Tummy time is essential for a baby’s body and brain development. In this position, a baby lays the foundations for later learning, concentration, coordination, emotional regulation and postural control.
Most Mums would agree that they have been told to include tummy time within their child’s day. But it’s one of those things that sounds easier in theory isn’t it? We give it a try and all we see is the struggle and tears. Some of us rescue our baby in a heartbeat, deciding then and there that there will be no more tummy time. Others persist for a while but without any improvement seen, tummy time just naturally falls away from our days.
Tummy time doesn’t have to be like this, all dread, angst and guilt. It can be playful and enjoyable. This post will share three simple ways to give your child the benefits of tummy time, with more fun and less stress.
1. Short Frequent Bursts
Tummy time requires lots of energy and strength, especially in the early weeks of life. If we put our baby down for twenty minutes and expect them to like it, we’re being unrealistic. Tummy time is best offered to your baby in short bursts that are spread throughout the day. For a four week old baby, this may be as little as thirty seconds at any one time. For a twelve week old baby it may be five to ten minutes.
A good rule of thumb is to put your baby on their tummy at the beginning of every floor time session. Grunting with effort is fine, however if you hear your baby begin to cry, gently roll them onto their back for a rest.
Don’t panic, I’m not recommending that you become a dancing monkey. But if your little one is reluctant to be on their tummy, layer in additional visual, auditory or sensory stimulation for a transformed experience. You could sing a song, blow bubbles or read a book while laying next to your baby. You could offer tummy time in front of a mirror or massage your baby’s back, arms, hands, head, legs and feet while they are in this position.
3. Add Movement
Movement makes the world a happier place and also aids brain development. By adding it to your tummy time routine, you are ticking multiple boxes at once.
This is super simple and a perfect match for those teeny tiny babies. Simply lay on your back and place your baby onto your tummy. Have a cuddle, gaze into each other’s eyes and if you want to add in a little movement, simply rock your body gently from side to side while keeping your baby close.
Place your baby on their tummy at the centre of a blanket. On a smooth surface, gently pull the blanket along the ground by holding two of the corners. As a new experience, go slowly the first few times and be sure to give your baby plenty of reassuring eye contact and conversation. Over time, you can speed up for some lovely giggles.
Lay on your back, with your legs bent, feet on the ground and knees facing up. Place your baby against your legs, tummy down, holding securely under the arms. Now gently raise your legs until they are horizontal and you can see your baby’s face. From here you can move your legs in and out, so that your baby moves from near to far, side to side (which takes a little more practice) or up and down.
When it’s time for the ride to finish, as determined by tired legs or an unhappy baby (whichever comes first), straighten your legs and help them to fly down onto your tummy for a gentle cuddle.
Place your baby onto their tummy on a fit ball or slightly deflated beach ball. Hold securely at the hips and roll the ball ever so slightly backwards and forwards. As your baby grows older and becomes more used to this sensation, you can make the rolling motion more pronounced.
Just do it!
Has that given you a few more ideas to try? Just remember that tummy time offers new ways to engage with your baby, a new vantage point from which your baby can observe the world, as well as the right input for healthy development.
Make a decision right now to try out one of these new tummy time ideas. I’d love to hear how you get along in the comments.
Want to learn more about tummy time?
I have a three part series on the podcast devoted to the topic. You can listen in via the links below or by doing a search for the ‘Thriving Children Podcast’ in iTunes.
My book, Tummy Time Tactics, is available here.