Tummy time! When, where, and how?

First off, what is the purpose of tummy time? Time with the baby laying on their front allows for the strengthening of the baby’s head, neck, shoulder and chest muscles. These muscles are essential for eating, supporting their head, rolling and crawling just to name a few.

When do you start tummy time?

Tummy time can begin as early as the first week and increases in importance as the baby grows. We often spend a lot of time holding our newborns on our chest or shoulders. This counts as tummy time! Newborns only need a couple minutes of tummy time per day As they grow, we look to increase the number of minutes a day a baby spends on their tummy working our way up to about an hour of cumulative tummy time a day.

How to incorporate tummy time into your daily routine?

It’s best to do tummy time when the baby is calm. Using a firm surface and placing their hands near their face will allow them to push up more effectively. You can also roll up a blanket or towel and prop it under their underarms to give them a sense of support. Placing a toy in front of them to entertain them and encourage reaching is helpful as well. Many babies also enjoy looking at their reflection in a mirror. Talk to your baby and make eye contact to encourage them to participate. Only do tummy time when you are able to engage and monitor your baby. Keep the baby on their tummy for as long as they are happy. As soon as they show signs of frustration or crying, pick them up. Their tolerance and strength will slowly increase from seconds to minutes.

Nappy changes: Flipping the baby over onto their tummy at nappy changes is a great way to incorporate tummy time.

Bath time: towel the baby dry while they lay on their tummy.

Massage & moisturizing: massage their back and legs and apply lotion while they are on their tummies.

Holding: place your baby on your chest during periods of awake time and watch them lift their heads and push off with their arms

This article was written by Christina Brose, from the Thula Baby Centre in Cape Town. She is an American Registered Midwife and Nurse as well as a qualified doula and Lactation consultant. Thula Baby Centre is a well baby clinic offering antenatal classes, weigh-ins and growth monitoring, Lactation support and advice about settling fussy babies, routines, starting solids and sleep issues amongst other baby and parent related issues. They also provide vaccinations in line with the South African National Guidelines as well as the private vaccination schedule.