Fun ways for parents and babies to enjoy more tummy time
There is no denying tummy time is important. Our challenge as chiropractors is to empower parents to embrace this essential neurodevelopmental activity from the moment their little one is born and stick with it!
Advise the parents to start tummy time with just a few minutes whenever given the opportunity: after a bath, dry baby while on her stomach and give her a lovely, gentle back massage while she is there. Burp baby while prone over parent’s lap and roll her onto her tummy for a stint with every nappy change. Explain to the parents not to let baby get overtired. When the head flops down or she starts to fuss, that’s is enough for now.
The long-term aim is to work up to longer sessions, adding up to at least 40-60 minutes per day.
A great way to start tummy time with a newborn is simply to rest on the chest of a reclining parent. The parent can be more or less horizontal depending on baby’s comfort and tolerance.
Being carried tummy down on a parent’s arm is often very soothing for baby, while still encouraging her to lift her head.
Tummy time can also be done on the parent’s thighs, either across (maybe with one thigh slightly higher than the other the make it a bit easier to lift the head) or along the thighs. This works particularly well if there is an amazing sibling running around or a doting Nanna that is interesting to observe.
Another great way to play with baby while providing tummy time is placing baby on the parent’s shins. This is a great opportunity for the parents to do a bit of core exercise too. It can be done sitting, where the angle of the legs again determines the amount of work required for the baby to lift the head. The parent now switches on their core and leans back a bit to get a work-out of their own.
It can also be done with the parent supine. The higher the shins, the more of a work-out for parent and baby.
And don’t forget the ball. Babies often love the vestibular stimulation of rolling on their tummies on the big ball. Forwards and backwards, and side to side.
As baby gets a bit older and stronger she will often be quite happy being on the floor. Place them on different colours and textures: blankets, sheep skins, towels, fleeces and playmats, to provide interesting and varied sensory experiences. If baby still struggles to lift and control the head, a small rolled up towel placed under the baby’s chest and arms may help.
The important point for parents to realise is that tummy time is not a time to do the dishes. It is hard work for the baby and will usually go down much better when it involves fun and socialisation. Encourage the parents to spend this time on their tummies as well, to visually connect with their baby, coo and chat, sing songs and nursery rhymes. Also use mirrors and interesting colourful toys to keep baby engaged and interested.
The expectations for baby’s tummy time is that she for the first couple of months will lift the head up and turn from cheek to cheek. By 3 months, baby will hold the head up to 45-90 degrees without too much bobbing and hold a bit of weight on the elbows. The 4 month old will hold the head to 90 degrees for extended periods and lift chest off the floor through their forearms. They will also lift both arms and legs up and do ‘swimming’ movements. By the 5th month, the baby will often learn to roll. This will decrease the amount of time the baby spends on her tummy. However, it is from here baby will learn to commando crawl and 4 point cross crawl, so encourage the parents to keep putting baby on the stomach and let her do as she pleases from there. Which is what she will end up doing anyway…..
Let us actively work together with our families and communities to promote a stronger and healthier next generation.