Tummy time is when you lay your baby on the stomach or side when he or she is awake. You can put your baby on the floor, on a safe firm surface, on your lap, or on your chest for tummy time. Your baby needs supervised tummy time several times a day because it:
- prevents your baby from getting flat area on its head called positional plagiocephaly
- makes the muscles of your baby’s neck, back, and arms stronger
- helps your baby learn to roll and crawl
- supports your baby’s overall development
Some babies like being on their tummies but many do not like it at first. You may have to help your baby learn to enjoy tummy time. Here are some tips:
- Start tummy time when your baby is a newborn.
- Put your baby on her or his tummy after each diaper change. Add one minute of tummy time each day. If your baby gets very upset, increase the time more slowly.
- Talk and sing to your baby. Try to comfort your baby.
- Give your baby a massage on his or her back, arms, or legs. Gently touch or stroke your baby.
- Give your baby interesting things to look at, such as brightly coloured toys or a mirror. Get down on the floor so your baby can see your face.
- You can also roll up a towel and put it under your baby’s chest with your baby’s arms propped up in front of her or him to give support. At first put your hand under your baby’s chin to support the head until your baby is strong enough to do it by his‑ or herself.
Your baby only needs to be on her or his back when sleeping. When awake, your baby needs to be held, loved and played with. Supervised tummy time is a very important part of your baby’s day.
Why do some babies develop flat spots on their heads?
Babies’ skulls are very soft and the bones can be affected by pressure. Babies also have weak neck muscles. Because of this, they tend to turn their heads to one side when placed on their backs. If babies always rest on the same area of the head, the skull may flatten. A baby can also get a flat area on the head because their position in pregnancy or during birth. This is known as a ‘flat head’. The medical term for this is positional plagiocephaly.
Can a baby’s flat head be prevented?
Yes. You can help your baby have a round head shape by:
- having supervised tummy time several times a day
- avoiding long periods in bouncy seats, infant swings, and strollers
- limiting the time your baby spends in a car seat
- changing the positions you use to hold and carry your baby
- changing your baby’s position on the crib each day:
- One day, place your baby with his or her head at one end of the crib.
- The next day, place your baby with his or her head at the other end of the crib.
- Switch ends each day.
If your baby still develops flat spots, talk to your health care provider or public health nurse.