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.
Date reviewed: October 2019