This series of photos and captions follows one baby girl, Madeline, from six days old to seven months in order to illustrate the typical progression and development of posture and movement skills while on the tummy. Disclaimer: Rather than choosing to use infant seats and other containers, Madeline was placed on her tummy first every time she was put down on the floor. She practiced tummy time regularly and usually enjoyed more than 60 minutes per day from birth and more than 90 minutes per day after three months of age.
At six days old, baby Madeline shows appropriate physiologic flexion and is supported by the floor happily in tummy time! The floor helps to prevent startles and providers her the opportunity to see her hand and get it to her mouth to start learning self-soothing skills. The floor serves as a soothing confinement, similar to the sensory experience of being in the womb. Though she occasional works to lift her head away from the surface, she is content to relax into the surface.
At 27 days old, baby Madeline’s legs are more extended at her hips and knees, allowing her pelvis to drop and weight to shift backwards a bit. Her arms at the shoulder and elbow are also stretched out more, allowing them to come away from her body, though her elbows are still behind her shoulders. She can lift her head higher, but total clearance from the floor as she rotates side to side is not a regular occurrence. VISION is a key driver to help “right” the head so her eyes approach the horizon. This natural drive to reach the visual horizon is essential for development of head control.
At six weeks, Madeline is more disorganized in her postures and movements than when she was birth to four weeks because she has had sufficient time for flexor muscles to relax and stretch out, but not enough time to develop active, controlled contractions against gravity. Head lifting while on tummy is typically unilateral so that her head is slightly rotated one way or the other rather than controlled in the middle. Babies can lift head to 45 degrees briefly, but there is still a lot of head bobbing.
At eight weeks, Madeline’s pelvis continues to drop because hip flexors are stretched out more and head lifting is easier because of 1) increased mobility in cervical/neck and thoracic spine; 2) increased strength in extensor muscles against gravity; and 3) a strong desire to lift head because of vision and vestibular/inner ear righting reactions that work to maintain eyes on the horizon and nose on the vertical. Postures are still asymmetrical, elbows tend to be behind shoulders, and there is inconsistent weight bearing through the arms.
At eleven weeks, Madeline demonstrates more extension in the spine and, finally, the ability to get the elbows in front of the shoulders for more effective weight bearing on the arms. Babies at this age to three months should hold their head steadily at 90 degrees, maintain midline position and rotate each direction.
At 14 weeks, Madeline can easily hold her head up to 90 degrees with elbows in front of shoulders. She shows great symmetry between left and right sides on tummy and all other positions. By this age, babies should spend at least 90 minutes per day on their tummies.
At four months, Madeline is starting to play with the swimming position where head and all limbs are extended off the floor. She will alternate between swimming and bearing weight, which is important to develop co-activation and symmetry between the front and back muscles.
At five months, Madeline is far more proficient moving around on her tummy, pivoting, shifting, turning, and dragging or pushing herself around. She controls lateral weight shifts because there is now symmetry between the flexor muscles and the extensor muscles of the body. Madeline is showing elongation on the left weight bearing side and shortening on the right non-weight bearing side. Those side tummy rolls say it all. 🙂
At six months, Madeline is performing a straight-arm plank, challenging herself to discover what her body can do! She moves easily around on her tummy, rolling, scooting, and pivoting independently. She sits independently when placed and is working on the transition from floor into sitting as well as the transition to hands and knees and rocking back and forth…getting ready to crawl! At this point, tummy time is usually a position for transition rather than the end product because she is independent balancing in upright positions. She has more access to her environment, people, and toys when sitting, where both her hands are free to explore and manipulate objects.
At seven months, Madeline shows us ultimate control of her body while on her tummy. She has shifted her weight over her right side, balancing without falling while reaching her left hand across her body. Movement like this requires precise balance and control of muscles on the front, back, right and left, all working in coordination with one another. Her body is active from her head to her toe. At this time, Madeline is capable of getting onto hands and knees and transitioning from her tummy to sitting by herself.