The Importance of Tummy Time

Importance of Tummy time | Paediatric Physiotherapy

With increased awareness being published on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the recommendation that babies should sleep on their backs, there seems to be an anxiety about getting your baby to spend time on their tummy. However, research also shows that a lack of tummy time can delay your baby from meeting their developmental milestones (lifting their head, rolling over, sitting…). Well this blog will tell you all you need to know about this vital activity that should be in your babies schedule.

Babies can sleep up to 15 hours a day if you add up all the time they nap throughout the day and night. That’s 15 hours spent on their back in one position. Therefore, when they are awake it is important for their development that they spend short periods of time playing in different positions to strengthen different muscles, particularly time spent on their tummy.

But why? What makes tummy time so vital for development?

Here are some reasons why Tummy Time is important:

  1. It helps strengthen the muscles in your baby’s neck so that they can hold their head up against gravity and look out at the world which surrounds them
  2. Aids cognitive development and awareness of the environment around them
  3. It encourages weight shift when playing, reaching, pivoting and all the precursors to crawling
  4. It increases strength in your child’s shoulders and arms so that later in life they can reach/ crawl/ climb/ write with ease
  5. It encourages hand-eye coordination when playing and the balance and coordination needed to roll over
  6. It prevents the development of a “flat spot” on the back of your baby’s head (plagiocephaly)
  7. Its helps with the formation of arches in their hand for fine motor development
  8. It helps with gas and constipation
  9. It stretches and develops muscles in and around the hips in preparation for crawling and walking
  10. It helps strengthen the muscles in your child’s back, helping with posture and skeletal alignment
  11. It helps visual-motor development and depth perception

Quite a few advantages of tummy time aren’t there?!?

I think all these points give you more than enough reason to try and get your little one to spend some time on their tummy.

When to start focussing on Tummy Time

Tummy times should, ideally start at around 2 weeks old. Initially it’ll only be for short periods of time (1 minute of play) but gradually; as your baby gets stronger neck muscles, gets more used to being in that position and as you get more confident with handling them being in this position you can gradually increase this time.

It’s perfectly normal for your baby to fuss when you initially begin tummy time, this is one of the reasons why we recommend starting it so young and gradually building up the time. It takes time to build up the strength in their necks and initially its hard work…if we asked you to run a marathon without training, you’d probably complain too!

Tips and exercise ideas:

Try incorporating tummy time into your daily routine, for example:

  • Lying on your chest
  • Tummy time after nappy change (not after feed or you’ll be feeding them again very quickly!)
  • Use a mirror to make your child engage in tummy time – they love making faces at themselves
  • Use a rolled-up towel under their chest initially if they are struggling to lift their chest and head up alone
  • Games such as flying aeroplane
  • Read a book in this position to keep them engaged

Tummy Time exercises | Paediatric Physiotherapy

By 2 months you should be aiming for your baby to tolerate 5 minutes of play on their tummy at a time. If it’s still tricky or they don’t like it, you can try rolling up a towel and putting it under their chest to give them a bit of support.

By 3-4 months all being well they should be able to lift their head and chest off the floor and be starting to weight bear through propped elbows to support them.

From 4 months they might start attempting to push up onto extended arms and this is when you don’t want to take your eyes off them as they will be rolling over from front to back before you know it!

By 6 months, if your baby is consistently rolling over and moving in between positions independently you don’t need to fit specific tummy time into your daily routine…you might want to start moving on to sitting!

However, if your baby is struggling to reach these milestones…don’t panic!!!

Get in touch and we can do a full assessment and advise you on what might help in each individual case. Even if it is just for a one off assessment to reassure you that everything is ok.


Author - Lucy Phillips | Paediatric Physiotherapist

Contact the clinic – Moulton 01604 493066

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