Tummy time tips
Tummy time is an excellent way to help your baby strengthen their body and improve development of their motor skills. Lying on their tummy will help your baby develop strength in their upper limbs, chest and back, which are all important for sitting, and later on crawling.
Some babies adapt very well to tummy time and can hold their head up early on. However, some little ones find it disorientating and are fearful of this new position, especially if they can’t hold their head up yet. Because they are used to sleeping on their backs, and spend time in car seats, bouncy chairs/playmats and in your arms so it’s not surprising they can feel strange to be the other way up. Some babies also may feel frustration at not being able to lift their heavy head. I’ve brought together some tips on ways to try out tummy time.
When should I try tummy time?
When your baby is relaxed and you’re playing together is a great time to try this position. Leave around 30 minutes after a large feed to let the milk digest. Start by laying your baby on her tummy across your lap two or three times a day for a few minutes. As your baby grows stronger, place her on a blanket on the floor, and build up the time gradually, looking for their cues and checking they are enjoying it.
Talk to your baby and let her know you’re going to try lying on your tummies. If your baby becomes distressed pick her up and cuddle her and try again another time. Babies develop so quickly it’s important to keep on trying tummy time, what she didn’t like last week may have changed now!
- Lying on her tummy can be a new way to see the world and can be rather disorientating. Get down onto your own tummy and lie next to her to keep her company. Keep making encouraging noises so she knows you’re close by.
- Massage your baby’s back while she lies across your thighs so she can still feel your warmth and the gentle strokes will soothe her.
- Birthing ball – if you’ve still got a birthing ball you can lie your baby face down on the top and gently rock forwards and backwards whilst holding her steady and securely.
- Put a baby safe mirror at ground level in front of your baby so she can see her own face.
- Never leave your baby unattended during tummy time, and never leave them on a bed or changing table in case they suddenly learn to roll!
- You can try some massage either over clothes, or if in a warm cosy room use a natural oil to massage baby’s back. Stroke down your baby’s back from the neck towards the bottom. Place one hand across the back at the top and stroke firmly down the back to the bottom. Lift your hand as it reaches baby’s bottom, and bring the other hand down from the neck so you are always in contact with their back.
- You can tap some gentle ‘pitter patter’ from the bottom up and down baby’s back to the rhyme of ‘Pattacake, pattacake Bakers man’.
- Place a large rolled up towel or small cushion under your baby’s chest so their head is slightly raised to get a different view of the world which supports their upper body. This can also be helpful if your baby has reflux and is more comfortable at an angle rather than flat on the floor.
Keep on trying!
Never force your baby into tummy time if they aren’t happy there, just keep trying to gently introduce it into your routine, and make it as fun as you can. If you are stressed or worried about ‘doing it right’ your baby may pick up on the tension and become anxious themselves. Try not to compare your baby to others, they all develop at their own pace and if your baby doesn’t enjoy tummy time it is quite common, so don’t worry if they aren’t doing the same as a friend’s baby. Finally, if you’re worried your baby isn’t developing in line with milestones speak to your health visitor or GP.
It is very normal for babies to last just a few minutes to start with, this is perfectly ok. Might not seem like a long time to you but for your baby it can be quite a muscle work out. Little and often is great. A couple of times a day for a couple of minutes until they slowly will be able to hold it for longer periods, or until they roll over 🙂