benefits of tummy time

Babies need time on their tummies to optimise growth and development. Paediatric physiotherapists will encourage babies use time on their tummy for play to help their development. Tummy time can take many forms but the use of a firm stable surface will give the optimum base for your baby to push against.

When should you start tummy time for babies?

You can start with tummy time from day 1. Research shows the earlier babies start the better they tolerate it. The benefits of tummy time far outway any risks associated with it.

What are the risks of tummy time?

Never leave your baby unsupervised on their tummy if they are not able to move themsleves around. The main risk is suffocation as with the tummy postion at night and the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

How long should babies be in tummy time?

We are asked alot about how much tummy time a baby needs? It’s best to start with short bursts of 3-5 minutes of tummy time. Aim for 2-3 times daily to start. As your baby gets stronger and starts to enjoy it more you can increase the time they spend on their tummy.

The Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists (APCP) is calling on mothers to give their babies more tummy time. Give the best start in life by placing them on their tummies more often. Research from the United States of America suggests babies spend atleast 15 minutes a day on their tummy.

What skills does tummy time develop?

Tummy time is vital for babies to learn to be able to move through different postures. Tummy time helps to develop strength, co-ordination and balance. It is useful in mastering activities such as rolling, reaching, moving side to side and crawling. Although babies predominantly placed on their backs catch up in their development skills. Paediatric physiotherapists say the first few months of life are an important time. This is when babies start becoming aware of their bodies and learning movement. So utilising more tummy time helps promote development of these skills.

What happens if I don’t put my baby on tummy time?

The Association of Paediatric Physiotherapists (APCP) noted that fewer babies were getting ‘protected tummy time’. This may have resulted in delays in babies reaching important milestones. Such as crawling and walking. There has also been an associated increase in head flattening (plagiocephaly), and infant tortcollis – a tightening of muscles on one side of the neck leading to the head tilting to that side, with reduced tummy time.

Reassuringly even though babies who spent more time on their tummy developed some skills earlier a lack of tummy time did no tmean these skills were not developed in this population. A 2020 systematic review confirmed this. Although babies who had more tummy time developed gross motor skills, reduced BMI-z score, and the ability to roll and crawl earlier. The ability to sit or walk was not any faster than babies who were given less dedicated tummy time.

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What happens if my baby does not like tummy time?

If you find that your baby does not like tummy time and cries then it is important to make tummy time ‘fun’! Use colourful/musical toys to engage them, and ensure your baby knows they are not alone. The use of baby massage strokes specific to the back, are also useful to help encourage your baby to love it. It’s worth it to reap the benefits of tummy time.

Can tummy time help reduce the risk of cot death?

There is no doubt that the Back to Sleep Campaign since 1991 has been extremely effective in reducing the number of cot deaths, as parents have become aware of the importance of placing baby on their back to sleep.

Statistics show 19% of mothers with children under six months old never put their babies on their fronts to play and only 22% regularly give their babies “tummy time”.1 It will also promote the strength they need to change their position themselves. Once your baby is able to roll from front to back and back again, they will find their own sleep position. Just another of the benefits of tummy time. Until this time they should be placed on their back.

Joyce Epstein, Director at the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths agreed that babies should have more tummy time while awake, but stressed they must always be placed on their backs to sleep.

 Babies who do not sleep on their back have a nine times increased risk of cot death. However, when babies are awake they should spend time on their tummies – not always flat on the back. This aids their healthy development.

Conclusion

The benefits of tummy time are well documented. Aswell as the short term benfit of earlier developmental milestones i tmay also be a good startegy to minimise the risks associated with prone sleeping. This on it’s own could serve as incentive enough to maximise the benefits of tummy time! If you’d like to learn more or would like a session with one of our expert paedicatric physios follow the link below.

1 Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID)

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