For anyone who’s ever parented a baby, you’ve hopefully heard that placing a baby on their tummy is important for their development. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Improves strength. Tummy time works on the muscles in the back that run from the back of the head down to the tailbone. When the baby is old enough to support their head up like this cutie, it is also working their front torso muscles. These are the muscles that are crucial for postural control- they help us stay upright when sitting and walking. Tummy time also improves arm and shoulder strength, encouraging children to push themselves up.
2. The tummy time position encourages motor planning skills to enable the child to roll, reach, push, pull, hold and grasp. Children eventually learn how to push themselves up into crawling position.
3. Lying on the stomach provides a break for the back of their heads, decreasing the risk of flattening the back of the skull (which is soft during infancy).
4. From a sensory perspective, being on the tummy brings many sensory experiences closer to their faces. Putting wonderful sensory toys in front of your baby will encourage them to reach out, as well as keeping them interested during tummy time (favourite toys are a great motivation to remain on their stomachs for children who don’t normally enjoy tummy time!)
5. Children have a whole lot more to look at when they’re on their tummies compared to lying on their backs staring at the ceiling. Tummy time encourages them to move their head to visually explore their environments, focusing their eyes on short and long distances.
TOP TUMMY TIME TIPS!
Tummy time doesn’t have to start once your baby can support their head, it can start from birth. Try using a rolled up towel or small cushion to initially support your child’s chest until they are strong enough to support themselves. Also be aware that tummy time may be uncomfortable for babies who still have the stump of their umbilical cord attached- something soft underneath them should help this.
Play time= tummy time. Sleep time= back time (prevents SIDS). Incorporate tummy time into your child’s everyday play routine. Start with short bursts and gradually increase the time, encouraging them to stay on their tummy by providing interesting objects in front of them. Some experts recommend up to 30 minutes a day, but so long as you’re trying it at least once a day, you can leave your child on their tummies for as long as they’re comfortable.
And most importantly, TUMMY TIME ISN’T JUST FOR BABIES!! People of all ages benefit from the strengthening through tummy time (I know my postural strength could certainly do with some toning!). It’s never too late to encourage your child to lie on their stomachs (eg. whilst watching tv, colouring in, reading etc) and can have benefits such as improved ability to sit at their desks, greater motor control and confidence and integration of primitive reflexes (something that I’ll fill you in on later!)
So get creative, and incorporate a bit of tummy time into your everyday routines! For more ideas about how to encourage ‘tummy time’, see an OT at Occupational Therapy For Children.