A postnatal expert explains when to start tummy time and how to do it.
By Anna Bonet
Tummy time is one of your baby’s very first developmental milestones – and one of the most important ones! Getting you little one to lie on their stomach while awake is essential for their visual, motor and sensory development. But if you’ve recently started rolling your baby onto their tummy and they protest wildly, you will know how challenging this can be!
We spoke to Amanda Thompson, Lead Antenatal and Postnatal Teacher at Bundle London, about how to encourage tummy time. Thompson has supported hundreds of new parents during the course of their baby’s first year during her 12 years as a qualified antenatal teacher. She is also a mother of five, including two sets of twins!
So, here’s what you need to know about tummy time according to Thompson, including how it works, why it’s important, when you should start tummy time and the different tummy time moves you can try:
What is tummy time?
Tummy time is exactly what it sounds like. ‘Tummy time is the period during the day that your baby spends awake and on their stomach,’ says Thompson, ‘during which they develop their motor, sensory and visual skills.’
There are many reasons tummy time is important. ‘Babies spend a lot of time on their backs, particularly nowadays, as we know it is the safest position for your baby to be in to sleep,’ says Thompson.
Tummy time is the period during the day that your baby spends awake and on their stomach to develop motor, sensory and visual skills.
‘Newborns spend a lot of time sleeping, albeit in little chunks split throughout a 24 hr period, so it is important to encourage them onto their fronts for some tummy time play time.’
This will help to develop the core muscles of their neck, back and shoulders. ‘It will also help them to meet their developmental milestones, such as crawling, and potentially prevent early motor delays and conditions such as flat head syndrome and twisted neck,’ Thompson adds.
When should you do tummy time?
The aim is to start tummy time as soon as possible after a full term baby is born, advises Thompson.
‘Always do tummy time at a time of day that your baby is awake and happy,’ she adds. ‘As soon as your baby starts to grizzle or to protest, stop the tummy time and try again later. Also, remember to always do tummy time supervised.’
How often should you do tummy time and how long for?
You should aim to do tummy time daily, according to Thompson. ‘Start off slowly with a view to extending your tummy time sessions as your baby grows older, ‘ she explains.
From newborn age, start with a few minutes at a time and build up to longer sessions, but do stop if your little one starts to protest.
The aim is to achieve at least an hour of tummy time total per day by three months of age. ‘This hour of tummy time can be broken up into smaller parts,’ she adds.
‘From newborn age, start with a few minutes at a time and build up to longer sessions, but do stop as soon as your little one starts to protest.’
Tummy time moves
There are different ways you can incorporate tummy time. Here, Thompson recommends four tummy time moves:
- Lie down on the floor or a bed, flat or propped up on pillows. Lie your baby on your tummy or chest (tummy-to-tummy or tummy-to-chest). Your baby can practise lifting his or her head up and down quite well from this position.
- Position one hand under your baby’s tummy and between the legs and hold them tummy down with the majority of baby’s tummy on your forearm. Use your other hand to support your baby’s head and neck. Nestle them close to your body.
- When sitting down, place your baby face down across your lap to burpor soothe them. A hand on baby’s bottom will help steady and calm them. This is also tummy time – so two in one if you are winding too!
- Get on the floor and get level with your baby to encourage eye contact. Roll up a towel or small blanket and place it lengthways under their chest and upper arms for added support. You can also place some of their favourite toys within their sight or grasp.
What age should babies stop tummy time?
So when does tummy time end? ‘Once your baby is rolling over and independently wanting to spend time on his or her tummy,’ says Thompson, ‘you can stop incorporating tummy time into your daily routine.’
‘This is usually around the six months mark,’ she adds.