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Tummy Time

My thoughts on tummy time.

By Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)Published about a year ago 5 min read

Mythbusting - "You have to put your baby down on their tummy every day"

Nope!

YES, it's important that babies don't spend all their time lying back in some contraption or other.

BUT most don't have to be placed on their tummy on the floor regularly, or at all.

TL;DR

I'm going to come straight out and say it - I'm not a fan of tummy time for most families and especially for newborn babies (ie. those who are not yet rolling over by themselves). This is partly because babies often dislike it, and also because it's often unnecessary.

Babies don't like it

Imagine if you were plonked down on your tummy, barely able to keep your head up, and unable to move yourself out of that position. Think how physically uncomfortable that would be. Imagine how unpleasant it would feel - unnerving, even scary. Admittedly, the baby in the attached picture looks quite happy - but it was actually quite tricky it was to find an image of a baby awake and prone on their front! I wonder how many of those pictures get discarded because the baby is too cranky to be photogenic.

Unnecessary

If a baby spends enough time in-arms - upright and tum to mum - they don't need tummy time. Essentially, the tummy time they get on their caregiver still counts - it's just better than being on the floor! It is far more pleasant for them, and also - very important! - it meets their need to be held.

Important Note

No matter how much tummy time a baby has, they still have a fundamental need to be carried. A LOT.

A baby who is carried enough and never "tummy timed" will still develop optimally/normally.

Being Informed

Let's all be informed about normal infant behaviour and needs. We need to stop telling new mums "put that baby down! You'll make a rod for your own back!" We need to stop haranguing them about "tummy time" to avoid flat head syndrome.

What to do instead

Instead, we need to be supporting parents to make sure their littlun is accruing enough time in-arms 👍

We can do this by, in the first instance, ensuring they know that it's normal, healthy and important for their baby to need to be held. It's just as normal, healthy and important to meet that need. It isn't "spoiling".

We should offer to carry the baby for them if they need a break.

Show them a good tum-to-mum position that allows a healthy position for the baby's back and hips, and strengthens their core. This will support them to hit their milestones (eg rolling, sitting up, standing, walking, etc) when they are ready.

We can support parents to use carriers that make carrying their baby in this position easier, and makes tummy time unnecessary.

Why this approach is better

This approach satisfies baby's physical, mental and emotional needs and renders tummy time unnecessary. Tummy time partially satisifes some physical needs, but doesn't negate the need to be held.

Why do parents still do tummy time for their babies?

Most people are unaware of truly how important being held is for a baby's wellbeing and development.

It's still a common misconception that carrying will spoil a child. New parents are often discouraged from holding their babies "too much".

If you have recently had a baby, please know: it's impossible to over-cuddle a baby! Cuddle them as much as you physically are able. How much time do you think they need to spend being held? You probably need to double it.

So why is tummy time recommended for babies?

Spending some time on their tummy while awake helps to avoid flat head syndrome. It also helps the baby to develop the muscles they need for things like sitting up and crawling.

However - it's important to note that carrying your baby in a good position facing you also does these things while also meeting the need to be held. It just makes sense to take this approach if it's physically do-able.

When tummy time is a good thing

Tummy time is a tool in the box. It's not as good as carrying, but there are some specific times when it's helpful. Babies in nursery (daycare) are unlikely to spend enough time being carried. Lone parents might struggle to spend enough time carrying their baby. Parents with disabilities or chronic pain might be unable to. These are examples of situations when tummy time can be useful. It can help to offset the disadvantages of those situations.

If none of these apply to you, you never need to make your baby do tummy time. If they are able to roll over, they will get themselves on their tummy when they are ready.

Briefly popping them on their tummy while holding them (not on the floor) can help you to calm a baby who is quite fussy. Lay them across your knee or along your forearm (the latter is sometimes called the tiger in the tree position).

Of course, please don't put your baby to sleep in this position - on their back is recommended due to being safer.

Follow the money

Keep in mind that baby-holding gadgets are a big market! Of course most brand new babies spend a lot of time asleep, and most of us are aware by now of the importance of lying them on their back for this. Then, while awake, they are cycled between car seat to swing to bouncy chair to playgym to changing mat and back again. Is it any wonder some get flat head syndrome?

In conclusion

We don't need to be broadly recommending traditional "tummy time", or feeling a twinge of guilt if we aren't making sure we pop our babes on their bellies daily.... With the caveat that this is true provided babies are spending enough time being held!

We need to educate new parents the importance of holding their babies enough, and reassure them that "tummy time" in arms absolutely counts - in fact, it's better!

Your thoughts welcome

What do you think?

*

Note from me - I have used the term "mum" throughout this piece, because in most cases, in the early weeks of a baby's life, it's the mum who is the main caregiver. I trust that if your situation is a bit different, you will know whether or not these phrases apply to you!

parents

About the Creator

Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)

Childbirth Eductator since 2011

Building a resource for mothers-to-be to feel informed and confident about their choices

You can find me on Facebook or book classes with me

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    Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)Written by Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)

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