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5 Tips for Tummy Time Success

20 March 2023

Tummy time is the practice of putting your baby onto their front to help build shoulder, neck and trunk muscles, develop cognition and avoid flat spots on the head. During tummy time, babies must be awake and supervised at all times by a trusted adult. Babies must always sleep on their back and never fall asleep in their tummy time positions.

Take it slow

The tummy time position will be new for your baby and, especially when they’re newborn, can be a little distressing. Though the advice is to aim for an hour’s tummy time every day, you can split this into smaller chunks. Perhaps start with just a minute or two at a time, repeated frequently, building up to sessions of around 15 minutes.

Mix up locations

Tummy time should ideally be spent on a hard surface, with a rug, carpet or blanket under your baby. You needn’t always spend tummy time on the floor, though. While safety must be the priority (don’t place your baby anywhere they might fall, and don’t lie them on soft surfaces like duvets where they might suffocate) there are a few alternatives you can try. You could lie your baby on your own tummy or chest. That way, they can feel close to you while still getting their workout. You can even have them on your lap, as long as they’re secure. When they’re on the floor, mix up where you put them. Changing where they lie can help benefit your baby’s sensory development by giving them something new to look at and new things to explore.

Use some accessories

A great way to maximise the benefits of tummy time is to spread some exciting objects around. There are even tummy-time specific products you can buy, designed to promote cognitive development. Things such as sensory boards and accessory packs are relatively cheap. These aren’t essential, though. Your baby’s favourite toys, books, mirrors, bubbles and safe objects will all be just as beneficial.

Let them explore

While the obvious benefits of tummy time are physical, it has a positive impact on your baby’s cognitive development, too. Children’s neurons develop from experiences, primarily those that they are directly involved with. So make sure there’s plenty for them to explore and interact with - including you! Exploring, concentrating, working with their own ideas, persevering with a task, directing their own interests: these are all characteristics of effective learning which will benefit your baby immeasurably.

Adapt if they don’t like it

Don’t be surprised if your baby dislikes tummy time to begin with. To help make it easier, there are several adjustments you can make. As mentioned above, take it slow, and make the surrounding area engaging. You could also involve an older sibling or another family member. If your baby isn’t ready to lie down, the same benefits can be gained from varying how you hold and carry them, to allow their neck muscles to do more. Are they rested, fed, and clean? Try tummy time at soothing times of the day, such as when you dry them after a bath or midway between meals.

Photo by Helena Lopes

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