Tummy time is the first type of exercise your baby will do. Laying babies on their stomach for brief periods will bring benefits in terms of strengthen their neck, shoulder muscles and develop motor skills before they to crawl.
In this article I will talk about the benefits of tummy time, when to start it and show you some exercises you can practice with your baby.
Before we start, I would like to warn you on some critical things related to tummy time:
- Never leave babies alone while practicing with tummy time.
- Always practice tummy time (and leave babies on their stomach) while they are awake to help prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Do tummy time in a low level surface, avoid sofa or bed as they could roll off or suffocate on soft surfaces like pillows.
Why your baby needs tummy time?
Here some of the benefits in practicing this exercise for newborns:
- Strengthen neck and shoulders’ muscles
- Prevent flat head syndrome
- Develop motor skills and the muscles needed to roll over, sit up, crawl and then walk
In addition to all of them, you will notice how babies will start looking around and discover the world while doing these fun exercises.
The right time to start doing tummy time
Tummy time can be started as soon as your baby leaves the hospital.
In the first period, you can try to do tummy time for a couple of minutes, 2-3 times per day. As your baby gets used to it, you can go for a little longer. After 3 or 4 months, babies can spend up to 1 hour lied on their stomach.
Try to avoid tummy time right after a meal, as this position would increase the risk of regurgitation.
When you start doing tummy time you probably just met your little one and you are getting to know each other: it’s important that you pay attention to the messages he/she gives you. If she is annoyed change her position or simply stop the exercise and try again later.
What you need for tummy time
That’s the easiest and cheapest activity you can do with you baby!
Prepare a quiet space, a mat or a towel lied on the floor and of just get ready to try and learn what works best for both of you! As I said, try to avoid bed, sofa or everything that is too soft to avoid the baby to fall or suffocate.
Tummy time exercises: let’s practice!
Once we know when to start and what’s needed, it’s time to understand how to practice and make this perfect
Exercise 1: Mum, Dad you are my gym
For newborns the best way to start tummy time is by placing them belly-down on your chest so they can lift their heads to stimulate neck and shoulder’s muscles. If you see that they feel bored, change position and place them across your lap or viceversa.
In this first phase, tummy time is carried out through sound stimuli: attract their attention talking to them or singing.
Exercise 2: Down on the floor
For this to work you’ll need the support of a mat or a blanket on the floor in a clear flat area while simply laying your baby down on the belly.
If you have a breastfeeding pillow you can put it on a mat and lie the baby down with the legs on the mat and the arms resting on the pillow. Try to interact with them, talking, singing or shaking a rattle, moving left and right, up and down to capture their attention and stimulate movements.
Exercise 3: Discovering the world
As your baby grows, tummy time could take longer. Your baby in this phase will start to find stimulus from other things and you can place toys based on baby’s age and development.
Some of this elements could be a soft book, or a nonbreakable mirror so they can see their reflection and discover themselves.
Last but not least: use a baby gym!
One of the main benefit of baby gyms is to entertain babies during tummy time.
Placed at the end or over the middle of baby’s body, charms and pendants will encourage the baby to reach them strengthening baby’s neck, back and abdominal muscles.
I wish you a great tummy time!