In your tummy, your baby was curled up in a little ball shape. Tummy time exercises allow your baby to open up and gently elongate the front of their body for optimal newborn development. Tummy time itself does not hurt. However, it is a brand new, stimulating experience for babies to process as they engage their entire body to lay the foundation of all of their sensorimotor skills for their entire life.
Benefits of Tummy Time:
- Tummy time teaches your baby safety techniques. For example, routinely sleeping on their stomach raises a baby’s risk of SIDS about 4 times. However, SIDS risk increases 8-37 times when babies under 4 months sleep on their back and then accidentally roll onto their stomach. Naturally, your baby will flip over during sleep as they age, but the way you can protect them is to provide them with skills learned through doing tummy time exercises. These safety techniques will help them to free their face by arching their back and lifting their head when they do eventually roll over.
- Tummy time promotes visual development through building visual motor skills, binocular vision, two eye coordination, looking upward, and moving eyes side to side independent of head movements. This can influence later activities in life such as copying a teacher’s notes from a whiteboard and following a moving object such as a baseball.
- Tummy time eases tummy function to help reduce gas and reflux, decrease constipation, and encourage bowel movements.
- Tummy time builds motor skills of the arm, hand, neck, and shoulder for rolling over, crawling, and eventually walking. Tummy time also prevents torticollis, abnormal or asymmetrical neck positioning, due to tightness in the neck muscle. Babies may be having trouble with active head and neck movements when they do not turn their head or stare in one area without moving their eyes. Studies show a direct correlation linking thirty waking minutes of consistent tummy time with higher newborn developmental task scores and improved gross motor control of the neck and head when compared to babies who did not practice tummy time exercises.
- Tummy time produces the optimal head shape. Most babies sleep on their backs, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and long periods of time can create pressure on one area of the head. Then when awake, babies are often playing on their backs which reinforces that pressure. A baby’s soft skull molds easily, and this can create a flat spot on that area of the head. Daily tummy time exercises give the baby a break from their back, ensuring a round head and prevents neck troubles and imbalances flat spots can bring due to one side of their head weighing more than the other side.
- Tummy time engages oral function while strengthening throat, tongue, and oral skills for optimal latch and feeding. Without enough exposure to tummy time, baby’s tongue will not function optimally.
- Tummy time facilitates sensory skills and input for hands to mouth and lips, as well as vestibular skills which help the brain register and respond to whether an object they are looking at is moving or if their head is moving, how quickly, and in what direction. It also helps them have balance and equilibrium, equipping them to coordinate both sides of their body together for future activities like catching a ball, riding a bike, cutting with scissors, and zipping a jacket. Tummy time helps the vestibular system to also develop muscle tone for sitting still and upright in a classroom and holding their body parts in-position like when practicing ballet technique.
- Tummy time inspires self-confidence and establishes a connection when your baby is complemented after working so hard. Spending time praising your baby after even thirty seconds of exercises does wonders for your baby’s neurodevelopment. Research has shown that the single most important building block of self-esteem is the responsiveness of the caregivers to the cues of the infant. This means your reactions give meaning and importance to your baby’s impulses.
Tummy Time Methods
A Newborn Care Specialist can help you and your baby through tummy time to reach your baby’s newborn developmental milestones. Learn tips on how to do tummy time here.