There are many ways to support your baby in their development and some ways provide more impact than others. Tummy time is the earliest and one of the most important forms of exercise for your baby in the first 9 months of life. It helps develop strong bodies, build strong brains and is foundational for optimal development. Any position that challenges your baby to lift their head and extends through the back is a version of tummy time beautiful for your baby.
What happens during tummy time?
There is an intricate dance of neurons firing in your baby’s brain when you place them in a tummy time position, similar to fireworks at New Years lighting up the night sky. Your baby’s body and brain responds to the sensation of gravity on their tummy and arms and will show reflexive firing of leg and trunk muscles thanks to stimulation of their feet and turned under toes.
As they start to lift their head and activate the young muscles in their back and neck they move their eyes from near to far as they search shifting colours and shapes ahead. Each sensation, each movement connects the ‘stars’ in their brain forming connections like constellations.
Tummy time builds strong brains and bodies. The more practice your baby gets the more connections or ‘constellations’ their brain will enjoy.
How high should my baby lift their head in tummy time?
Your baby will gradually improve their strength and length of time they can hold their head in tummy time. At first it’s seems a struggle, only lifting their head briefly and then down again, but over time it should become a much loved position for play. Here are some crucial milestones to consider;
- From 2 months your baby is lifting their head to 45 degrees
- From 3 months they are weight bearing on their shoulders
- From 4 months they have full access to the world ahead with their eyes now horizontal to the ground thanks to the head being upright.
How to get the best results with tummy time?
To support your baby to get the best results with tummy time you want to consider a few points. Providing plenty of floor time is crucial! You want to create dynamic and fun tummy time practices that mix it up and challenge your baby. Lastly plenty of connection time with you as connection and feeling safe is essential for brain development. With these three things in mind, you now have the recipe needed for mastering the major milestones one after the other – all starting with that head lift.
For example, you may have your baby in a tummy time position on your chest, then you add some music, you’re smiling face to face with them and then you add some vibrant toys to look at and you may tickle their back at the same time. In this example you’ve added face-to-face stimulation, visual, hearing and tactile stimulation for your baby to enjoy while they are in tummy time. The key is playfulness. Mix it up and enjoy.
There is no need for gadgets, baby gear or fancy toys. Just time, repetition and fun are the ingredients to wonderful progression!
What positions are the best positions for tummy time?
Tummy time is something to be enjoyed and creative with. Lying chest to chest is going to be your first go-to in the early days. Gazing into each other’s eyes and plenty of close face-to-face time fires up your baby’s brain! Another favourite is holding your baby across your forearm while you move from room to room. It is an easy way to enjoy incidental tummy time during the day. Once you’re out and about, your baby will love tummy time across your lap, along your inner thigh when seated cross-legged or flat on a shaded picnic rug. Each position offers varying levels of difficulty. Play around with what works best for your baby.
How much tummy time should my baby do each day?
The World Health Organisation recommends 30mins of tummy time per day from birth. This will easily be surpassed if you live by the rule ‘If awake, tummy time first’. Over the day add up all the time your baby enjoys tummy time in the various positions mentioned above. In some positions they may be there for 2mins, in other positions it could be up to 10mins!
Soon you’ll easily be achieving 30mins, and then without realising it you’ll be at 80mins and above. This is wonderful as the research has linked longer tummy time periods to greater success with motor milestones.
The key is to integrate different tummy time positions into your day. It should be fun! There is no need to time it if you can make it part of your daily routines.
Why is tummy time so important?
Tummy time is a fundamental and significant milestone to achieve and do well. It has been positively associated with gross motor and total development, reduction in BMI, preventing flat heads from developing and improving ability to move in both the front and back positions leading to rolling and crawling.
As we said above, it’s fundamental! So many wonderful milestones will be achieved thanks to the strength and skills developed in tummy time.
Why does my baby hate tummy time?
For some babies’ tummy time is harder and uncomfortable. Often leading to varying degrees of distress, parents often feel lost and unsure how to ensure their baby gets the much-needed time on their belly.
There are a number of reasons why a baby may not like tummy time. They may have pain, stiffness or restricted movement. For some Some presentations we have seen at Australian Children’s Chiropractic Centre when a baby is having trouble with tummy time include;
- Difficulty lifting the head off the ground to age appropriate position
- When lifting, they seem stiff or stuck and uncomfortable
- Difficulty lifting the head to look up
- Head lifts but is always turned to one side or tilted
- Pushing off one arm, or holding arms out
- Doesn’t lift head, but lifts bottom
- Rolls very early due to a very high head lift and then ‘flop’
- Persistent crying or distress
our baby doesn’t like tummy time, there are many ways that you can support and work with your baby to help them enjoy & achieve the right amount of tummy time needed. This may include;
- Modifying the position to be less difficult, ie placing them on an incline rather than flat horizontal
- Using dynamic positions like rolling on an exercise ball or carrying them in your arms
- Entertaining them by pulling funny faces, using mirrors or interesting toys
What to learn more about Tummy Time in our class?
Research indicates parent education is key for best results for parents and children when it comes to Tummy time. That is why we developed our Tummy Time Class ‘Lift Off’ to learn in more detail about your baby’s development, how to engage and support their development and why some children dislike tummy time, what to do about it.
Our classes are incredibly popular and we would love you to come along and enjoy our exclusive Newcastle Baby offer for 2020-2021. Please head to www.childrenschiropractic.com.au/events and use the code NEWCASTLEBABY to get a FREE ticket! (Saving you $18)
We look forward to helping you and your baby learn about and love tummy time!
Dr Jacey Pryjma
Chiropractor & Director
The Australian Children’s Chiropractic Centre (ACCC) was carefully designed and created by Dr Jacey Pryjma (Chiropractor) to be the perfect space for pregnant women, babies, children and teens to feel comfortable and welcome. Born from the desire to create a natural health hub and education centre to support growing families of Newcastle, ACCC brings forward holistic chiropractic care, innovative and exciting classes and workshops and other health supports to help transform the motherhood experience and children’s health.
Providing a village like atmosphere, you will feel supported and relaxed when you visit ACCC. Warm tea, cool water and lots of comfy chairs and pillows provides an area for new mums to feed their newborns, whilst older children can play with our developmental toys and indulge their creativity in our craft corner.
Located in Warners Bay a few doors down from Baby Bunting, our centre welcomes families from the Central Coast all the way up to the Manning Valley and beyond. No referral necessary, simply call us on 02 4915 6640 or head to our website www.childrenschiropractic.com.au.
We can’t wait to meet you.
Hewitt, L., Kerr, E., Stanley, R.M. and Okely, A.D., 2020. Tummy Time and Infant Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics, 145(6).
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Ortega, R. and Fienup, D.M., 2015. Effects of a preferred stimulus and mother’s attention on infant behavior during tummy time. Behavior analysis in practice, 8(1), pp.66-69.
Mendres‐Smith, A.E., Borrero, J.C., Castillo, M.I., Davis, B.J., Becraft, J.L. and Hussey‐Gardner, B., 2020. Tummy time without the tears: The impact of parent positioning and play. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.
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