Tummy Time for Babies: When to Start, Importance & Benefits

Importance of Tummy Time for Babies

While there is a lot of focus on the right nap time, feeding time, and bath time, tummy time importance cannot be undermined. Babies spend almost 15 hours a day sleeping on their backs. Hence, they get fewer chances to practice using their arms, neck, back, and head to lift themselves up. When babies are placed on their belly, they might squall indignantly, be indifferent, coo happily, or just might seem to love the view. Whatever be your child’s reaction, tummy time is one of your baby’s first exercises and needs to be a part of their daily routine.

Video: Tummy Time for Baby – Benefits, When & How to Do It

What Is Tummy Time?

Tummy Time is a stepping stone to reach other developmental milestones for babies. It is the period when your baby spends some time on their stomach. Tummy time need is crucial for strengthening the core muscles of the back, arm, leg, neck, and shoulder muscles. Leaving babies on their belly while they’re awake help all the muscles to work simultaneously. As they put weight on their forearms, their upper body strength increases with gradual practice. Daily tummy time exercise will help your kid to strengthen the neck, arch the back while developing the ability to move their face out of a mattress or a blanket if they accidentally roll to the stomach. Tummy time also encourages babies to practice pivoting and developing motor skills that are often precedes rolling over, scooting around, crawling, sitting up, and eventually walking.

Benefits of Tummy Time

There are various benefits of tummy time when your child spends their waking hours in a belly-down position.  The following points would help to understand why it is an important activity:

1. Reduces Chances of Flat Spots on Heads 

 Tummy Time reduces the chances of babies forming flat spots on the back part of the headIn severe cases, a flat head may lead to distortion of facial features. 

2. Muscle Development

Tummy time helps to develop muscles of the neck, shoulders, arms, and upper back that eventually enable kids to lift their head. 

3. Motor Skill and Sensory Development

Paves the way for motor skill and sensory development that leads them to learn rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking.

4. Stronger Eye Muscles

During tummy time your child gets attracted to the colorful objects in the room. Hence they look around and rotate their eyes which makes their eye muscles grow stronger.

5. Exercise for the Heart and Maintaining Weight

As tummy time involves more activity, it assists in better cardiovascular health and body mass index for babies.

Important Tummy Time Supplies

Important Tummy Time Supplies

Here are some valuable supplies that you may need during tummy time for your baby. Buy them online or from shops that sell exclusive baby products. You may also borrow from a friend, purchase from second-hand stores or parenting groups.

  • Brightly colored soft toys. Light-up toy or rattle to attract a baby’s attention and distract them from the task at hand.
  • Activity mat or baby gym
  • Baby blanket
  • Tummy Time pillow
  • Baby plastic mirror (to be used after three months)
  • Inflatable tummy time water mat. Its textures and colors will instil positive curiosity for babies to explore.
  • Cloth book or picture book

When to Begin Tummy Time as Per AAP

As per the guidelines established by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), tummy time new-born can begin right after they come back from the hospital.

Recommended Tummy Time for Infants per Day

If you’re starting tummy time when your baby is 2 weeks old, introduce short sessions of 30 seconds to one minute. Small increments of time can be made each day. Older babies need long stretches of tummy time to build their strength. If you’re wondering how long to do tummy time, observe your baby and adjust their tummy time as per their needs.  The recommended Tummy Time for infants are given below:

Age of Baby Daily Tummy Time
0 Month 1-5 minutes at a time, 2-3 times per day
1 Month Up to 10 minutes at a time, 2-3 times per day
 2 Months Up to 20 minutes per day. Break down into multiple sessions
 3 Months Up to 30 minutes per day. Break down into multiple sessions
 4 Months Up to 40 minutes per day. Break down into multiple sessions
  5-6 months Up to 1 hour at a time while the baby isn’t complaining.

How to Do Tummy Time With Baby

Make sure to provide a conducive surrounding for tummy time. It is better to have tummy time when your baby is awake and alert after a nap, bath, or diaper change.

1. Clear the floor

Clear a small area on the floor so that your baby can practise tummy time in a safe environment. Spread out a blanket, clean towel or play mat on a flat and firm surface.

2. Toys

Surround the mat with your baby’s favorite toys. Lay down the baby on their belly. 

3. Track the time

Start with three to five minutes for infants. Gradually extend the time by a few minutes per day.

4. Space out the tummy time sessions

Consider short sessions and space out the tummy time with two to three sessions throughout the day. 

5. Frequent sessions

As your baby starts enjoying tummy time, increase the tummy time with more frequent sessions. 

Best Ways to Boost Tummy Time

Best Ways to Boost Tummy Time

Some babies may dislike tummy time in the beginning. Don’t stress. Try different ideas to keep your child’s interest going on till they start to like this activity. Here are the best ways to boost tummy time for your baby and make them more comfortable:

1. Get down on the floor

It is important to get down with your baby, face-to-face or side-by-side during tummy time. It encourages you and reassures them if they get scared of tummy time in the beginning. Aim for 1 to 2 minutes at a time at first for tummy time.

2. Place an unbreakable mirror

They can also get fascinated seeing their own reflection on an unbreakable mirror. Vary its position front to the front to the side so that they can be enticed to reach out for them.

3. Tempt with toys 

Surround your baby with their favorite toy or lighted toy for entertainment which helps develop all the different muscles necessary for sitting up, crawling and walking in the long run.

4. Prop up with a nursing pillow

Place a cushion or soft pillow under your baby’s chest and arms to prop him up if the child protests tummy time. Wean off the prop at a later stage. 

5. Place your baby on your tummy

Lie on your back and place your baby on your tummy. Hold firmly for safety. Raise him overhead and make silly noises or kiss them to practice tummy time in a fun way.

What If Your Child Hates Tummy Time?

Don’t be surprised if your baby fusses or drops his head down at the first attempt of tummy time. Some even hate it if you wait too long to try it. Be patient and try again later. Remember that it takes some effort to lift that head up, and it may not always be fun. It’s a workout for the baby who needs to get adjusted to the new position. Try out different places like outdoors for tummy time. Include fun activities during tummy time for entertainment to help your child get involved and interested in tummy time. If your baby hates it on the floor, you can use a rolled-up towel or a large ball for tummy time. Eventually, your baby will learn to enjoy and tolerate it for more duration. Here are some tips for parents to help their babies have fun on their bellies.

1. Try shorter stints per day

Start tummy time with a few minutes. Go slow, be patient and try again later if your baby starts wailing.

2. Change locations

Switching up the locations or a change of scenery may sometimes make tummy time more tolerable for kids. You can try doing tummy time outside on a clean lawn or playroom with toys around.

3. Massage their feet 

Massage their feet with oil to soothe your baby. As they feel relaxed, put them on the floor for starting this activity.

4. Interact with your baby

Read, talk or sing to your baby to draws their attentionThey would surely raise their head and move around. Make sure you’re not pressurizing the child too much.

5. Take the help of an older sibling

Invite an older sibling to join the tummy time session. Your baby may get an energy boost by seeing a new face around and imitating their action. Keep a watch on both the kids, though.

Tummy Time Safety Tips

Recommendations to ensure a safe tummy time for your baby:

  • Do not introduce tummy time for premature babies, babies with special needs, or babies with reflux disease.
  • Clear the area on the floor. Place a clean mat.
  • If your child looks sleepy, place them back in their crib. Tummy time works best after babies wake up fresh from a nap or after a diaper change.
  • Never leave them alone or let them fall asleep on their tummy. Sleeping in this position involves a significant risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Be alert and keep a close watch or entrust the job to a responsible caregiver to watch your baby.
  • Use age-appropriate toys only for tummy time.
  • You can place your baby on a blanket on one side and use a rolled-up towel to prop up the head. Place a folded washcloth under the head for support.
  • As your child grows up and starts moving more, put away dangerous objects from the surroundings.

It takes small baby steps to achieve any parental goal while raising a child. In a perfect world, your infant will smile and gaze up at your face or move their head around during tummy time. The chances are that, in reality, that may not be the case. Most often, they need some sort of stimulation to keep them engaged. Talk to them in a soothing voice or mimic their expression. In fact, it can be the best time to play and interact with your child so as to strengthen the bond of love and care. By 3 months, most babies can lift their head up to 45 degrees while leaning on their forearm. They begin crawling by around 9 months (some babies don’t crawl at all). So, keep an eye on the exciting stages of development that follow tummy time and set aside that tummy time now! If you still have concerns or specific questions regarding the tummy time of your child, consult your paediatrician, who would offer the best advice to follow.

Also Read:

Baby Crawling Milestone
Baby Cruising Milestone
Baby Clapping Milestone

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Gauri Ratnam completed her Masters in English Literature from the University of Pune. She began her journey as a German translator soon after completing her graduation, but later moved on to pursue her passion for writing. Having written for both digital and print media in a varied range of industries, she has the ability to write relatable and well-researched content, benefical for anyone seeking advice or direction.