While new parents are encouraged to let their newborns sleep on their backs to avoid the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), tummy time is important to develop your baby’s neck and arm muscles. It helps provide the head control your baby needs to sit up, crawl and eventually walk.
Tummy time tips
1. Start early
Nicky Lasch, a paediatric neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT) physiotherapist, recommends starting tummy time from as early as six weeks. On her blog she writes that from this age, a baby is able to free the chin from side to side and breathe effectively on the tummy. Lasch says you can prepare your baby for tummy time by placing her on your chest so that she has to lift her head to look at you. You can also lay her across your lap for short periods at a time.
2. Play time
Lie down with your baby and encourage him to look up by placing a toy in front of them, or by singing and making a noise.
3. Soft landing
Make sure the baby is lying on a flat and soft surface.
4. Bells and whistles
From the age of four months, your baby will benefit from an activity mat with mirrors and toys that will encourage him to lift his head and push up on his arms.
5. Get a workout
From six months onwards your baby will have enough arm strength to reach for and swipe objects, so a playful gym set up placed in front of your baby will work well.
6. How much tummy time?
The South African 24-hour movement guidelines for birth to five years call for up to 30 minutes of tummy time a day for babies up to the age of one.
7. Wakey, wakey
Make sure you are in the room to supervise tummy time and most importantly, only place your baby on her stomach while she is awake. A good time is usually after a bath, nap or nappy change. Avoid tummy time immediately after a feed.
8. Start slowly
Start off with just a few minutes of time on your baby’s belly three or four times a day. Increase to longer as your baby grows stronger.
9. Say no
If you are unsure about whether your baby is ready for tummy time, consult your paediatrician. Consult a paediatrician if your baby has reflux of was born prematurely.
Top toys to promote time on the tummy
Not all babies enjoy spending their time on their stomachs, so these are a selection of 5 top toys to encourage tummy time:
Baby’s first book
Lay a material picture book on the floor and encourage your baby to look at the pictures.
Keep baby engaged by using a play mat with textures, colours and sound. Fisher-Price has a Rainforest™ Music & Lights Deluxe Gym with more than 10 activities to keep your baby entertained while she strengthens her muscles. The mat responds to your baby’s movements with music and lights in a short-play setting.
Touch and feel
A tactile ball with tags and textures will encourage your baby to reach out and grab.
Me, myself and I
Babies love looking at themselves. Show her non breakable mirror that can be propped up or folded flat. Your baby will have to raise her head to catch a glimpse of herself.
Tunes for learning
Lastly, a musical light bar will keep your baby entertained. She won’t even realise she is strengthening her muscles while playing music.
For more about the effect of music on your baby’s brain