As new parents, you are sure to have heard the term ‘tummy time’. Although tummy time for newborns seems like an activity for fun and play, it has some amazing benefits and boosts your baby’s growth and development in many ways.
This activity can be looked upon as one of the first exercises a baby does, enhancing their muscular strength, sensory and motor development.
With an exercise so crucial for your baby’s normal growth and development, it is natural to have questions. Today, we will look at everything you need to know about newborn tummy time, its benefits, the right time to start tummy time for a newborn, and how to make the most of it.
What is Tummy Time?
Newborns spend a considerable amount of time lying on their backs—be it while sleeping or being cradled. Tummy time for newborn babies, as the name suggests, is flipping your baby’s position to face down on the floor and allowing them to stretch and flex their limbs and muscles. It doesn’t require any special equipment and should be done when your baby is awake.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to start this activity soon after bringing the baby home. You start with short durations, gradually increasing the time as the baby grows.
The Benefits of Tummy Time
Scientific evidence supports that tummy time for newborn has positive health outcomes. Even The World Health Organization advises at least 30 minutes of prone position or tummy time a day for babies less than a year old.
Let’s look at some benefits of including tummy time for newborn babies in your baby’s daily routine.
1. Builds their Motor Skills
We do hundreds of movements and tasks each day. Each of these requires the muscles to make specific movements. This function involving muscle movements is known as motor skills.
Newborn tummy time strengthens the muscles in your baby’s neck, back, and shoulders. This helps them in several movements such as lifting their head, crawling, sitting, and rolling. In addition, spending awake time with your baby’s belly down helps them in achieving these milestones earlier than babies who spend more time on their backs.
According to Development Medicines and Child Neurology Journal, infants who are not exposed to a prone position or tummy time exhibit a transient delay in the development of their motor skills.
Using toys such as stuffed animals during tummy time helps in improving their grasping skills.
2. Prevents Flat-Head Syndrome
Babies spend a considerable time sleeping on their backs. This impacts their soft skull and may flatten it. Also known as plagiocephaly, it happens when your baby’s head becomes flat on one side. It may also look pointy in some cases.
If not corrected in time, it may lead to misalignment in their eyes, head, and ears.
Newborn tummy time is one of the simplest ways to prevent flat-head. All you need to do is alternate your baby’s sleeping position between their back and chest.
3. Allows Them to Explore New Perspectives
Being on their stomach gives your baby an entirely new perspective of things around them. Looking at things flipped upside down brings them closer to objects and textures and encourages them to explore and experiment with them.
It allows them to learn new ways to move their arms and legs, which is different from when they are lying on their backs.
4. Adds to Their Learning Abilities
Tummy time newborn lays the foundation for your baby’s cognitive skill development and how they will respond to learning and development as adults. Moving is one of the ways through which babies learn. They explore and experience their surroundings through movements, and make lasting impressions.
When tummy time is part of a toddler’s routine, their motor skills develop faster. This helps them sit, crawl, and roll quicker than they would otherwise, boosting their cognitive and spatial skills.
5. Allows You to Bond Better with Your Child
Newborn tummy time is a great opportunity for parents to build quality bonding time with their children. Since there is a parent’s touch involved in tummy time activities, it helps your baby feel safe.
That’s not all. By mixing some interesting activities with it, tummy time newborn is an excellent way to spend some fun and joyful time with your little one.
How to Do Tummy Time with a Newborn?
Newborn tummy time is a simple activity. If you are wondering how to do tummy time with a newborn, here are some ways for you to get started. Just make sure that your baby is wide awake during tummy time.
- Tummy Time on the Floor
Doing the tummy time activity on the floor is a natural way to begin. You can create a safe space on the floor in the nursery or any other area in the house.
Lay down on the floor with the baby and look them in the eye. This will make the baby feel safe and do the movements easily.
- Tummy to Tummy
This is one of the best ways to establish a connection with your baby during tummy time. In this, you need to lie on your back and place the baby’s tummy side on either your stomach or chest. You can either read aloud to your baby or play soft music.
You can let your baby be on their tummy while you take them for a stroll. Narrate to them what you see around them. This will help them get familiar with your voice and their surroundings.
When to Start Tummy Time and How Long should Each Session Last?
“Tummy time for a newborn: what’s the right age to start?” is one of the most common questions asked by many new parents. Well, there is no prescribed age limit to start tummy time with your baby. Paediatrics recommend starting it as early as possible. You can even start on the day you are back from the hospital.
The next question is, “How much tummy time for a newborn is okay?” It completely depends on how the baby adjusts to spending time on their tummy. Initially, they will not be comfortable doing it and may not last more than a couple of minutes, but gradually, with practice, they will get a hang of it. As they grow, you can keep increasing the tummy time.
You can start with 15-20 minutes a day. Build up to 25-30 minutes per day. You can aim for 1 hour by the time your baby is around 3-4 months. You need not complete this duration at a go. You can let your baby take multiple long breaks during the day and stretch tummy time through the course of the day.
Easy and Simple Age Appropriate Tummy-Time Activities
While tummy time is important for all babies, how you encourage them to do it depends on their age and how much they can exert when tummy-side down. Here are some simple age-appropriate tummy time activities you can do with your baby.
At 1 Month
- At this age, the baby can turn their head and even attempt to lift it.
- You can get on the floor and look them in the eye. Or, sing softly to them.
Between 2-3 Months
- The baby can tilt the head to one side.
- They begin to put some weight on their arms and try to lift their chest.
- You can use some toys or rattles to make the baby follow you.
Between 4-5 Months
- The baby can lift their head at 90 degrees and keep it stable.
- They begin to push on their hands while keeping their elbows straight.
- Can begin to start reaching for toys kept in front.
- At this age, you can do baby push-ups.
At 6 Months Plus
- At this stage, the baby can grab toys that are within their reach.
- They can even circle while lying on their stomach.
- They can explore and move around more easily.
How to Make Tummy Time Fun and Safe for Your Baby?
You can expect your baby to enjoy tummy time only if it is stimulating enough for them. Here are some ways to make tummy time fun for your baby:
- Use toys to engage the baby and encourage them to grab them.
- Babies like playing with mirrors. They love to see their reflection and try to crawl towards it.
- Keep changing the location to keep the baby interested.
- Use music to keep them engaged.
Just as much as it is important to make tummy time fun, you should ensure your baby is comfortable and safe throughout the session. It will allow you to be stress-free while your baby enjoys tummy time. Here’s what you can do.
- Make sure that your child is positioned on a solid and stable surface. Don’t put them on a couch or bed. This may risk them rolling off.
- Never leave your baby unattended on its belly.
- Wait for at least 30 minutes after feeding them to prevent reflux.
- Look for any distressing symptoms such as abnormal breathing or signs of pain. If you notice anything, stop the activity immediately and soothe the baby.
- Observe your baby’s reaction to the activity. Start slow and increase the time gradually.
- If your baby was born premature or has a mental health condition, don’t start tummy time without consulting your doctor.
- Dress your baby in comfortable clothing that allows for movement.
Tummy time is the best way to boost your child’s cognitive and physical development. Join the Raising Superstars’ Prodigy Framework programme to allow your baby to make the best of their early learning abilities and excel at their inborn talents and skills. Raising Superstars can help you with practical and fun ways to introduce your baby to tummy time early on and keep them engaged throughout.