If you have children, then I’m sure you’ve heard from your pediatrician or other parents all about tummy time and wondered is it really that important for a baby to engage in tummy time? The answer is, yes!
Tummy Time is one of baby’s first exercises—and the most important!
Tummy Time is the period during the day your baby spends awake and on their stomach. It is a crucial exercise for baby’s visual, motor, and sensory development.
Your baby can begin Tummy Time as a newborn and continue throughout their first year.
Tummy Time Basics
Why does my baby need Tummy Time?
-To develop the core muscles of the neck, back, and shoulder muscles
-To meet developmental milestones
-To possibly help prevent early motor delays and conditions, such as flat head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly) and twisted/tight neck (positional torticollis).
When should my baby start Tummy Time?
-As a newborn baby, as soon as they come home from the hospital.
How long should you do Tummy Time?
-Aim to achieve at least an hour of Tummy Time total per day by 3 months of age. This hour of Tummy Time can be broken up into smaller parts. From newborn age, start with a few minutes at a time and build up to longer sessions.
How often should you do Tummy Time?
Start with small increments of a few minutes at a time, several times a day. Eventually, try to do longer Tummy Time sessions, eventually building up to a full hour.
At what age should baby stop Tummy Time?
Once baby begins crawling, around 7-9 months, they will be getting the developmental benefits of Tummy Time while moving, and it is not as essential to have them do Tummy Time. However, it still beneficial to have baby spend some time in the Tummy Time position (also known as prone position) during play.
What Conditions Can Tummy Time Help Prevent?
In addition to having proven developmental benefits, Tummy Time can help prevent two conditions: positional plagiocephaly and positional torticollis. Positional plagiocephaly is the development of flat spots on the back and side of the head, which can lead to asymmetries of the head and face. Positional torticollis is the stiffening of neck muscles, causing baby’s head to tilt to one side.
How Does Tummy Time Help With Meeting Milestones?
Tummy Time is crucial for healthy motor, sensory and visual development.
-Strengthens baby’s back, neck, and core muscles.
-Build a foundation for baby to meet motor milestones including rolling, sitting, crawling, and more.
-Also builds a foundation for baby to meet fine motor skills including dressing skills, handwriting, clothing fasteners, etc.
-Feeling different textures (blankets, carpet, etc.) on their arms, hands, and cheeks can help baby’s tactile sense (sense of touch).
-As baby moves and their weight shifts, they gain a sense of body awareness.
-Positioning baby differently helps develop their movement and balance (vestibular sense).
-Helps develop eye and hand coordination. By looking down at their hands, baby is seeing how they move and what they can do.
Five Essential Tummy Time Moves
Try these Tummy Time exercises with your infant.
- Tummy-to-Tummy or Tummy-to-Chest
Lie down on the floor or a bed, flat or propped up on pillows. Place baby on your chest or tummy, so you and baby are face-to-face. Always hold firmly for safety.
- Tummy Down Carry or Football Hold
Position one hand under the tummy and between the legs and carry baby tummy down. Use other hand to support baby’s head and neck. Nestle baby close to your body to help get baby accustomed to the position.
- Lap Soothe
Place baby face down across your lap to burp or soothe them. A hand on baby’s bottom will help steady and calm them
- Eye-Level Smile
Get level with your baby to encourage eye contact. Roll up a blanket and place it under their chest and upper arms for added support.
- Tummy Minute
Place your baby on their tummy for one or two minutes after every diaper change. Start a few minutes at a time and try to work up to an hour a day in shorter intervals by the end of three months.
Tummy Time Abilities
How do you know baby is making progress during Tummy Time? Check these abilities to ensure your baby is continuing to develop.
At 2 weeks, baby is...
- Using Tummy-to-Tummy, Tummy Down Carry, and Lap Soothe positions
- Working towards Tummy Time on the floor
Expert Tummy Time tip: Many parents like Tummy to Tummy for their newborn. This allows you to be face-to-face with baby and enjoy lots of baby cuddles!
At 1 month, baby is...
- Turning head during Tummy Time
- Attempting to lift head up – even if it’s only for a second
Expert Tummy Time tip: Get down on the floor at baby’s eye level. Baby loves your face and voice!
At 2 months baby is...
- Spending at least one minute in Tummy Time several times a day without becoming upset
- Doing the majority of Tummy Time exercises on the floor
- Possibly tilting their head to one side
- Watch to make sure they alternate tilting to both directions instead of always favoring one side, which may be a possible sign of positional torticollis
Expert Tummy Time tip: Face baby different directions in their crib each night to help develop neck muscles by turning a different direction to look at you each morning.
At 3 months, baby is...
- Beginning to put weight on arms, with elbows behind their shoulders at a 45 degree angle
- Gaining head control and is able to lift head between 45 to 90 degrees, without tilting head to either side
- Spending a total of 1 hour each day in Tummy Time
- Starting to visually track toys or rattles you move around during Tummy Time
Expert Tummy Time tip: Place baby tummy down on an exercise ball, holding their sides for support. Slowly move the ball toward and away from you, allowing baby to lift and hold their head more easily.
At 4 months, baby is...
- Lifting head up 90 degrees and keeping their head centered.
- Pushing up on forearms and brings chest off floor. Elbows will be under their shoulders at a 90 degree angle or in front of shoulders
- Lifting head and moving neck to track toys, voices, and faces during Tummy Time
Expert Tummy Time tip: Babies love faces—even their own! Use mirrors during tummy time to help keep them engaged and having fun.
At 5 months, baby is...
- Beginning to push up on hands with straight elbows
- Starting to move hands forward to reach for toys that are placed nearby
Expert Tummy Time tip: Do baby push-ups. Place hands under baby’s chest and tummy, and use gentle lifting cues to get baby to push up on hands for brief periods.
At 6+ months, baby is...
- Self-directing Tummy Time
- Reaching and grabbing toys of different sizes while on tummy
- Able to pivot in a circle while on stomach
- Rolling from back to tummy and tummy to back
- Starting to to prefer being on their stomach. Being on their tummy allows them to play, move, and explore more easily.
Did you know Tummy Time helps with crawling?
Try this activity! While doing Tummy Time around 6 months, place toys about 90-degrees out of baby’s reach. This forces them to pivot in order to reach the toy, a move that encourages the transition into crawling.
Tummy Time Tips for Success
If baby has different people caring for them
- Make sure all caregivers know Tummy Time is a normal part of baby’s daily routine
If baby resists Tummy Time
- Do a couple minutes of Tummy Time after every diaper change or after every bath so baby starts to expect it.
- Avoid Tummy Time immediately after feeding
If baby cries during Tummy Time…
- Try doing Tummy Time exercises when baby is most happy
- Make Tummy Time a fun time and experience so that they begin to enjoy it more
- Sing songs during Tummy Time to calm and soothe baby
- Use rattles, toys, and mirrors to encourage visual tracking
- Get down on the floor at baby’s eye level. Baby loves your face and tolerate tummy time more when you are doing it with them!
If baby falls asleep during Tummy Time…
- Place them on their back—do not let them sleep on their tummy until they can roll to their tummy by themselves.
If you have older kids that maybe didn’t engage in a lot of tummy time that struggle with strength, endurance, coordination, fine motor skills, etc. engage them in crawling activities or activities in prone (on their belly). You can do obstacle courses where they have to crawl, use tunnels, wheel barrow, act like different animals, and many other activities. While in prone they can do puzzles, color, paint, draw, play board games, and many other fun activities all while improving their strength.
Regardless of what age your child is activities while crawling or in the prone position are going to benefit them in the long run with all types of skills. So the next time you’re playing with your child get on the floor with them. You’d be surprised how much it can benefit everyone!