Newborn tummy time is one of the essential first exercises in a child’s development. It describes when your baby is awake and placed on their belly for a short time, while supervised.
My baby son loved tummy time. At 3 weeks he would lift his head briefly and turn it from side to side when we placed him on his play mat. Despite the constant judgment from mom police who were adamant that I was mistreating him, we went on with it. I would say tummy time exercises helped meet his 1st year milestones quite early.
It can start as soon as day one when you lay your newborn on their belly across your lap or chest for 1-2 minutes 3 times a day while supporting their neck the whole time. As your baby begins to enjoy tummy time, you may work up to longer and more frequent sessions throughout the day.
Benefits of tummy time
Tummy time is crucial for your newborn’s visual, motor, and sensory development:
- It strengthens core muscles of the neck, shoulder, and back needed for him to sit up, roll over, crawl, pull up to a stand, and walk.
- It promotes gross motor skills needed to move and complete an action.
- It helps with eye-hand coordination.
- It helps prevent flat spots at the back of the baby’s head (flat head syndrome.)
9 tips to make the most out of newborn tummy time
- Start with short sessions each day after a nap or bath. The baby starts to expect it. We would do his sessions after each diaper change. Avoid immediately after feeding as it can disrupt digestion.
- Place exciting age-appropriate toys within the baby’s reach to help your baby learn to play and interact with his surroundings. Hold them a few inches from your baby’s head and let him follow them with his eyes.
- Keep your baby company. Lie or sit on the floor next to your baby to distract them and encourage interaction and bonding. I would make faces or sing to him, motivating him to keep his head up.
- Read the baby a board book. Place it at eye level to help develop his eyesight. At 3 months, I introduced a non-breakable mirror for him to see his reflection and play with. It was his favorite!
- Prop baby up with a nursing pillow. If he has some head control, place him over the pillow with shoulders and arms propped on top. This helped my son go for longer stretches. If he slipped down the pillow, I would reposition it.
- Educate your caregiver on the importance of tummy time. Let them know that it is a daily routine when the baby is awake. Also, explain the importance of placing your baby on his back to sleep.
- If your baby fusses and cries during tummy time, wait for when he is most happy. He should go through it for short stints while you encourage him. I made it part of regular play. Eventually, he will get used to it and enjoy it.
- Tune in to your baby’s needs. Find out what distresses him and fix it. It could be the blankie getting too scrunched up for his comfort. Do things that make him comfortable. My baby enjoyed massages during tummy time.
- Tummy time safety tip. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies sleep on their backs as a safe sleep practice to prevent the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This means your baby gets less chance to work the upper body muscles hence, tummy time. Never leave an infant unattended on their belly. If he gets sleepy, switch him to his back in his crib.
If you have concerns about newborn tummy time, talk to your pediatrician. Good luck, mama!