She’s not going to like it at all at first, but flipping baby over onto her tummy has huge long-term benefits. Spending time on her tummy allows your baby to see things from a different perspective and prepares her body for crawling
WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT According to Liezl Bothma, a paediatric physiotherapist, it is really important for babies to spend time on their tummy. Firstly, it encourages them to lift up their heads. This promotes good head control from a young age. As your baby develops, she will support herself with her arms and lift up her chest. This action strengthens her shoulder, arm and back muscles. As she gets older, she will be able to reach out with one hand while supporting herself with the other.
START EARLY You can start placing your baby in the “prone” position (on her tummy) from birth (starting with very short periods). “The earlier your baby starts spending time on her tummy, the better. Each baby will develop in her own time, but placing your baby on her tummy from early on provides good stimulation and aids development,” Liezl says. She recommends you start tummy time on your lap. This way you can rub your baby’s back to stimulate her muscles. You can also try massaging her, which should encourage her to feel more comfortable in the position. Your baby might be quite uncomfortable on her tummy at first, as it’s an unfamiliar position. Don’t despair, though. Your baby’s tolerance will increase with time and a bit of encouragement.
FUN ON THE TUM When your baby is a little older she will gain more control over her head. If she can’t quite support herself on her elbows, Liezl recommends gently placing her elbows under her shoulders as this will give her more support. You could also play “aeroplane” with her. Lie on the floor, bend your legs and place your baby on her tummy against your legs, with her head at your knees. Move your legs up and down, while holding your baby firmly. She’ll love the motion!
As your baby gets stronger, place a toy in front of her and encourage her to reach for it. As she gains confidence and strength, move the toy further away, or hold it up a bit so that she needs to reach up for it. Eventually your baby will start pushing up on her hands. Some babies even enjoy being placed tummy down on a big exercise ball, and being held while the ball is gently rocked back and forth.
Liezl doesn’t believe in setting aside a certain time of the day for tummy time, but she does recommend babies do activities on their tummies as often as is practical. Don’t let your baby sleep on her tummy, and remember to always keep an eye on your baby while she is spending time on her tummy.
TIPS FOR HAPPY TUMMY TIME • Keep your baby company: Your baby might feel uncomfortable on her tummy, especially in the beginning. The best way to distract her from this discomfort is to get down on the floor with her, or place her on your own tummy if she’s still very young. Talk to her while she’s spending time on her tummy, play with her and her toys or even make funny faces at her. • Provide entertainment: Keep your baby from getting bored or frustrated by giving her something with which to keep herself busy. Prop a board book open in front of her, which will also encourage her to use her hands and arms as support. You could even invest in a tummy time activity mat. These have mirrors, squeaky toys and lights attached to them, encouraging your baby to spend time on her tummy while learning. • Time it right: Your baby will not enjoy tummy time if she is tired or hungry. She might also feel uncomfortable if you place her in the prone position on a full tummy. • Tune in to your baby: If your baby finds tummy time very distressing, try to find out why. Investigate to see if she’s cold, or has something caught under her. Try to find out what makes your baby happiest while she’s on her tummy, and what makes her uncomfortable. YB
AS YOUR BABY GETS STRONGER, PLACE A TOY IN FRONT OF HER AND ENCOURAGE HER TO REACH FOR IT