Play with me while I’m on my Tummy!
So last time we mentioned tummy-time, it was as a useful exercise to help your baby with plagiocephaly or torticollis. BUT it is also amazing in assisting your baby to develop their muscles and their skills for everyday life.
Tummy time should be an important aspect of your baby’s every day routine. As they spend a majority of their day on their backs – sleeping, in the pram, playing throughout the day– it is important we try and encourage them to spend time on their tummies at least three times per day – usually after a feed or bath when they are nice and relaxed. Not only will this help to avoid plagiocephaly and/or torticollis, but it will also help them to develop the important muscles in their neck, shoulders, arms and backs, which help them to support their heads and to become more independent.
How young can I start tummy time?
You can start tummy time as soon as possible. Even at a few days old, babies can lift their heads to look at the world around them. This may only be for a few seconds, so tummy time in these early stages should be limited to 1 – 2 minutes and you should be close by to ensure your baby is able to lower their heads with their faces turned to the side.
As your baby gets a little older and starts to develop the muscles in their necks, you can encourage them to lift their heads for longer. Apply a gentle yet firm pressure on their bottoms, pushing towards their heads. Maintain this pressure while your baby lifts theirs heads and you should see they are able to do this more easily and for longer. Don’t forget to make things interesting. Your baby is lifting their heads to learn about the environment around them, place lots of bright toys around them on the floor so they are enticed to lift and turn their heads in different directions.
Your baby will develop the muscles in their necks within a number of weeks, but tummy time is also important to develop their arm, shoulder and back muscles. Position your baby’s upper body over a pillow roll or rolled up towel. This position encourages them to use their arms while being supported under their chests to avoid any unwanted accidents. As your baby’s strength improves, this position will encourage them to bring weight over their knees and eventually can be transitioned into early crawling exercises – Stacey can show you how to assist your baby in crawling if you think they are not achieving this appropriately.
What about crawling?
Crawling on all fours helps your baby develop their fine and gross motor skills more easily. These skills are necessary for self-feeding, picking up small objects, standing, walking and running. In particular, crawling on hands and knees has been linked with better hand writing skills in school aged children – babies who crawl on their hands develop their shoulder, forearm and hand muscles necessary for controlling the pencil they use.
Crawling on all fours can help develop your baby’s vision. As your baby is required to look out into the distance to see where they are going and then back at their hands to make sure they are being placed correctly, this constant back and forth helps to develop their binocular vision – their short and long sight. This development of binocular vision during crawling is important for when they need to copy things from the whiteboard once they start school. Additionally, crawling on all fours helps to develop both sides of the brain and will ultimately help your baby develop their awareness of where their body is and what it’s doing in space, and their balance and ability to avoid hurting themselves if they fall.
If your child starts to move themselves in a non crawling pattern, or they don’t crawl before they start walking, don’t worry – they can come back to crawling. Create obstacle courses at home so they can crawl as a game through tunnels, under chairs or tables or between your legs. It is a vital skill, so it is important to come back to it even if it wasn’t a movement your baby started to perform on their own. Stacey can help you with more ideas to develop this vital skill.
What if my baby doesn’t like tummy time?
So your baby doesn’t like being on their tummies for longer than 20seconds? You can help your baby enjoy tummy time by initially enjoying it with them.
Begin by lying flat on the floor, and then lift your baby onto your chest so that their chest is against yours. Then encourage your baby to lift their heads by applying a gentle pressure on their bottoms in an upwards direction (see picture). Then as your baby gets more comfortable in this position, place them so their chest is against yours, but so their feet and legs are now on the floor. Do this until your baby feels comfortable.
After a while, place your baby on their tummies directly on the floor next to you. You can adopt the same position, lying on your tummy so you are face to face with your baby. This way they are able to see you and you can have lovely bonding time. As they get more and more comfortable being on their tummies, you can move further away until they no longer need you on the floor with them. Remember of course to keep a close eye on your baby at all times.
Remember that lying down can be a great way to breast feed, and you can combine feeding with some tummy time and back and neck strengthening – Tory and Beck can help with more ideas about breastfeeding positions.
If you are having difficulty getting your little one to enjoy tummy time or are unsure of how to position them when they are on their tummies, come in for a demo from Stacey, she’s more than happy to help!