Our babies used to sleep on their tummies. Then in 1994 many health organizations advised families to put babies on their backs to go to sleep. This new sleeping position decreased the amount of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) incidents by 50 per cent.
Now our babies sleep on their backs, and spend a lot of time in wonderfully designed swings, rocking chairs, car seats, strollers, and activity centres. Propping your young baby up with pillows and cushions on the floor is great for letting them see the world happen around them, but they also need to have time on their tummy.
Spending time on their tummy is an important developmental stage. They are developing their neck muscles as they hold their head up, and they are strengthening their wrists and arms as they push themselves up. They have complete freedom of movement to kick and push with their feet and legs.
From the newborn baby stage you can start placing your baby on a blanket on the floor for a few minutes a day. Your baby should only be placed in this position when they are awake and alert, not left here unsupervised or asleep. If they fret or become uncomfortable you can pick them up but the regular experience of tummy time is very important for the development of their body and muscles.
In the beginning you can place your baby on their tummy two to three times a day for only a few minutes. As your baby gets stronger you can gradually increase the amount of time they spend on the floor. You can lay on the floor next to your baby and engage them in songs and games encouraging them to explore the position they’re in. Place toys just out of reach so your baby has to stretch out to grab them.
If your baby doesn’t like being placed on their tummy you can build up their experience and capacity slowly by laying on your back and placing your baby on their tummy, on your tummy. They are in a soft and safe position with you, and they can explore lifting their head and getting comfortable before you place them on the floor. Slowly build up the time on their tummy until they reach regular intervals throughout the day.
Your baby should never be left unattended on a bed, sofa, changing mat, or any surface higher than the floor. As your baby develops their muscles they can start pushing themselves up and rolling over. On the floor they’ll just roll along, but higher up they can fall off the surface.
During tummy time your child is building their muscular strength, their sense of balance, developing their ability to crawl, crossing the mid-line, and building cross lateral movements. These are all important developmental stages for the healthy growth of your young child.