Are you a first-time mum or dad, heard people discussing about ‘tummy time’ for babies but have no clue what is it all about? Just in case you think it revolves around the idea of grooming your little one into a really well-fed baby with a cute little tummy, let us be the first to tell you- NOPE! That is definitely not what tummy time is all about, though a chubby baby with a little tummy is certainly quite an adorable sight.
So, what is tummy time?
For starters, tummy time is actually a form of baby exercise (their very first!) that is crucial and essential for your little one. It involves your little one spending a period of his or her waking hours lying on their stomach to work his or her motor, sensory, visual and developmental skills.
Why is tummy time important?
Hold on, just placing your little one on his or her tummy does not sound like it could possibly do much for your baby, doesn’t it?
Well, you are in for a surprise!
Contrary to that belief, allowing your little one to spend his or her waking hours belly-down actually brings about a variety of benefits. First and foremost, tummy time helps to prevent your little one from developing flat spots at the back and sides of his or her head (known also as positional plagiocephaly). In addition, it also helps to prevent the stiffening of your little one’s neck muscles, which may eventually cause his or her head to unnaturally tilt to one side (known as positional torticollis).
In addition to the above, tummy time also allows your little one to work out the different muscle groups. Being on his or her tummy, your little one will be more inclined to use their arms to prop themselves up, this ultimately leads to the developing and strengthening of their shoulders, arms, upper back and neck muscles. Eventually, the main goal is for your little one to have enough muscle strength to lift their heads, crawl around, sit and even stand up!
Sounds pretty amazing yeah?
When is the right time to engage in tummy time?
While there is no exact time prescription as to when is a perfect time to begin tummy time, many baby experts have recommended for it to begin as soon as possible. In fact, parents who have had babies born at full term, without any health complications, could consider starting on tummy time (with your PD permission) as soon as they get home from the hospital.
When carrying out tummy time, do also always make sure that either you or a caregiver are there to supervise over your little one. If you do catch glimpse of your baby getting sleepy in the process of tummy time, there is really no need to force your little one to complete the session. Remember, tummy time should always be carried out when your little one is fully awake and alert.
How long should I do tummy time?
For newborn babies, you could try aiming for 2-3 sessions a day for 3-5 mins at a time. Chances are however, you may very quickly notice in the initial period that your little one is not going to like these sessions very much. In fact, your first few attempts at having your baby to engage in tummy time will likely be met with a lot of resistance (think along the lines of lots of crying and screaming).
When that happens, do not panic or be disheartened! As mentioned above, there is really no point in forcing your little one into completing the session when he or she is obviously cranky, sleepy or uncomfortable. Instead, you could choose to take a break and resume only when he or she feels better or break the sessions into shorter ones. A tip that may be helpful to parents that are just starting their little one on tummy time is to actually carry these sessions out after your little one has taken a nap or during the beginning of their play time (before milk time!) - that is when they are most alert and awake!
Eventually, you may slowly increase the time spent in each session, a few minutes at a time as your little one gets older and gets more accustomed to this little ‘workout’ routine. A good gauge: at 3-4 months, your little should be doing 20-30 minutes of baby tummy time a day, in total. Keep up the practice until your baby can eventually roll over on his or her own; this milestone usually happens when your baby is around 6 months old.
How to do tummy time?
- Choose a safe and firm area and lay your baby down: Pretty much like any other exercise, a 4cm thick baby play mat on the floor will work well for your little one’s tummy time sessions!
- Engage your baby: Your little one may sometimes need some encouragement or incentive to carry out their sessions without dozing off. Placing bright-coloured toys around them during the session may help to catch their attention and to keep them alert, they will likely want to reach out to grab these toys. Some parents may also choose to lay beside their little one; your close presence may act as an incentive to your little one to lift up his or her head to catch a glimpse of mummy or daddy!
- Switch locations: If you see your baby getting restless from carrying out his tummy time sessions at a particular spot, a change in scenery might just do the trick! All you have to do is to bring a long a clean mat for your little one to lay on.
With that, we hope you now have a better idea of what tummy time is! Remember, it is tummy time and not torture time, so try not to stress your baby out too much! Take things slow and enjoy the process (:
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