Tummy time helps to build the strength of your babies neck, back and shoulder muscles. Building strength in these muscles is an important foundation for sitting, crawling and walking later in life. Tummy time also helps to prevent some common musculoskeletal problems, torticollis (stiff neck) and plagiocephaly (misshapen head).
Tummy time should always be supervised and only during awake hours. It is not safe to put your baby on his/her tummy to sleep.
Tummy time should be commenced soon after birth provided your baby is medically stable. After spending 9 months supported by fluid in utero, tummy time is hard work for babies! Initially they will only tolerate short amounts of time. Give your baby some time on their tummy during each nappy change during the day so that they are doing short, regular sessions rather than one long session.
There are many different ways to do tummy time. A good way to start is by holding your baby over your shoulder as though you are going to burp them. It is easier for their neck muscles to hold their head up in this position than lying flat on their stomach. Use your knowledge of what your baby is interested in to come up with ways to encourage them to lift their head up and look around.
Sometimes babies don't tolerate tummy time well. Your paediatric physiotherapist can assess your baby and show you different ways to do tummy time so that it's fun, safe and developing his/her strength.
Note: It is not safe to position your baby on their tummy to sleep. Babies should always sleep on their back to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Please refer to the SIDS and Kids Foundation for information about safe sleeping www.sidsandkidsshop.org/safe-sleeping