What Is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is laying babies on their stomachs for brief periods while they're awake. It's an important way to help babies strengthen their neck and shoulder muscles, and improve motor skills.
Be sure to stay with your baby and watch closely during tummy time.
What Can Tummy Time Help With?
Tummy time is good for:
- Newborns and infants 1–3 months old who are just developing neck control. Tummy time helps develop the muscles they'll need to roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk. Always stay with your baby during tummy time.
- Older babies, 4–7 months old. They should still spend some supervised time on their bellies, even if they can roll over and sit with some help. Tummy time helps them practice lifting their head and chest further by straightening their arms. This strengthens arm, chest, and back muscles.
- Newborns who have a neck condition called torticollis (tor-ti-KOLL-iss). Tight neck muscles keep the baby from turning their head. Tummy time encourages babies to look around, and along with exercises your doctor will show you, can help your baby's neck muscles relax.
- Babies with flat head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly). This happens when babies spend too much time on their backs in the first few months of life. This can cause a flat spot, either on one side or the back of the head.
How Do I Do Tummy Time?
Start newborns on tummy time by placing them belly-down on your chest or across your lap for a few minutes at a time, two or three times a day. While lying on their belly, they can practice lifting their head and strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles. As your baby gets used to it, you can go for a little longer.
Place a blanket down in a clear area on the floor. Place your baby on their stomach on the blanket for 3–5 minutes to start, several times each day. Your baby may get fussy and frustrated in this position. Keep the first sessions of tummy time brief and gradually lengthen them. It's also a good idea to do tummy time when your baby is fed, changed, and happy.
As your baby gets used to it, place your little one belly-down more often or for longer periods of time. Experts recommend that babies work up to about 1 hour of tummy time a day by the time they're 3 months old.
Make some noises or shake a rattle to get your child to look up and push up. Place a favorite toy in front of your baby to encourage reaching and forward movement.
Babies With Torticollis or a Flat Spot
This exercise is good for babies with torticollis and/or a flat spot, and can help treat both problems:
- Lay your baby on your lap for tummy time. Position your baby with their head turned away from you. Then, talk or sing to your baby. Encourage your little one to turn and face you. Do this exercise for 10–15 minutes.
What Else Should I Know?
- Always stay with your baby during tummy time.
- Always place babies on their backs (never on their bellies) to sleep to help prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Do tummy time on a low, safe surface. Don't put your baby on a sofa or bed, where they could roll off or suffocate on pillows or a soft surface.
If your baby doesn't seem to enjoy tummy time, add some variety. Sing songs, keep colorful toys nearby, get down on the floor and eye-to-eye with your baby, and have others join you. Don't give up! Tummy time is important, and some babies just need a little extra time to get used to it.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2022 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com