When I had my firstborn, life suddenly felt a little overwhelming. I had a tiny human that I needed to keep alive, feed and somehow make sleep at night. Then my health visitor added another task to my list, tummy time. I tried and cried as I put my little baby down and watched him faceplant the mat in frustration. Tummy time for me, was an activity to endure rather than enjoy.
However, I wish I knew then what I know now. Tummy time can be another wonderful bonding exercise that does not need to be watching your baby helplessly wiggle about on a mat. There are all different kinds of activities that you can try and enjoy, with the added bonus of strengthening those all-important neck and core muscles.
What is tummy time and why do we need to do it?
Tummy time is the act of placing your baby on their stomach, allowing them to strengthen different muscles whilst encouraging motor skill development. Tummy time can be introduced gently from birth by laying your baby on your chest during awake hours. Over time as your baby grows, this can be built up to encouraging them to lift their heads up to look at you.
Allowing your baby to engage in tummy time has a whole host of benefits such as:
- Improving motor skills
- Strengthening arm, leg, core and neck muscles
- Preventing ‘flat head syndrome’, where a baby develops a flat spot on the back of their head.
- Practising important skills such as reaching, sitting up, moving and learning to move.
What activities can you try?
Experts recommend trying up to 15 minutes of tummy time a day and increasing this as your baby grows. However, do not become overly fixated on this time as there will be days when it will feel harder than others. The most important thing is to enjoy it and for it not to upset either you or your child. Below are some tips to help you get started.
- Opt for a time when your baby is awake and rested. Ideally after a nap and when you have a quiet, calm moment.
- Place your baby on a rug and surround them with some of their favourite toys. Encourage them to reach out and explore. Building up bricks and getting them to knock them down is a great activity to try.
- Try using a pillow to prop your baby up. This can really help those that are getting frustrated with being so low down.
- Call a relative. A Facetime call can work wonders in keeping your baby engaged. Place your baby on their stomach with a tablet propped-up in front of them for a little natter with grandma.
- Use DIY sensory bags. Babies love sensory toys, and they are a great way of introducing a fun activity to tummy time. Taping some clear bags to the floor with items inside such as shaving cream or water beads will encourage them to explore on their tummies.
Tummy time is an important developmental activity. It can feel daunting, especially if your baby naturally resists at first. However, if you choose the right moment, know when to stop and introduce some fun activities it can be an enjoyable moment for you both.