Tummy Time is the time during the day your baby spends on their tummy while they are awake. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends Back to Sleep, spending time on their tummy while awake is crucial for baby’s development.
Tummy Time Basics
Why does my baby need Tummy Time?
Tummy Time helps your baby develop the neck, back, and shoulder muscles needed to meet infant developmental milestones. It may also help prevent early motor delays and conditions such as flat head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly) and twisted neck (positional torticollis). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing babies on their backs to sleep and on their tummies to play.
When should my baby start Tummy Time?
Tummy Time can begin as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital.
How much Tummy Time does my baby need?
Your baby should work up to an hour of Tummy Time per day by 3 months of age. Aim for a few minutes at a time, several times a day.
Tummy Time Moves
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 that you’re 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.
Place baby face down across your lap to burp or soothe them. A hand on baby’s bottom will help steady and calm them
Get down level with your baby to encourage eye contact. Roll up and place a blanket under the chest and upper arms for added support.
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.
Don’t get discouraged. Every bit of Tummy Time with your baby makes a difference. If you have done plenty of Tummy Time with baby, but are concerned they are not meeting their milestones, bring your concerns to baby’s pediatrician or healthcare provider.
Tummy Time Abilities
Many parents hear Tummy Time is important and know doing Tummy Time helps baby build muscles and skills to meet their future motor milestones. But how do you know baby is making progress during Tummy Time? Use these abilities to ensure baby is continuing to develop though Tummy Time. Don’t forget: baby should be continuing to spend longer amounts of time on their tummy and eventually, they may even prefer their tummy to their back.
Tummy to Tummy, Tummy Down Carry, and Lap Soothe are all positions that can be used in addition to Tummy Time on the floor. These positions help baby get used to Tummy Time but baby should be working towards Tummy Time on the floor.
Tip at 2 Weeks: 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!
Turns head during Tummy Time
Attempts to lift head up – even if it’s only for a second before putting their head down again
Tip at 1 Month: To make it easier for baby to lift their head, place a rolled up towel or receiving blanket under baby’s chest and armpits.
Spends at least one minute in Tummy Time several times a day without becoming upset, when otherwise happy
Majority of Tummy Time should be done on the floor
Baby may tilt 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
Tip at 2 Months: 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.
Begins to put weight on arms, but elbows are behind their shoulders (at a 45 degree angle)
Gains head control and is able to lift head between 45 to 90 degrees, without tilting head to either side
Spends a total of 1 hour each day in Tummy Time (in spurts)
Starts to visually track toys or rattles you move around during Tummy Time
Tip at 3 Months: Place baby tummy down on an exercise ball holding their sides for support. Slowly move the ball towards and away from you allowing baby to lift and hold their head easier.
Lifts head up 90 degrees. Should be able to keep their head centered.
Pushes up on forearms and brings chest off floor. Elbows will be under their shoulders (at a 90 degree angle) or in front of shoulders
Lifts head and moves neck to track toys, voices, and faces during Tummy Time
Tip at 4 Months: Babies love faces! Even their own! Use mirrors during Tummy Time to help keep them engaged and having fun.
Begins to push up on hands with straight elbows
May start moving hands forward to reach for toys that are placed nearby
Tip at 5 Months: Do baby push-ups. Place hands under baby’s chest and tummy. Use gentle lifting cues to get baby to push up on hands for brief periods.
Tummy Time becomes more directed by baby
Reaches and grabs toys of different sizes while on tummy
Can pivot in a circle while on stomach
Baby will roll from back to tummy and tummy to back
Baby should begin to prefer being on their stomach. Being on their tummy allows them to play, move, and explore more easily.
Tip at 6 Months: Encourage baby to practice rolling and moving while on their tummy. Use toys to keep them motivated!
Make sure all caregivers know Tummy Time is a normal part of baby’s daily routine. Do a couple minutes of Tummy Time after every diaper change or after every bath so baby starts to expect it.
Try doing Tummy Time when baby is most happy.
Avoid Tummy Time immediately after feeding.
Use time on the floor to play as an alternative to baby being in a carrier or bouncy seat.
Make Tummy Time fun time!
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!
Don’t Get Discouraged. Every Bit of Tummy Time Makes a Difference.
How Does Tummy Time Help With Meeting Milestones?
Strengthens baby’s back, neck, and core muscles and helps build a foundation needed for baby to meet motor milestones including rolling, sitting, crawling, and more.
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.