The advice to put babies to sleep on their backs has thankfully reduced cases of SIDS but has also resulted in fewer babies spending time on their tummies while awake. I have always encouraged parents in my infant massage classes to include some tummy time for their babies, due to its positive effects on their development.
WHY IS TIME ON THE TUMMY IMPORTANT?
*It strengthens the muscles in the back, arms and neck which helps with coordination and posture.
*It helps to develop motor skills needed for the next stages of pushing up, rolling, sitting, crawling and pulling up to standing.
*It enables your baby to reach out and explore their environment which is important for building their confidence and independence.
*It helps to prevent flat head syndrome which can develop when babies spend too long lying on their back. It is important to lay babies on their backs to sleep but this should be balanced with time spent on the tummy.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I INCLUDE IT?
Ideally include several sessions a day. Start with a few minutes or as long as your baby will tolerate and increase gradually. Choose regular times such as at nappy changes to help you remember.
BUT MY BABY GETS UPSET WHEN I LAY THEM ON THEIR TUMMY!
It can be hard work for your baby initially but persevere and use these seven tips to make it easier for you both –
- Introduce tummy time as soon as possible. Start by laying baby on your tummy, facing you in a sling or cradled face down in your arms to get them used to this position.
- Make sure the surface you lay them on is warm and comfortable and away from draughts.
- Find the right time when your baby is in a good mood – not too tired, hungry or too soon after a milk feed. If they are unhappy try again another time.
- Place their arms in front or to the sides so they can learn to use them to raise themselves up.
- Place a small rolled up towel or blanket under their chest, with their arms in front, to help them until they have built up strength.
- Lie with them, smile, talk and play together.
- Massage your baby’s back using a suitable baby oil – baby massage is also great for body awareness and coordination and, for those who are not keen on spending time on their tummy, can work well as a pleasant distraction. I have witnessed countless, previously reluctant, babies enjoying time on their tummy when a bit of massage is involved! Visit nomnomskincare.com for some introductory baby massage tips and advice.
Jayne Russell has over twenty years of experience as a pre’ and postnatal massage and nutritional therapist and is the founder of Nom Nom – award winning, certified organic pregnancy and baby skincare. Sign up for your free skincare guide “10 Steps to Super Healthy Baby Skin” at nomnomskincare.com