What is tummy time?
Tummy time is an Anglo-Saxon term that means "time on the stomach". Since the new recommendations for back-lying and childcare equipment that keep our babies on their backs, it is important to offer our babies other positions such as on the side or belly, in order to enrich the limits of their body pattern, develop their motor skills, and prevent the syndrome of the "flat head", among others. The ventral position and the side can be initiated from the maternity hospital during the phases of awakening of your baby.
Why practice tummy time?
Tummy time is always practiced in the waking phase.
It allows not only to develop motor skills and strengthen the muscles of the neck, upper back and buttocks; but also to prevent the flat head syndrome by limiting the required support of the cranial box, the time of support and by soliciting the suboccipital muscles.
Your baby will horizontalize its gaze. It will gradually be able to alternate its supporting body parts. This is an excellent exercise for symmetrical rotational movements of the head and upper limbs. But that's not all, it will give new sensory information and help your baby to feel the limits of its body. So your baby will learn to push off the floor by opening its hands.
How long to practice tummy time?
There is no good daily time limit.
Your baby is born with a hypotonic spine and hypertonic limbs. The younger your baby is, the less it will last on the tummy. Your baby will stay initially for a few seconds and then gradually for a few minutes.
Respect your baby's fatigue and tolerance to this new position. If it shows signs of fatigue or annoyance, you can place it on its side. Thus, it will be able to curl up, regroup (in order to initiate flips) and manipulate objects. The back of its head (occipital) will not be in support and will prevent the appearance of flat head (plagiocephaly/brachycephaly).
MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
My baby doesn't like being on his stomach.
WRONG: All babies accept the position on the tummy. Though making soothing sounds and gently caressing the baby can facilitate this acceptance, particularly during the first couple of tries.
Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, each baby has relative endurance and tolerance. No need to do any ‘sports training’ for them. If your baby gets annoyed or cries, put it on its side, maybe it's just tired.
Be careful all the same, some babies have digestive discomfort (colic, GERD, regurgitations.), in this case, you can opt for the supine ventral position (on a nursing cushion, a rolled towel, etc.). The inclination will limit these inconveniences. Over time, you will be able to decrease this inclination and put your baby on a horizontal plane.
My baby doesn't like it when I turn its head to one side.
Maybe it has a preferential side? A torticollis? Talk to your doctor/paediatrician and/or consult a physical therapist or manual therapist.
This content has been brought to you by Solène, a physiotherapist specialising in perinatal care.