In this guest post, baby sleep consultant Natalie Ebrill explains why floor play is so important to get babies to sleep.

Why is this so important to your baby’s sleeping and settling success? During my training I was so excited as the pieces of the sleeping puzzle fell into place and the understanding of efficient sleeping, feeding and playing and how the baby’s day affected their night became obvious. Then I became acutely aware of the importance of not just playtime, but floor play and tummy time for all babies from birth.

There are many factors that affect how well a baby sleeps; the daily routine, the bedroom environment, the efficiency of the uptime, communication, cues, consistency and persistency to name the major keys. However, I find myself talking to parents every day on the importance of floor play but more importantly tummy time from birth. It might surprise you to hear that babies don’t develop flat heads because they are sleeping on their backs now, it’s more likely that the baby doesn’t get enough tummy time and spends too much time in a rocker/bouncer/stroller/bed or just on their back on the floor.

Typical stories that indicate not enough floor play include:

  • Baby isn’t feeding very well during the daytime.
  • Baby wants to feed all night.
  • Baby isn’t showing tired signs at sleep time because they’re not tired.
  • Baby’s sleeps are very short.
  • Baby isn’t showing any interest in rolling/getting up on the hands and knees rocking/ crawling/cruising on the furniture (at approximate developmental stages).
  • Expects toys to be given to them rather than able to explore for them, whinges when not being entertained.
  • Baby doesn’t tolerate tummy time for very long.
  • Baby cannot play independently with appropriate aged toys.
  • Baby still has their ‘startle reflex’ past 4.5 months.
  • Baby still has a head lag when pulled from lying to sitting past 4 months.
  • Typically these babies spend a lot of ‘Play time’ under a playgym, in a bouncer/stroller, on their back on a small specific play mat or sheepskin or in a playpen.

Playtime is as important for a good sleep for a baby as exercise is for an adult. Your baby feels tired and like they have had a full day’s work when stretching, rolling and crawling in each uptime!

Tummy time is important for the following reasons:

  • For wearing out your baby and earning their sleep
  • For stimulating their brain’s social and developmental needs
  • Helping their eyesight to judge distances
  • Coordinating their right and left sides of their body
  • Encouraging crawling
  • Helping their neck muscles get strong for sitting up, starting solids and not suffering as bad whip lash in a car crash.

Tips: Encourage free floor play on an open surface spreading toys out around baby from 6 weeks and tummy time for as long as the baby can tolerate it, in every uptime from birth. Encourage stretching, rolling, crawling, cruising on the furniture and then walking. Even if your baby appears to like being held by the hands to walk, don’t encourage this before baby is developmentally ready to do this by themselves. There is a link between baby not crawling and developing learning difficulties. Crawling encourages coordination of the body especially with sports.

Natalie Ebrill, Sleep and Settle Baby Sleep Consultant, is a RN, Child and Family Health Nurse and mother of three. Sleep deprived parents, Natalie want to give you your life back!  Do you feel like you’ve read everything and nothing is working? Visit http://www.sleepandsettle.com.au for a free report “Sleeping Baby Secrets”.