A Parent’s Guide to Tummy Time
Did you have lots of “tummy time” when you were a baby? Maybe, maybe not. It didn’t really become a “thing” until the mid-1990s, based on a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies be put to sleep on their backs, not their stomachs. But, tummy time is a good thing—if not always easy. So, in this blog, we’ll cover:
- Why is tummy time important?
- Tummy time tips
- What if my kid hates tummy time?
Why is tummy time important?
Think about it: if you were lying face down on the floor (during yoga, a rough day, or just hypothetically!), you’d use different muscles—when moving around or adjusting your position—than you would when lying on your back. That’s the basic point: it’s not good for baby to always be in one position.
More specifically, when babies spend time on their stomachs, this aids in the development of neck muscles, strength and stability, and head control—and sets them up for perfecting later motor skills like rolling over, crawling, and sitting up.
And, tummy time has also been shown to prevent plagiocephaly (“flat head syndrome”) and torticollis (a stiffening of the neck muscles).
Tummy time tips
You can start introducing your newborn to a tummy time routine when they are a few weeks old. Here’s how:
- Start small, simply by placing your infant stomach-down on your chest for a few minutes at a time. This is the easiest and most natural way to introduce the concept.
- Once baby is somewhat comfortable with this “tummy time” position, transition the activity to the floor; lay down a clean towel, blanket, or play mat (psst, we have just the thing: the Finn + Emma round PLAYMAT or oval lounger playmat.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after baby eats to do tummy times.
- Try for sessions of a minute or two at first, a few times per day. Build up to longer “workouts” for an ideal total of 10+ minutes per day.
- Once your child is rolling over on his or her own (generally by six months), you can retire the tummy time regimen.
- Never leave your child unsupervised during tummy time.
What if my kid hates tummy time?
Maybe you’ve tried this so-called tummy time idea with your newborn, and he or she is having none of it. Some babies are less of a fan than others. Here are some things you might try:
- Join in on the tummy time fun; get down at baby’s level to help them feel less scared, uncomfortable, or alone.
- Put toys within arm’s reach of baby, and/or play music during tummy time.
- You can also try putting a non-breakable mirror in front of baby when he or she is down on the floor to make the activity more amusing and interesting to them.
- Switch locations; sometimes a simple change of scenery can do the trick.
- If your child seems to be in any kind of distress (beyond crying out of annoyance) during tummy time attempts, speak to your pediatrician.
At the end of the day, the main goal is for baby to not spend all day in one position or lying supine. And, tummy time is really more of an art than a science—so don’t stress if your kid is doing shorter tummy times than your neighbor’s kid. Try to help your little one work through any displeasure with belly workouts, but again—just keep them moving, and using a variety of muscles.
For more information, check out Back to Sleep Tummy to Play from the National Institutes of Health.