The #1 Thing All Babies Need

So what’s the number one thing that all babies need? An iPad, a walker, baby knee pads? Absolutely not.

The one thing that all babies need in abundance is tummy time. It’s free, can be done anywhere and is essential for developing our body and brain. 

 

Why is tummy time so important?

  • Laying on our tummy as a baby provides us with the greatest form of tactile (touch) stimulation, as our entire body is in contact with the ground.

  • Head lifting and control is mastered while on our tummy, strengthening our neck, shoulders, back and arms.

  • In this position we have the physical freedom to wriggle and squirm, which is how our primitive reflexes are naturally ‘used up’ or integrated. It is the process of reflex integration that supports early brain development.

 

How often should my child have tummy time?

The simple answer to this question is ‘as much as possible while awake’. To achieve this, my rule of thumb is to place a baby on their tummy when lowering them to the ground. By doing so each time, you’re instantly increasing how much tummy time they get. You’re also sending a loud and clear message that this position is important.  Even if you roll them onto their back a minute later (or they roll themselves), every second adds up.

 

What about if my baby has reflux?

Tummy time is equally important for reflux babies (in fact, even more so). I’ve survived three reflux babies and they all enjoyed lots of tummy time-it is possible. If your baby spills lots but isn’t in any discomfort, just use towels to protect surfaces and go right ahead. For a baby in pain, schedule tummy time in between their nap and feed.

 

Should I persist with tummy time if my child doesn’t like it?

Absolutely! Most babies don’t initially like being on their tummy for long periods because it’s exhausting work. The key message here is to keep tummy time sessions incredibly short in the early days but to make sure that there’s plenty of them within the period of a day.

Over time, a baby will develop strength in this position, tolerating it more easily up to the point of enjoyment. To help your baby reach this stage, consider using these ideas:

  • A tummy time hold in your arms

  • Chest to chest tummy time, still or with a gentle rock

  • Tummy time ‘flying’ on your raised legs

  • Laying down next to your baby, talking, singing or reading a book to them

  • Blowing bubbles for them to watch or pop

  • Wiggling a scarf in front of them to watch or catch

  • Offer tummy time in front of a mirror or even better, across from another baby

  • Roll on a fit ball on the tummy

  • Tummy time outside offers a whole new array of sights, sounds and smells.

 

The tricky thing about tummy time is that it’s becoming a lost art. It’s not a product that sells, some babies take time to enjoy it and there are lots of people spreading the message, “my baby didn’t do tummy time and she’s fine!”. But it’s a bit like saying “I got smacked as a child and turned out alright”. How do you know when you’ve only experienced one reality?

I view tummy time as a preventative measure for reducing the likelihood or severity of challenges with development, learning, attention and behaviour. It’s well worth the effort when put into this context.

 

Happy Tummy Time Tips:

  • Short but frequent exposure

  • Be there with your child, distractions at the ready

  • Use different tummy time positions for variety

  • Keep the big picture in mind-the optimal development of your precious baby

 

My book, Tummy Time Tactics, is available here.

Comments 2

  1. Hi Claire,
    I was just gifted your book and was wondering about the reflexes intergrating.
    It seems like a silly question but if my baby has regular tummy time will all the reflexes integrate themselves- is there anything else i need to do?
    My baby is 6 months old and is only just starting to show interest in rolling back to front (she rocks and kinda gets on her side but never all the way over). This is late for this according to your book- should i be worried or is there anything else i can do?
    I have been sitting her up between my legs for about 5 weeks but im going to stop that now.
    Lastly- does this mean that my baby only plays on her back or tummy at this age? I was sitting her with support to vary her experinces with play as it seemed like either back or tummy were boring after a while.
    Thank you for any information!
    Im worried i have not helped my baby by what i have done so far even though she has tummy time each day.

    1. Brilliant question Kel!

      Firstly, I’m sure you’re doing a brilliant job raising your baby, bundling her in love and language.

      We can only do what we can do with the knowledge that we have at the time. Many of us know that we’re meant to do tummy time but not really why or for how long. Don’t be too concerned – 6 months is a brilliant age to get stuck in (and if you have more than one baby, this is info that you’ll have from the start next time around). Worry less about the age your baby is hitting her milestones and more about the fact that she is.

      In answer to your question, with regular tummy time, yes, the likelihood of the primitive reflexes integrating naturally is much more likley. But sometimes complications from pregnancy or birth (as was the case with me and my babies), means that this process still doesn’t complete during babyhood.

      Another great resource would be a podcast episode about motor play in the first 12 months, full of other movement and play experiences to complement tummy time.

      I also think this one with Gill Connell will highlight that by following your child’s lead, you’ll be setting her up well for success in the classroom.

      Best wishes Kel and have fun playing with your baby,
      Clare

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *