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With the success of the Back to Sleep campaign, which recommends babies always be put to sleep on their backs to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or cot death, babies don't spend as much time on their tummies as they used to.

Yet spending a little time every day on their stomach is good for an infant's development. Why do babies need tummy time? What is tummy time exactly? When should you start placing your baby on his tummy?

The NHS says putting babies on their tummies gives them a different view of their world. Tummy time helps them to learn to roll over and begin to try to crawl towards new things they notice.

We asked the experts - paediatricians and parents - to share their thoughts on tummy time, how it ties in to infant development and what you can do to make it more fun for your little one.

What is tummy time and why is it important?

Tummy time is simply the time babies spend lying and playing on their tummies, says Dr Laura Jana, a paediatrician and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn.

Now that most babies sleep on their backs, spending time on their stomachs while they're awake is important not only because it gives a baby a different view of the world, but also because it encourages an infant to lift its head, a movement that strengthens the muscles of the neck and upper back.

According to Dr Tanya Altmann, also a paediatrician, not only do babies need to learn how to support their head when they are still, they need to be able to turn their head in response to what's happening around them, and hold their head steady when they're moved. "As with other milestones, they develop these skills through practise," says Dr Altmann, author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers.

Spending time on his stomach also helps a baby's head develop its conventional roundness. As more parents put their babies on their backs to sleep, paediatricians are noticing an increase in infants developing flat spots on the backs of their heads, a condition called positional plagiocephaly.

When should you start tummy time?

Tummy time can begin right after birth, or definitely by one month of age, says Dr Chris Tolcher, a paediatrician and clinical assistant professor of paediatrics.

One reason you may want to delay tummy time for the first few weeks is to allow your baby's umbilical cord stump to fall off, but if your baby finds tummy time comfortable, you can safely have him enjoying time on his stomach right away. "I'm also a big believer that the sooner you start, the more accepting babies are and the more it is just accepted as a natural position," Dr Jana tells us. And you may be surprised to find that even a newborn can start to turn his head from side to side.

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