Why Tummy Time Is Important

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Why is Tummy Time Important? 

As babies grow they reach physical milestones, like rolling, crawling, and walking.

However, before babies learn to roll they must first strengthen their neck muscles and learn to lift their heads. 

Learn why tummy time plays such an important role in your baby’s development. Plus, gets tips to help make tummy time better for you and your baby!

What is Tummy Time? 

Tummy time is the term used to describe the activity where babies are placed on their bellies, while awake, and are observed by an adult. 

Why Does My Baby Need Tummy Time? 

Tummy time serves a couple of different purposes. 

One reason that tummy time is recommended is because it helps your baby develop the muscles they need for other physical milestones. 

Placing your baby on their belly will help them to develop neck and shoulder muscles. 

Another reason that babies need tummy time, is to help prevent them from developing a flat area on their head, which is called positional plagiocephaly. 

Babies can end up spending a lot of time on their backs between sleep, car seats, infant swings, and bouncers. It is important to give them plenty of time, when awake, where they are not laying on their backs. 

How much tummy time does my baby need? 

When you first begin tummy time, you can start by placing your baby on their belly for up to 3-5 minutes. If your baby gets fussy before 3 minutes it’s okay to stop tummy time and try again at a later time. 

You should provide tummy time 2-4 times a day. 

As your baby tolerates tummy time, you can increase the time they spend on their tummy.

The amount of tummy time you give your baby should increase as your baby gets older. 

You’re baby should be spending about 20-30 minutes a day on their tummy by around 3 months of age. 

What Age Should You Start Tummy Time?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) you can begin tummy time as soon as you are home from the hospital with your newborn baby. 

If you birthed out of hospital, you can start tummy time as soon as you feel ready, or around 2-3 days after giving birth. 

baby practicing tummy time

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How To Do Tummy Time

You need a soft, but firm, flat surface to do tummy time. A clean blanket, or tummy time mat, can be placed on your floor to provide a safe space. 

Pick a time that your baby is well rested and fed.

Once you have your space set up, and your baby is content, gently place them down on their belly. You may need to gently turn their head to be sure they can breathe through their nose easily. 

If your baby begins fussing immediately, lower your face so that your baby can see you well.

If your baby continues to fuss, you can pick them up and try tummy time again at a later time. 

While your baby is content, continue tummy time for 3-5 minutes. 

How To Make Baby Like Tummy Time

You should use a nice surface and engage with your baby to help them enjoy tummy time. 

Some babies enjoy being sung or spoken to, while others will be content just seeing their mama’s face smiling at them. 

How to make tummy time easier

You want to be sure that your baby is content before you place them down for tummy time. They should not be hungry, should not be tired, and should have on a clean dry diaper. 

If your baby fusses every time you place them on their stomach, you can place them on their side. Place a rolled up baby blanket behind their back, and place their arms and legs in front of their body. 

If your baby is placed on their side, be sure you alternate sides each time you do tummy time. 

How to make tummy time fun

There are a few things you can do to help make tummy time fun for your baby. 

Use a mirror

You can place a mirror, like this one, angled so your baby can see their reflection. 

Engage your baby

You can lay perpendicular to your baby, facing them. Smile and talk to your baby. 

Place a ball, like these little sensory balls, on the floor and gently roll it around in front of your baby. 

Stimulate their senses

Incorporate texture into tummy time. A blanket, such as this one, has an interesting texture that your baby may enjoy moving their arms and legs on. 

There are tummy time mats, like this one, that has special sensory areas. These sensory areas may make a crinkling sound, have smooth or textured areas, or have different shapes and colors to capture your baby’s attention.

Play with your baby 

As your baby gets older, you can place toys in the area around them. You can also use a play gym mat that has various objects to capture your baby’s attention. 

Baby Cries During Tummy Time

It is common for babies to cry during tummy time. As you make tummy time part of your daily routine, your baby should become more accustomed to it. 

If your baby continues to cry, despite trying to engage them or placing them on their side, it’s okay to pick them up and comfort them. 

You can try tummy time again, at a later time, when they are content. 

There are also alternatives to tummy time that you can try if your baby continues to cry, without relief, during tummy time. 

Alternatives to Tummy Time

There are alternatives to traditional tummy time. Some babies will prefer these alternatives over traditional tummy time. When using these alternatives, you can continue to offer regular tummy time to your baby in addition to the alternatives. 

Your baby can be placed on their belly lying across your lap.

You can lie on the floor, on your back, and place your baby, on their abdomen, on your stomach and chest.

Hold your baby in the “football hold”. Place your baby’s head in your hand and drape their body across your forearm, with their belly down. Your baby’s arms and legs should be dangling down. 

Place your baby belly down on a large exercise ball, like this one. Place one hand gently on your baby’s back to keep them secure. You can gently move the ball back and forth or side to side. 

Wear your baby in an appropriate baby carrier. Babywearing can help to promote strengthening your baby’s neck muscles while they move their neck and hold their head up. 

Tummy Time for Baby

How is tummy time going for you? Does your baby enjoy tummy time or are you trying to make it more fun for them? What has worked to help your baby enjoy tummy time more? Do you have any best tips to share? 

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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.

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