To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) it is recommended that babies sleep on their back. Because of this your baby ends up spending long periods of the day lying flat. Tummy time will allow your baby the chance to try out a new position and decrease the risk of getting a flat spot on their head.
Tummy time increases the strength in your baby’s head, neck and upper body. It will also help to develop the skills your baby will need to crawl, roll over, sit up and stand.
You can start tummy time from birth and incorporate it into your baby’s daily routine. Begin with 1-2 minutes a few times a day. For a newborn baby you can do tummy time after a nappy change. Over time as your baby gets stronger they will eventually enjoy up to 15-30-minute sessions multiple times a day.
You might start by laying your baby across your lap on their tummy. As your baby grows stronger, you can put them on a rug on the floor to play.
Tips for tummy time
It is more enjoyable for your baby when they have a clean nappy, are happy, alert and interested in their surroundings.
To make tummy time more pleasurable, you can:
- Lay down beside your baby and chat to them or read them a picture book.
- Talking, singing and stroking your baby’s hands and back to let them know they have company will also prolong tummy time.
- Hold a non-breakable mirror next to your baby so they can see their reflection.
- Place safe toys near your baby, moving them from side to side to encourage your baby to move their head, focus their eyes and stay interested.
- Do tummy time in different locations, such as outdoors on a rug in warm weather.
If your baby becomes unsettled and restless during this time, change your location and environment or add in a toy or book for varied stimulation. If the floor is the problem, lay down on your back and place your child on your chest, whilst you play with their hands and feet. Gently rock them from side to side, sing songs or rub their back.
Babies who experience Reflux do not generally like tummy time at first but if you persevere, you will probably find they are able to tolerate it for longer periods as they grow older and stronger.
Keep an eye on how it’s going, if your baby becomes sleepy, it is important to put them on their back to sleep in a cot rather than allowing them to sleep on the tummy time mat. As your baby grows stronger and can control their head and arms, give them a ball to play with, rolling it back and forth from you to them. As they start to move around more, clear away any objects that might be dangerous, and introduce new toys and games.
An adult should always be there during tummy time to make sure the baby is safe.