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Tummy Time 101 – Why Your Baby Needs It


Tummy time refers to placing your baby on their tummy while they are awake and someone is watching.

Usually, babies spend a lot of time on their backs, either looking up at the ceiling in their crib or in your arms. Flipping them over onto their tummies gives them a different perspective and plays an important role in their development.

Tummy time is one of the baby’s first exercises. It seems very easy, but it has a lot of benefits for your baby. Placing your baby on their tummy encourages them to lift their head. This helps strengthen their head, neck, and shoulder muscles as well as boost motor skills.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tummy time prepares babies for a time when they can slide on their bellies and crawl. As babies grow older and stronger, they will need more time on their tummies to build their strength. The Academy advises parents to put awake, alert newborns and infants on their tummies to play 2-3 times a day for three to five minutes each time, increasing the time period as babies learn to enjoy it.

Continue reading to learn more about tummy time and the benefits it holds.


Why does my baby need tummy time?

Tummy time is essential for infants because important milestones are achieved in this position, and it also provides babies with a great opportunity to build strength.

There are four major reasons why your baby needs tummy time:

Helps with motor skill development

When babies spend time on their tummies, they use and develop the muscles that allow them to lift their heads, roll, crawl, and eventually walk.

Having your baby on their tummy helps develop core muscle strength and their back, neck, and arms. Studies show that infants who don’t spend time in this position are more likely to experience a delay in motor development.

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Reduces chances of skull deformity

Babies should always sleep on their backs as it helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But babies who spend too much time on their backs can develop flat head syndrome or positional plagiocephaly, which tummy time can help prevent.

Promotes sensory development

Tummy time allows babies to experience different body positions and movements, and they start learning how their arms and legs move. It also shows them a completely different view of the world.

Provides an opportunity to bond

Even though tummy time isn’t initially all that interactive, your baby will become more engaged as their skills develop. Tummy time is an early chance for interaction and play with your baby, which is a crucial bonding activity.

ALSO READ: Umbilical Cord Care: What Every Parent Needs to Know

When should my baby start tummy time?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends supervised tummy time for full-term babies starting in the first week, as soon as their umbilical cord stump falls off.

How much tummy time is necessary?

In the beginning, for newborns, tummy time should consist of two or three 3-minute sessions daily. As your baby gets older and stronger, you might gradually increase the time, working up to 20 minutes a day.

Experts recommend that each month you can progress to 10 more minutes.

How to do tummy time?

The best way of doing tummy time is to keep it simple.

  • The right time to put your baby on their tummy is when they are awake and happy while you (or another adult) closely watch.
  • Wait about 20 minutes after feeding to put your baby on their tummy to prevent spit-up.
  • You can start with short sessions (as long as 2-3 minutes).
  • Lay your baby on their tummy on a firm surface where they are safe.
  • A blanket or a tummy time mat on a firm, flat surface works well.
  • Avoid beds or other furniture where there is a risk of falling.
  • Have tummy time several times throughout the day during playtime.
  • Never leave your baby alone during tummy time.
  • If your baby falls asleep during tummy time, be sure to put them on their back to sleep. Try tummy time again when the baby is well-rested.

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Tummy time at 0-2 months

With your newborn, your goal should be to do tummy time 2-3 times a day for up to 3 minutes. Newborns can’t lift their heads much. So when you put them on their stomach, you should make sure their face isn’t on the ground. You can use a small rolled-up towel to prop up their chest.

You can also lie on your back and put your newborn on your stomach. This tummy-to-tummy session is a good chance for bonding.

Tummy time at 2-4 months

As your baby gets older, they develop better head control and can keep their heads up longer. Now is the time when your baby’s vision starts improving, so you may notice your baby beginning to fixate on you and interact a little bit more while they’re on their tummies.

Tummy time at 4-6 months

Your baby has better core strength, and they might start rolling over, from stomach to back and back to stomach. They also start playing more. You can start introducing toys to your baby for grabbing. This also helps them with developing motor skills and muscle control.

Tummy time after 6 months

You can do tummy time up to a full hour each day until your baby starts crawling. In fact, they may even start to crawl during tummy time itself. Experts say that after 6 months, your baby’s tummy time slowly changes to crawling, walking, and playtime.

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Is it ever too late to start tummy time?

The younger you start your baby with tummy time, the easier they’ll adjust to being on their stomach.

But keep in mind that it’s never too late to start. Even if your baby is already several months old, you can start doing tummy time and benefit from it.

When is the best time to do tummy time?

The best time to do tummy time is when your baby is

  • well rested and
  • in a happy mood.

For many babies, great times include

  • after a diaper change,
  • when they wake up from a nap,
  • 20 minutes after feeding.

How can I keep my baby safe during tummy time?

Never let your baby sleep on their stomach, even for short naps. Your baby should always be awake for tummy time.

  • During tummy time make sure that your baby is on a low, solid surface.
  • Putting your baby on the floor on a blanket or a mat is the best way to keep them safe during tummy time.
  • Make sure you or another adult stays with your baby the whole time to make sure they’re awake.
  • Remember that tummy time is a time to connect and engage with your baby, not a chance to take a break.
  • Your baby will enjoy tummy time if they can see your face and hear your voice.
  • If you have another child or pet(s), make sure your baby is safely out of their way.
  • If your baby falls asleep during tummy time, put them on their back to sleep in a safe place. When they’re rested, try again.

At what age should a baby stop tummy time?

Around 7-9 months, your baby might begin crawling and should be getting the developmental benefits of tummy time while moving. From now on, it is not essential to engage in tummy time. However, having your baby spend some time on their tummy during play is still beneficial.

ALSO READ: When Do Babies Start Walking?

What if my baby hates tummy time?

Not every infant loves spending time on their tummy. Some babies might protest being put face down. If your baby refuses to be on their tummy on the floor, reduce the duration to only a minute or two. Continue increasing and encouraging their tummy time slowly. Eventually, your baby will get used to being on their stomach and start to enjoy this routine.

Below are some tips that might help you with tummy time with your baby:

Lay your baby on your chest

Your baby can start tummy time by laying on your chest as early as day one of their life (unless otherwise specified by your doctor).

Place and hold your baby on your chest while seated or lying down and talk to your baby. Babies usually enjoy this position because of the skin-to-skin contact with their parent/caregiver.

Use a mirror

Place a mirror on the floor in front of the baby so they can see themselves during tummy time.

Use toys

Give your baby something really interesting to look at. A favorite book or toy or black and white cards might work. You can also place brightly colored stuffed animals around your baby on the floor, too.

Use siblings or pets

To encourage your baby’s interest in tummy time, have siblings nearby playing with their toys or the family pet so your baby can look around and enjoy this play position for longer periods of time.

Use every diaper change and every bath

Do a couple of minutes of tummy time after every diaper change or after every bath so your baby starts to expect it.

Take tummy time outside

Place a blanket in the grass at a park and let your baby enjoy some fresh air, grass, and new sounds while your baby strengthens their body during tummy time.

With all the benefits of tummy time and the wonderful bonding opportunity it provides, you should try to incorporate and enjoy it as much as you can. Have fun with your little ones!

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