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It’s important for infants to have daily tummy time. It helps with their head and neck development and helps them build strength in their head, neck, arms, and shoulder muscles.
Tummy time is when your baby is awake and placed on their belly for a short period of time.
You can even start tummy time the day you bring your baby home from the hospital by laying them on your chest.
Start with a few minutes a few times per day. As your baby grows, they’ll be able to stay on their stomach for a longer period of time.
Remember, your baby needs to be supervised at all times during tummy time. Only do tummy time when your baby is awake. Babies should always sleep on their backs to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Read on to learn more about the benefits of tummy time and how to make the most out of it.
Tummy time is important for your baby’s development. Some of the benefits include:
Have tummy time when your baby is awake after a diaper change, bath, or nap.
The traditional way to start tummy time is by spreading out a blanket or mat on the floor in a clear, flat area and simply laying baby down on their belly.
Start with three to five minutes for younger infants. Gradually increase for a few minutes per day.
With a newborn, you can start by laying your baby on their belly across your lap or chest for one to two minutes at a time. Do this up to three times per day.
You can also try using a breastfeeding pillow if your baby seems to like it.
Place the pillow on the floor on top of a blanket, then place baby on their belly over the pillow with their arms and shoulders propped on top. Make sure you watch your baby at all times. Reposition them if they start to slip down the pillow.
You can place age-appropriate toys within your baby’s reach. You can also read to baby during tummy time, or place a board book at eye level for them to look at. This helps develop their eyesight, too.
As your baby grows and their eyesight improves, you can place a nonbreakable mirror near baby so they can see their reflection.
You can mix up tummy time by trying it outdoors at the park or other flat spots. As your baby grows, they’ll stay on their belly for longer.
Newborns may only tolerate tummy time for one to two minutes at first. As your baby grows, you can increase tummy time.
Here’s some general recommendations on how long to do tummy time for each month. Remember, all babies are different. Some may want longer tummy time sessions and others shorter ones. Observe your baby and adjust tummy time accordingly for their needs.
|Age of baby||Daily tummy time recommendations|
|0 months||1–5 minutes at a time, 2–3 times per day|
|1 month||up to 10 minutes at a time, 2–3 times per day|
|2 months||up to 20 minutes per day, can be split up into multiple sessions|
|3 months||up to 30 minutes per day, can be split into multiple sessions|
|4 months||up to 40 minutes per day, can be split into multiple sessions|
|5–6 months||up to 1 hour at a time, as long as baby isn’t fussy|
By the time your baby is 5 to 6 months old, they’ll likely be rolling from front to back. Then they’ll roll back to front and may even be able to push up to a sitting position on their own.
You can still give them opportunities for tummy time after they’ve reached these developmental stages. Tummy time can help them continue to develop muscles needed for sitting for longer periods of time, crawling, and walking.
It’s important to make time for tummy time each day. You can try to fit it in after your baby has a bath or after a diaper change.
You may want to avoid tummy time immediately after eating. For some babies, placing them on their tummy when it’s full may disrupt digestion, which could lead to gas or spit up. Other babies, though, seem to pass gas more easily on their tummies.
The younger baby is when you start tummy time, the better, so they can get used to it. Even in the hospital, you can place baby on their tummy on your chest, supporting their neck the whole time.
When you get home from the hospital, find quiet moments throughout your day for some tummy time. You can also lie or sit on the floor next to them and make faces or read them a board book.
Tummy time can be a special time for you and other loved ones to bond with baby.
You can also try these other activities during tummy time:
- Place baby on an inflatable water mat. It’s full of textures and colors for them to discover.
- Use an activity gym for baby to play with and explore.
- Hold one toy a few inches from your baby’s head and let them follow it with their eyes.
- Give your baby a nonbreakable mirror to let them see their reflection (best for babies 3 months and up).
What should I do if my baby hates tummy time?
Some babies really hate tummy time at first, especially if you wait too long to try it. Eventually, your baby may get used to tummy time and will tolerate it more.
Here are some things you can try to help baby as they get used to tummy time:
- placing a toy in front of them
- sitting or lying on the floor facing your baby
- reading or signing to them
One alternative position for babies who don’t enjoy tummy time is side-lying.
Try placing your baby on a blanket on their side. You can prop up their back against a rolled-up towel and place a folded washcloth under their head for support.
Again, they should be awake and supervised when you do this.
The only essential for tummy time is a flat surface and blanket or mat to put your baby on.
However, you can make tummy time more fun by introducing your baby to toys and, when they get a little older, nonbreakable mirrors.
Here are a few ideas for things you can try. You can find these items online or at retailers that sell baby products. You may also be able to find them secondhand from friends, secondhand stores, or parenting groups:
Tummy time is for when your baby is awake. Always supervise baby during tummy time. Never leave them alone or allow them to fall asleep on their tummy.
If they start to look sleepy, place them on their back in their crib. That’s the safest way and place for them to sleep.
In rare cases, tummy time may not be safe if:
- you have a premature infant
- your baby has special needs
- your baby has reflux disease
Talk to your baby’s pediatrician for safe recommendations for tummy time.
In addition to tummy time, there are some other things you can do to help with your baby’s development and bond with them:
- Lie on the floor next to baby, read to them, smile, and make faces during tummy time.
- Talk and sing to your baby in a soothing voice. Tell them about your day.
- Look at your baby’s face and mimic their expression.
- Introduce your baby to different colors, shapes, and textures. This may have a bigger impact after 4 months, but you can start introducing these things at any time.
Tummy time is helpful for your baby’s head, neck, and shoulder development. It’s also a great chance for you to read, sing, play, and bond with your little one.
Be sure to always supervise baby during tummy time. Never leave them alone or allow them to fall asleep on their tummy. If they start to look sleepy, place them on their back in their crib. That’s the safest way and place for them to sleep.
If you have any concerns about tummy time or that your baby isn’t meeting development milestones, talk to your pediatrician.