Often new parents are misled to believe that their child is the only child within a friendship circle or mothers’ group whose baby cries when is placed on their tummy, which is often not the case at all. Babies simply just don’t like this position – it requires them to have to hold their own head up through use of their neck and shoulder muscles.
Despite it being a thoroughly disliked position by most children, it is a position that is of substantial benefit for new bubs. Tummy time allows development of head control and builds strong shoulder and core muscles – think of it as baby’s first exercise program. In addition, babies who can support weight through their arms can begin to engage in play and further develop their gross and fine motor skills.
Parents are encouraged to commence supervised tummy time from when they get home from the hospital.
The best way to get your child to adapt to the new position is to slowly increase their total daily time spent in the position. Similar to if you were training for a marathon, you wouldn’t go straight for the 42km, you would start with incremental training at something you could tolerate. The same can be said for new bubs, even if it’s just starting 30 seconds at a time.
If your baby really dislikes tummy time – like really, really dislikes it, then there are still a few tricks to make the transition to horizontal a bit easier. For example, if your baby can tolerate lying on mum or dad’s chest whilst reclining on a couple of pillows or a reclining chair. It’s not quite horizontal, but it’s on the way towards it. Another option could be supporting under their arms with a peanut pillow or rolled towel to decrease how much work they are need to do through their arms to maintain the position.
It’s important to remember that tummy time should always be supervised. It’s not safe to place your baby on its tummy whilst they sleep or leave them in this position unsupervised– check out the SIDS guidelines ( https://rednose.org.au/news/guidelines-for-new-parents-to-reduce-risk-of-sids )if you’re unsure.
If you are concerned that your baby may be developing a slight flat patch on the back of their head, try not to worry, babies’ heads are soft and malleable in the first few months. If the flattened area doesn’t start to go away on its own with increasing tummy time, it might be time to see a physiotherapist.
Don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any concerns!
Emily Evans has a special interest in the treatment of paediatric clients.