time helps build neck strength because babies lift their head and turn it from side to side.
2. Core Strength
Babies need core strength to prepare for rolling, crawling, sitting, and walking, and tummy time helps develop core strength. Every time your baby pushes up onto their hands or pulls their knees up under them in tummy time, they are strengthening their shoulders, hips, abdominal and back muscles.
3. Avoid Flat Spots
Babies who get plenty of tummy time usually have beautiful, round heads with no flat or bald spots. Babies who spend a lot of time in containers such as car seats, swings, and other chairs are susceptible to flat heads from compression on their skull.
4. Visual Development
Tummy time helps with visual development. While on the floor with their toys very close to them, directly in their line of vision, babies get more experience with focusing and tracking.
5. Sensory Processing
Babies who spend a lot of time in tummy time typically have better sensory processing. They are experiencing the sensation of the carpet, floor, or blanket against a large portion of their skin and the palms of their hands. This helps them process this feeling and feel more comfortable with textures against their skin.
6. Stretch the Hip Flexors
Tummy time is sometimes the only time of the day when babies’ legs are stretched out, fully extending baby’s hip flexors. This is important for symmetry with crawling and walking.
7. Avoid Torticollis
Babies who spend adequate time in tummy time are less likely to develop torticollis, a tightening of the neck muscles that make it difficult for babies to turn their heads.
Remember, you should always supervise tummy time, and it is normal for your baby to fuss a little bit. Try to entertain her, keep the sessions short at first, and add more time as she tolerates it. She will thank you later!