All parents know the phrase “tummy time”! As therapists, we are constantly stressing the importance of tummy time with our little ones, but why is it so important? Tummy time, when a baby is spending time lying on his or her stomach, plays a major role in normal child development. Here are 6 reasons why we love tummy time!
Tummy time helps our babies to stretch out their muscles.
Babies are typically born with increased trunk and neck flexion due to their time spent in utero. While on their bellies, babies are able to start to stretch out their abdominal muscles which will help them to use these muscles more efficiently as they grow.
Tummy time helps our babies with bone development of their skulls.
Babies who spend too much time lying on their backs may start to develop a flat spot on the back of their head. Tummy time helps to relieve pressure off the back of the head and prevent flattening from occurring or worsening.
Tummy time helps our babies to strengthen their necks and gain head control.
When on their bellies, babies learn how to lift their heads up against gravity to allow them to breath and better see their surroundings. While it’s often challenging at first, babies gain neck strength and head control from working these muscles.
Tummy time helps our babies to start pushing up through their arms.
As babies get stronger with tummy time, they start to push up through their elbows first and eventually their hands to help them to move around. This helps to strengthen the arms and prepare the babies for activities such as crawling. Babies also gain strength from reaching for objects while on their bellies.
Tummy time helps our babies with feeding and speech development.
Have you noticed how babies often like to rub their faces back and forth on the mat while they’re on their bellies? The touch input that the babies receive on their cheeks and mouths help them with feeding and speech development.
Tummy time helps our babies develop motor skills.
Many of our early motor skills, including rolling, sitting, and crawling, start to develop from the neck, trunk, and arm strength that is gained from tummy time. As our babies gain strength throughout their body, they tend to gain motor skills as well!
Not all babies like tummy time. For many babies, tummy time is hard work! It takes significant neck, trunk, and shoulder strength for a baby to lift their head from the ground, and even more strength to hold it there while looking around. Babies may not be comfortable of their bellies for different reasons, including digestive issues or muscle tightness. It is typically recommended that babies start tummy time as soon as they get home, starting with 2-3 times a day for 3-5 minutes a day while the baby is awake. Increase this time as the baby gets older. Here are some suggestions to increase your baby’s tummy time:
Start tummy time against your chest. This will make it easier for your baby to lift his or her head against gravity.
Have your baby perform tummy time over a Boppy pillow or a rolled up towel or blanket. This will also make it easier for your baby to lift his or her head.
Play with your baby on his or her side. This will help your baby to develop their neck and trunk muscle strength and will encourage your baby to reach towards toys.
Babies love to look at faces! Lie on your stomach across from your baby to play, or use a floor mirror to encourage your baby to look up.
Try to minimize the amount of time that your baby spends in car seats, swings, baby carriers, and other positioning equipment. The more time a baby spends out of these “containers”, the more time they have to explore their environments and develop their muscle strength.
**Remember, tummy time should be performed when a baby is awake and active. Babies should not be unattended during tummy time due to their decreased head control.**
Looking for additional resources for tummy time? Check out these websites!