Tummy Time for Babies: Building Strong Necks and Healthy Brains.
As parents, we constantly strive to provide the best possible care for our precious little ones. From the moment they are born, we are immersed in a world of wonder and discovery as we watch our babies grow and develop. One crucial aspect of a baby’s early development that often causes contention is tummy time. Let’s explore the significance of tummy time for babies, with a focus on how it helps build neck and shoulder strength and supports healthy brain development. We’ll also delve into the reasons why some babies may resist tummy time.
Tummy time refers to the practice of placing a baby on their stomach while they are awake and supervised. However just plonking a baby on their tummy and walking away to get things done is not what we mean nor does that work – cue immediate crying. We like to call tummy time something more accurate which is interactive floor play time. This seemingly simple interaction plays a pivotal role in a baby’s overall brain, social and gross motor milestone development.
Neck Strength, Arm and overall Muscle Development.
Tummy time helps babies develop the strength and coordination needed to lift their heads and eventually control their neck and shoulder muscles. This position encourages the use of the extensor back muscles, the shoulder girdle muscles and the neck muscles. All of which are essential for holding up their heads but also for later milestones like rolling over, sitting up, and crawling.
Tummy time and brain development.
Interactive floor play time helps the baby engage with eye contact in a different way (head extended and looking up). The act of lifting their heads during tummy time stimulates a baby’s visual and sensory systems. When a baby is on their tummy, they have the opportunity to look around, interact with their surroundings, and engage with caregivers. This visual and sensory stimulation is vital for brain development, including visual tracking, spatial awareness, and hand-eye coordination. Great ways to interact during this time is using mirrors so they can see themselves, reading baby books, rolling toys around that move (cars and balls), or just laying face to face and singing nursery rhymes.
Preventing Flat Head Syndrome with regular tummy time.
Regular tummy time can help prevent the development of positional plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome. Babies skulls are not designed to be in the same position and pressure point for extended periods of time. Babies who spend too much time lying on their backs or in one position can develop a flat spot on their heads. Tummy time gives them a chance to relieve pressure on the back of their heads and develop a well-rounded skull shape. The same is true for baby carrying.
Why Some Babies May Resist Tummy Time.
While tummy time is immensely beneficial, not all babies immediately take to it with enthusiasm. Here are some common reasons why babies might resist tummy time:
- Discomfort: Babies may feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar in this position, particularly if they have an issue in their neck or shoulder girdle. As pediatric chiropractors this is one of the many things we check for and help correct.
- Weakness: Babies born prematurely or with low muscle tone might find it more challenging to lift their heads during tummy time. In such cases, consult with your pediatrician or a pediatric chiropractor for guidance on how to support their development. One simple exercise to help encourage the muscle strength needed for tummy time is ball rocking. Place your baby on their tummy on a large ‘gym’ ball and rest your hand on their nappy. Then gently rock them forwards and backwards as well as side to side. These movements should encourage the activation of muscles used to counteract the feeling of falling. This is a reflex reaction and a passive way to engage muscle activation.
- Boredom: Babies can get bored quickly. Think gold fish 3 second memory. Make tummy time engaging by being an active participant and using colourful or noise/song toys or objects within their reach to encourage them to look around and explore.
- Sensory Sensitivity: Some babies have heightened sensory sensitivities and may be more sensitive to touch or texture. Pay attention to your baby’s cues, and if they seem distressed, try different textures or surfaces during tummy time. Think hard cold floor verses soft mat or carpet.
- Gradual Introduction: Ease your baby into tummy time by starting with short sessions and gradually increasing the duration as they become more comfortable. Be patient and supportive throughout the process. But most of all call in your inner child and fun with it. More play time is important for adults as much as kids.
If you have any concerns or questions feel free to reach out to us via email, phone or one of our socials channels.