Children inspired by yoga
Baby Bumpkin Worm Pose
Baby Bumpkin Worm Pose – tummy time for your baby!
By Sue Heron – Training Co-ordinator Tatty Bumpkin and Paediatric Physiotherapist
This week our Tatty and Baby Bumpkin Yoga activity is worm pose, which is wriggling on your tummy! Whatever your child’s age, time spent on their tummy is seldom wasted. It stretches out muscles, activating core muscles, improves visual skills and develops hand muscles, and is especially beneficial for younger children.
This blog will focus on the benefits of tummy time, specifically for babies.
Some thoughts on Tummy Time before you start…
Your baby can start tummy time soon after they are born but do remember – never leave them alone on their tummy.
Introduce your baby to tummy time ‘little and often’ during their day. Encourage your baby to lie on their tummy at least 2-3 times a day, for a few minutes at a time, or as long as they are happy. Gradually work up to a total tummy time of 40-60 mins daily.
To start with your baby may not like tummy time; indeed some babies never really seem to enjoy it. Usually, the more times your baby plays on their tummy, the more they will enjoy it – it’s a chicken and egg situation!
Tummy Time Tips
If your baby is finding tummy time really unpleasant, check with your health visitor, as they may be suffering from reflux.
Start by laying your baby on their tummy on your chest, as you lie back on a sofa or chair. If your baby is really anxious you can ‘grade’ your lying position for them i.e. start in a more upright sitting position and then gradually lean back so that your baby has a chance to get used to lying in a more horizontal position. In this position your baby can look at you, be reassured, and strengthen their bond with you. Picture courtesy of www.pathways.org
If your baby is unsettled, and distractions e.g. gentle blows down their back, toys or your smiles doesn’t calm them, always pick them up and comfort them. It’s horrible to feel ‘trapped’ on your tummy!
As your baby plays on their tummy, keep looking out for signs that they may be tiring e.g Intense dribbling, resting their face on the surface they are lying on or, indeed, crying. If you can stop tummy time before your baby becomes distressed then it will remain an enjoyable experience for them.
Bring tummy time into your baby’s normal day i.e. give them little ‘tummy time moments’ by:
Putting them on their tummy as you dry them after a bath, or after changing their nappy.
Lay your baby on their tummy across your lap to ‘burp’ them.
It is never too early to begin to read to your baby. As your baby rests on their tummy on your chest – read them a story or talk to them about their Baby Bumpkin class!
From about 3-4 months of age your baby will most likely ‘get the idea’ of propping themselves up on their forearms. You can guide your baby into this position by gently bringing their elbows inwards and forwards so they are directly under their shoulders. Do not do this if your baby is very young as they will not have the movement in their shoulders to be comfortable.
Distraction is key! While your baby is playing on their tummy, hold a toy in front of them to get their attention, or give them a baby mirror to look into. This will also encourage your baby to lift their head and reach.
Remember the ‘eye level smile’. Get down close to your baby; smile, sing and make funny noises and faces at them! Your baby will be encouraged to lift their head, reach, and play when they see your face and hear your voice. The whole family can be involved!
As your baby becomes more confident in tummy time – spread their favourite toys around them so they are encouraged to pivot on their tummy to reach and play with them. Most babies do this ‘tummy pivoting’ with swimming actions of their arms and legs at around 4-5 mths. It is really beneficial for them as it strengthens their neck, spine, hip and leg muscles in preparation for sitting and also gives them a great sensory experience as they push up against gravity!
Baby Bumpkin Worm Pose
N.B. Remember, when you are doing the poses with your baby, never force the movements and keep looking at them to make sure they are comfortable. If you feel any resistance, or your baby becomes unsettled, do stop. Once your baby has settled, gently try the pose again, perhaps making clicking sounds or using a toy to distract them. If your baby remains unsettled, do not persist with the pose, instead ask your Baby Bumpkin teacher for advice.
Sometimes babies can be taken by surprise if they are placed on their tummy too quickly. Let your baby feel ‘more in control’ of their tummy time in worm pose by encouraging them to roll as much as they can onto their tummy:
Settle your baby on their back in front you and encourage them to either look at you or their favourite baby safe toy. Remember to use a toy which you are happy for your baby to mouth and play with whilst they are on their tummy.
Either using your eyes or the toy, encourage your baby to look in the direction you wish them to roll. As they shift their gaze over to the side, your baby should start turn their head in that direction.
If your baby reaches up and across for their toy this will help them to roll. If you are using a toy – hold it above your baby’s shoulder level and keep moving it in the direction of the roll.
As your baby starts to turn their head, use your other hand to gently support them behind their shoulders and back to assist them to roll. Take your time and wait to see how much support your baby needs – you may be surprised! Obviously as your baby gets older they will need less support to roll.
To encourage your baby to stay and play in worm pose:
Keep distracting them with their toy.
Do the ‘eye level smile!’
Maybe, give them a baby safe mirror to look into.
Games to Play Around Worm Pose
The Eye level Smile – ‘Smiley Worms!’
Your baby will love to do worm pose with you and will be reassured by your smiles. Lie down opposite your baby so you can smile at them, and give them encouragement whilst looking directly at them.
If your baby is older, and is starting to play confidently on their tummy, scatter a few cushions, of a suitable size, on the floor and encourage them to wriggle like a worm over them.
N.B. if your baby is younger, and is still finding tummy time ‘hard work’ do not use cushions as they will find it easier to push up from a firmer surface. NEVER leave your baby alone with the cushions on the floor, because if your baby tires they could find it hard to clear their head from the cushion to breathe.
Your baby also enjoy lying on their tummy across your outstretched thighs. If your baby has good control of their head, encourage them to reach down to floor with their arms over the side of your legs. In this position your baby can start to ‘feel’ for the floor, and push against it, with their hands. This is great for the development of their hands see below.
Enjoying being ‘wriggling worms’ in Baby Bumpkin sessions
Once your baby is settled you can gently move your thighs up and down under your baby so they can experience the feeling of movement whilst being on their tummy – to be ‘wriggling worms!’
Why Worm Pose is Good for Your Baby
As your baby does worm pose, they will have the opportunity to:
1. Develop ‘postural control’ and balance ‘Postural control’ is a natural, automatic but complex mechanism that enables us to hold ourselves up against gravity and position ourselves to do all that we need to do. We continue to develop our postural control well into the teenage years, but the major changes occur in the first seven years of our life. Babies develop postural control largely from their head downwards and from the middle of their body – outwards. Tummy time allows your baby to refine key ‘postural control’ skills. It enables your baby learn how to:
Move their head whilst keeping their body still. Encourage your baby to look up and down and to either side in worm pose. This refinement of head control will be the foundation for classroom skills such as looking up at a white board.
Hold their head steady whilst their body is moving. Encourage your baby wriggle and rock their body in worm pose.
2. Strengthen and activate core muscles as preparation for rolling, sitting and standing Key physical skills are developed through play on the floor and tummy time. As your baby plays in worm pose they will be strengthening and activating their shoulder, back, tummy and hip muscles in preparation for more complex skills such as rolling, sitting upright and crawling. Let your baby take their time and enjoy floor play – it provides a firm foundation for life.
3. Stimulate their ‘body’ senses Tummy time gives your baby the chance to stimulate their ‘vestibular’ and the ‘proprioceptive’ (body) senses. Aged about 4-5 mths you may see your baby excitedly doing swimming actions with their arms and legs whilst lying on their tummy. This is due to the stimulation of these body senses as your baby ‘pushes their body up against gravity’. This enjoyment will increase your baby’s inner drive to become upright!
4. Stretch out their back and hip muscles If your baby has been sitting in their buggy or travel seat tummy time gives them a lovely stretch. Take it slowly though, you do not want to take them by surprise!
5. Take the weight off the back of their head When your baby lies on their tummy their head will be ‘free’ e.g. it will not be lying against anything. New born babies’ skulls are comparatively soft and thus may become ‘flattened’ in areas if your baby is always lying on their back (positional plagiocephaly).
6. Develop their visual skills Being on their tummy provides your baby with a different view of the world. Whilst on their tummies, playing with toys, your baby will be developing and refining their eye movements.
7. Develop their hand muscles and grip In tummy time your baby will be putting weight through their hands and gently stretching the muscles in their palms. These actions will help your baby to develop early grasping skills.
N.B. Babies with reflux Always ask your health visitor for advice if your baby suffers from reflux and consequently finds tummy time painful. Sometimes it is helpful to lay your baby on a small pillow when they are trying tummy time so their upper body is semi- reclined i.e. their shoulders are higher than their hips. Never do tummy time straight after a feed.
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