If there’s any great exercise geared towards improving a baby’s development, it would be tummy time. Tummy time is simply anytime during the day when your baby is awake and spending time on their stomach.
Doing tummy time is essential because it helps develop the neck, back, and shoulder muscles’ core muscles. These are all the muscle groups needed to achieve their first significant milestone, which is rolling over around the 6 or 7-month mark.
Your baby will learn to develop more strength in his or her arms and legs while improving their motor, visual, and sensory skills. By doing tummy time, this can help to detect any early motor delays and conditions, such as flat head syndrome and positional torticollis where a baby’s head always seem to be tilted to one side.
When to start tummy time and for how long?
Tummy time can begin as early as a newborn baby, provided that you are on hand to supervise since their neck muscles are still pretty weak. Start with small increments, several times a day. Aim to achieve an hour of tummy time by their third month even if it is broken up into short intervals throughout the day. You can slowly increase the duration once your baby gets more accustomed to it.
Do not be surprised if your baby cries in the beginning and seems to hate tummy time. Don’t worry. With time your baby will get used to it, so as much as it pains your heart, try to resist picking your baby up right away. Instead, try soothing your baby by singing, offering comforting rubs on the back, and distracting them with toys.
So push through, because your baby will reap the benefits of tummy time as they progress from rolling to sitting to crawling and eventually pulling themselves up to stand. Tummy time also allows sensory and tactile development as they begin to explore the differences between the play gym mat and the bed, for instance. They also become more aware of their body and what happens when they move or shift their weight. By positioning your baby differently during tummy time also teaches him or her movement and balance. This, in turn, also improves their hand-eye coordination because tummy time allows them to look down at their hands and visually see what their hands can do.
Other ways parents can do tummy time
Tummy time doesn’t always have to be on the mattress or the mat. But if you choose to, remember to get down to your baby’s level to encourage eye contact. Your baby loves to see your face and together with your soothing voice, tummy time might not seem so bad after all.
Alternatively, you can also be more involved by lying down on the floor, or the bed, and then placing your baby on your chest or tummy. This is an excellent position because it allows you and your baby to be face-to-face. Just make sure to do this safely by holding your baby so that they don’t accidentally roll off.
Another way is to do the tummy down carry or football hold. You can do this by positioning one hand under your baby’s tummy, between the legs and carry your baby with him or her facing down. Then, use your other hand to support baby’s head and neck. It may seem a little awkward to carry a tiny baby in this position, especially for first-time parents. But as you keep practising and hold your baby close to your body, this will help both of you get accustomed to this position. Likewise, you can also place your baby face down across your lap with one hand on your baby’s bottom or back to help steady and calm them. This is actually a really great way to burp a baby!
Tummy Time milestones by months
Remember that every baby develops at a different pace, so don’t worry if your baby does not meet these milestones to the tee.
At 1 month
Congrats on your baby’s full moon! It is early yet, but you might actually notice your little one trying to turn his or her head during tummy time! Some infants go as far as lifting their head up for a a second or two! So remember to get down to your baby’s eye level and cheer him or her on.
At 2 months
By now your precious little bundle should be able to last a whole minute doing tummy time without complaining too much. If you have a floor playgym or a mat, you’ll be able to move tummy time to the floor. Sometimes all they need is a change of perspective to help distract them from tummy time. This also helps their neck muscles to get stronger each day. Some might even be able to tilt their head from side to side by now. But be mindful if your baby tend to favour only one side because it could be a sign of positional torticollis.
At 3 months
Just check out the michelin tires on those cute arms! Those arms are much stronger now that your baby can put weight on his or her arms, with elbows behind their shoulders at a 45-degree angle. Your baby would have better head control and should be able to lift their heads higher up without tilting to either sides. 1 hour of tummy time? No problem at all! In fact it is the perfect time to get get your baby to practice their tracking skills with bright coloured toys, crinkle toys and rattles.
At 4 months
Your baby should be able to lift their heads up straight while keeping their head centered. All that practise is paying off because now your little one can push up on his or her forearms to bring their chest off the floor. Some might be able to remain upright with their elbows tucked under their shoulders while others might have them in front of their shoulders. Your little one is turning into a pro at lifting his or her head, while tracking toys, voices and familiar faces. Have you tried getting your little one a baby safe mirror! He or she would love it!
At 5 months
Pushing up on hands with straight elbows should be a piece of cake by now. Continue to entice your little one with toys and your will notice those tiny hands starting to reach out to touch or grab them!
At 6+ months
Your little one should be able to independently roll on to their stomach and into the tummy time position with little to no help. Expect those tiny inquisitive hands to reach and grab nearby toys without any problems while they are still on their tummy. Don’t be surprised if your baby can pivot in a circle while on his or her stomach! Right about now your baby is starting to prefer being on their stomach as it allows them to play, move and explore more easily. And when they need a break they can always roll back onto their backs to catch a breather.