I expect you have been encouraged to do tummy time with your baby many, many times. But is it really all that important? Absolutely, read on to find out why.
Why is tummy time so important? Tummy time is essential for your baby’s growth and development, especially their motor development. Tummy time will strengthen the muscles in your baby’s tongue, neck, shoulders, and arms. Research has linked doing regular tummy time with babies having greater head control along with reaching the rolling, crawling, and sitting unsupported milestones earlier than babies who don’t practice regular tummy time.
Greater head control and stronger muscles will improve attachment and overall breastfeeding experience, improve bottle sucking technique and prepare all babies for the introduction of solids. The more your baby can mobilise and look around the world the more their brain develops based on the stimuli they receive. Interestingly, emerging research suggests babies who do regular tummy time may have increased problem-solving abilities.
Tummy time can also help prevent your baby developing a misshapen head. When a baby spends large amounts of time in the same position, their developing skull can flatten. Tummy time can help prevent the development of these flat spots.
What exactly is tummy time and when do you start? Tummy time is when your baby is placed on their tummy on a flat surface while awake and supervised by an adult. Don’t feel like you must put your baby on a play mat or bed for tummy time, placing your baby on your chest counts and will likely be you and your baby’s favourite position. You can start tummy time with your baby from birth and if you haven't started yet, no worries you can start today!
How much tummy time should you do? The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of thirty minutes of tummy time a day. Some days it may be difficult, be kind to yourself and add tummy time whenever you can until it is part of your everyday routine. Tummy time can be the equivalent of an adult working out, so starting small and building up is a great idea. Break your baby’s tummy time into 2-3 minute increments throughout the day. Make tummy time as enjoyable as possible, try introducing a new or favourite toy for your baby to enjoy while practicing. You could also try turning your baby onto their tummy for a few minutes after every nappy change and those minutes will soon add up.
Hewitt, L., Kerr, E., Stanley, R.M., et al. (2020). Tummy Time and Infant Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics. 145(6). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-2168
World Health Organization. (2019). Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/311664