Tummy time for babies is something parents constantly hear about. And often, babies don’t enjoy it! Understandably, if something makes your baby cry, as a parent you tend to avoid it. But there’s that burning question… will a lack of tummy time affect my child’s development?
About 70% of babies aren’t getting enough tummy time according to Australian recommendations of 30 minutes a day. Plus 40% are spending too much time in restricted motion positions, such as capsules, prams, bumbos, even baby carriers.
BMC Public Health. 2017; 17(Suppl 5): 856.
Published online 2017 Nov 20. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4856-9
Proportion of infants meeting the Australian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years: data from the Melbourne InFANT Program
At the most basic level, brains need stimulation to develop. And the most powerful stimulation is movement. When your body moves, it stimulates joints, muscles, the vestibular (balance) system, even the skin, which all send signals to the brain – and in the case of your baby, these signals stimulate brain development.
The benefits of tummy time on your baby’s development are far reaching. They firstly learn to activate their back extensors, which is crucial to learn how to be upright. Then they learn how to hold their own head up, and respond to sound and visual stimulation by turning their head in that direction. Being so close to the floor, babies learn how to focus on items in their near-vision and begin to gain hand-eye coordination. Once your baby has an ability to hold their head, they will begin to learn to roll over, push up with their arms, and eventually push up onto their knees to learn to cross-crawl.
Will avoiding tummy time impact these developmental milestones?
Tummy time has been linked to reaching motor milestones at a faster rate. And reaching motor milestones has been linked to improved developmental outcomes later in childhood.
Furthermore, babies who spend more time on their backs (rather than their tummy) are at increased risk of developing a flat head on one side, which has been linked to delays in development in school-aged children.
So while it’s likely your baby will still reach their milestones either way, tummy time will support their brain development, which appears to extend all the way into their childhood.