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Top Tips for Tummy Time

By Natalie Tasker, founder of Baby Years.

The NHS encourages parents to give babies time on their tummy, but why is it so important?

Well, firstly tummy time is great for babies’ development as it encourages your baby to push up on their hands and, eventually, their knees. This supports your baby’s physical development by strengthening their muscles and teaching them to adjust their own position – both of which are important for key milestones such as rolling and crawling.

It is recommended that your baby sleeps on their back for naps and nighttime sleep, to reduce the risk of SIDS (Lullaby Trust, 2022). However, babies’ skulls are very soft, and too much time spent on their back can cause flat spots to develop on the back of their head. Tummy Time is a great way to for them to spend time in a different position – thereby preventing (or at least minimising) those dreaded flat areas.

Beyond the physical benefits, tummy time is also great for baby’s emotional and mental development. Whilst your baby is enjoying time on their tummy, it gives you a chance to be mindful of how you interact with them - through singing, sensory play and copying their babbling. So it’s a great chance to enjoy some meaningful play and quality time together.

Lastly, Tummy Time may also encourage wakeful periods during the day and may help baby to sleep better at night.

Top Tips for Tummy Time:

* Keep tummy time short but frequent - Your baby does not have to be on their tummy for a prolonged period of time - they can stay on their tummy for as long as they are comfortable. You could do tummy time for 5 minutes at a time but frequently, at different parts of the day.

* Tummy time does not have to be on the floor - Vary the location of tummy time  - maybe try it while your baby is on their changing mat or having a cuddle on your chest.

* Make tummy time fun! - Use mirrors so your baby can see themselves, or use sensory toys such as sensory cards to encourage them to lift their heads up.

* Chitter chatter - Speaking to your baby will keep them calm and allow them to feel safe and secure. This will distract them to stay on their tummy for longer.

* Environment is key - You can enjoy tummy time anywhere but create a space that is clear, spacious, and safe. Your baby wants to feel secure while on their tummy. For some tummy time sessions, you could turn the lights down and put on some relaxing music for a more chilled experience.

NHS Guidelines

The NHS advises that you can start tummy time from birth, with baby lying on your chest.  Tummy time is only recommended when you’re awake and feel able to do it safely with baby (NHS, 2020).

Natalie Tasker is the founder of Baby Years, and specialises in baby development (0-12months).

Baby Years provides support and advice on baby development, play and perinatal mental health through free resources, playgroups and campaigns. Natalie works with charities and organisations to improve outcomes for families and babies.