Why Tummy Time is Important for Baby’s Head and Neck Strength
Tummy Time is one of the best exercises for baby!
We often think of Tummy Time as helping strengthen baby’s core, because we are focusing on their “tummy” part of Tummy Time. But did you know it also has benefits for baby’s head and neck muscles? Here are some of the benefits for baby’s head and neck as a result of Tummy Time.
Tummy Time helps baby use their neck to lift their head
When baby is on their back, they don’t need to use their neck muscles as much. They can lay on their back with a relaxed neck and look up, which is one of the reasons why baby should always sleep on their back. But when baby is on their stomach, they are challenged to use their neck “extensors”, which are muscles that straighten their neck to lift their head. These muscles help baby hold up their head while on their stomach, so they can look around and engage with their environment. Baby will attempt to lift their head up for a few seconds around 1 month, but it won’t be until they are about 3 months old that they will be able to lift their head and have steady head control.
Here’s a Tummy Time expert tip: Try getting down at baby’s eye level during Tummy Time, and talk and smile at them! They love the sound of your voice and seeing your face. This will motivate baby to try to lift their head to look at you.
Tummy Time helps baby sit up on their own
A key part of baby being able to sit up on their own is having the neck strength to keep their head up. Sitting up on their own is an important 4-6 month milestone, because once baby can sit up on their own, they can start solid foods! Starting solids has benefits for their feeding, sensory, and motor development.
Try this during Tummy Time to help baby’s neck strength for feeding: at 3 months old, place baby tummy down on an exercise ball, holding their sides for support. Slowly move the ball toward and away from you, allowing baby to lift and hold their head more easily.
Tummy Time prevents flat spots on baby’s head
When baby spends a lot of time laying on their back, they may develop a condition called positional plagiocephaly. Put more simply, positional plagiocephaly is flat spots that can form on baby’s head. Baby’s skull is soft and can change shape depending on how baby puts pressure on their head. This pressure is applied when baby lays on their back, so Tummy Time helps to prevent baby from developing flat spots! That is why it’s so important that baby is on their back to sleep and tummy to play.
Tummy Time prevents stiff neck
“Stiff neck” is also known as positional torticollis. This may also develop when baby spends a lot of time on their back, and turns their head in one direction. This is why it’s helpful to change baby’s sleeping direction in bed every night.
By 2 months, baby will possibly be tilting their head to one side during Tummy Time. Watch to make sure they alternate tilting to both directions instead of always favoring one side, which may be a possible sign of positional torticollis.