Tummy Time

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August 25, 2021
3 min read

Why is tummy time important?

Babies aren’t born with impressive head control – it’s why we need to always support the necks of newborns when we hold them, and why we need to help them build this independent strength over time. In addition to neck strength, tummy time is also wonderful for promoting development, interacting with your baby and enjoying some time without a focus on feeding or winding.

When can I start tummy time?

You can start from the moment baby is born! Having your baby on your chest is beautiful for the skin-to-skin connection, as well as an opportunity to practice building these neck and shoulder muscles. Just don’t feel pressured to start immediately.

What are some tips to help with tummy time?

  1. Start by using a rolled up towel under their arms to elevate their chest
  2. Put plenty of toys in front of them so you’re incentivising ‘play’
  3. Lie on you back and have baby skin-to-skin, face-down on your chest
  4. Bring your legs up and let them “fly” on your shins

What if my baby really hates it?

Some babies strongly dislike lying on their stomachs and if this is the case with your baby, don’t feel the need to force it. Plenty of babies have very minimal time spent on their stomachs and they go on to develop perfectly normally. Tummy time is fantastic and beneficial, but not if it creates significant distress in baby or parent.

For babies who dislike tummy time, it’s worthwhile revisiting it every few weeks, because they tolerate it better as they get older. Don’t stress and keep persisting.

Keep in mind that just a minute or two — even just 30 seconds of tummy time – will add up, if you do it regularly.  

Why did our parents not have to do tummy time?

Historically, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) rates were disturbingly high. When the American Academy of Pediatrics launched their Back-to-Sleep campaign in 1994, we saw a phenomenal 50% reduction in SIDS episodes.

While this is undoubtedly successful and should never be challenged, placing children on their backs did result in some less desirable effects too.

Two of them being: flat-head-syndrome & increased amounts of colic (discussed in here)

The other unwanted side effect is delayed gross motor development. This is because babies spend less time on their stomachs, pushing up to strengthen back, shoulder and neck muscles, delaying the strength and co-ordination required for sitting, standing, etc.

If I don’t do tummy time regularly, will my baby still develop OK?

The answer is, absolutely yes. Researchers who conducted the 1998 study found that the back-sleepers eventually developed their motor skills just fine: ‘All infants achieved all milestones within the accepted normal age range.’ Another study published that same year came to a similar conclusion — that although babies who spent less time on their tummies developed motor skills more slowly, the discrepancies didn’t persist.

How much will regular tummy time help my baby?

In a 2008 study, researchers reported that babies who were given more awake tummy time rolled and crawled earlier than babies who were given less, but that they didn’t learn to sit or walk or develop other motor skills any sooner. Interestingly, researchers have also found ties between when babies develop gross motor skills and when they develop certain cognitive skills — which raises questions over whether tummy time might also make kids ‘smarter.’

Studies have found that infants who are able to sit up have a more advanced understanding of the three-dimensional nature of objects, perhaps in part because when they can more easily sit, they can more easily explore and inspect their toys. Babies who have spent more time crawling and walking, regardless of their age, also have better spatial memory skills.

And a 2014 study found that babies often learn to walk right before they learn language skills — so if they learn to walk later, they might talk later too.

So, yes: tummy time is good, but do not view it as a chore and do not persist for too long if your baby – or you – do not enjoy it.

Keep in mind that just a minute or two — even just 30 seconds of tummy time – will add up if you do it regularly.

Learn more about the Dr Golly Philosophy here.

Shop the Dr Golly age appropriate routines here.

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