From being a tiny, helpless infant, completely physically reliant on you, to quickly mastering sitting, crawling and eventually walking, your baby’s physical independence develops rapidly during their first year. The key to their healthy development is building muscle strength and – as anyone who’s spent time in the gym knows – to do that, the muscles need to be worked regularly.
One of the best ways to help strengthen your baby’s neck, shoulder and back muscles is by having them spend time on their tummy. Here they learn to lift and hold their head and neck up, and eventually push their head and torso up using their arms, all of which helps them master key skills such as rolling over, sitting upright, crawling and eventually pulling up to a stand, explains occupational therapist Tamaryn Hunter. ‘Tummy time lays the foundation for the development of appropriate gross and fine motor co-ordination in childhood,’ she says.
However, Jennifer McGuirk, occupational therapist from the Child Integration Centre in Johannesburg, explains that parents have long been encouraged to put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While
the incidence of SIDS has decreased, babies today don’t spend as much time on their tummies as previous generations. Plus, she says, babies are regularly strapped into supportive devices such as car seats, prams and bouncy chairs. ‘They th