Why babies need tummy time
Although it’s important to ensure your baby sleeps safe by placing her on her back in her crib for naps and at night time, spending time on her tummy is also important for her development. New research suggests that if babies don’t get enough ‘tummy time’ they can have delays in motor development.
Sleeping your baby on her back is a vital safeguard against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and the incidence of SIDS has dropped by 40% since the Back to Sleep campaign was launched in 1992. However, safe sleep, combined with the fact that many babies spend long periods of time in their infant carrier and swing, means they don’t get to experience the variety of positions that can help them progress. And they’re also at risk of flat head syndrome, where the back of the head can take on a flattened appearance due to resting against their crib mattress, car seat or swing.
Tummy time helps strengthen the muscles in your baby’s neck, shoulders and back and also gives her the opportunity to track objects with her eyes: fundamental for head control, rolling and crawling. So what can you do to ensure your baby gets enough time on her front during the day, when she is awake and you’re there to keep a close eye on her? Here are gurgle’s tips for incorporating tummy time into your baby’s day, whether she’s being carried, nappied, fed or played with…
Keep her safe
Always supervise your baby during tummy time – don’t leave her by herself even for a second. If she isn’t accustomed to spending time on her front start off with just a minute or two at a time and increase gradually. If she becomes very distressed, try to distract her with a toy before changing her position.
1 . Switch your newborn from side to side
Most mums tend to carry their newborn up against their shoulder, supporting their head with one hand. You’ll likely have a shoulder preference depending on whether you’re right or left-handed but try to get into the habit of regularly switching your baby to the other side and turning her head the opposite way from the way you lay it on your other shoulder. This plants the idea in her head that she can turn her head – and once she’s able to support it she’ll have a try at doing it herself. Once she gets the hang of it she’ll do it when she’s lying on her back, which will help avoid flattening at the back of her skull.
2. Carry her on her front
Carrying your baby draped along your arm on her front is a great colic-soothing method and it also ensures some tummy time. When she’s tiny your baby will need you to support her head with your hand but as she grows and gains strength in her head and trunk muscles, she’ll need less support – when she’s at this stage you can increase the fun factor by playing aeroplanes with her and flying her around the room!
3. Lay her on your chest
It’s not only great for bonding and skin-to-skin time; it also encourages your baby to try to raise her head so she can see your face. Encourage her attempts by calling her name and singing to her, and turning her head from side to side. You’ll see her growing stronger every day and once she’s able to lift and turn her head all by herself you can place a folded towel or blankie under her chest to help raise her shoulders.
4. Give her something to see
Tummy time on a well-padded play mat is even more fun when you place toys in front of your baby, within her line of vision – and once she’s able to support her head and top half, she’ll try to reach for them. Plus, if you – or an older brother or sister – gets down on the floor with her it’s great for social interaction!
5. Roll her over
Gently rolling your baby from side to side as you dry her after her bath, change her nappy or get her dressed, turns these everyday baby care chores into a fun activity for you and your baby.
6. Wind her on her front
Try placing your baby belly down over your lap when you’re winding her – it’s a great way to introduce tummy time to a young baby (and it might just help bring up that last bit of the wind that’s making her cranky!). You can also drape her across your lap in this way for a few minutes if you’re sitting watching TV.