Motherhood

Tummy Time: Your Complete Guide & 5 Tips for Success

Guest Post: Dr. Allison Mell10 months ago4 min read

Tummy time is one of baby’s first exercises. After so many hours spent sleeping on their backs, babies need some time on their tummies to play and strengthen their muscles. But for such an important activity, babies sure can hate it!

Tummy time

What is tummy time?

This is designated time during your baby’s waking hours where you lay them on their tummy to play. It’s important to be present during tummy time and place them in a safe place like on the floor or on you.

Why is tummy time important?

When babies are placed on their tummies, they have to work very hard to lift their heads against gravity. As they spend more of their waking hours in this position, they are developing strong neck and back muscles. With continued practice and time, they’ll begin to prop themselves on their elbows, strengthening their arm and shoulder muscles, which are required for rolling, crawling, and even handwriting. Yep, it begins that early and is super beneficial for your baby!

How often should my baby have tummy time?

So many people wonder when they should start tummy time, and exactly how often their little one should experience it. Well, ideally, tummy time should begin at the moment of birth, through skin-to-skin, and continue throughout infancy whenever you find the chance.

My top 5 tips for tummy time success:

Wondering how you can actually do tummy time with your newborn? Or how they can reap the benefits when they’re miserable doing it? I’ve got you covered:

Little bits at a time

Think of tummy time as a workout for your baby. They may not be able to handle 15-20 minutes of a straight workout (I mean, I barely can!), so it’s best to begin with just a few minutes and slowly increase the duration to help your baby build up endurance.

Slip it right into your schedule

Parents often worry about “fitting in” tummy time. Baby life can be busy (read: overwhelming) and remembering to carve out time for baby exercise may mean that it just won’t happen. Combining tummy time slots along with diaper changes can help you remember to do it. Turn your baby onto their tummy right after every diaper change and they’ll be sure to reap the benefits.

Give a little help

When babies are lying on the floor, they may have some difficulty holding their heads up initially. But don’t worry, simply try placing a rolled up towel across their chest and underneath the armpits to help them. If your baby suffers from reflux, placing them on an inclined surface can help with digestion and tummy time simultaneously.

Change up the positions

Lying your baby directly on the floor is the way parents usually think of doing tummy time, but we can also think outside of the box (or off the floor!). Here are a few alternative positions you can try and get the same benefits:

💡 Recline on your back and lay your baby on top of you. They will feel the gentle rise and fall of your chest and your heart beating, helping them feel calm and secure. This is also a great position to smile and interact with your baby.

💡 Sit upright and lay your baby across your lap. You can rub their back and gently bounce your legs to help baby enjoy.

💡 Place your baby on a therapy ball and roll the ball gently in all directions. Rolling it slowly can help baby relax while rolling it faster or bouncing the ball can help baby become more excited and engaged.

Make it fun!

No need to start off your baby’s exercise habits with no entertainment! Bring out a mirror, some toys to look at, or meet your baby face to face to help them enjoy this important time. If they enjoy this time, they will be more likely to stay in this position for longer.

💡 Read next:
When to Start Tummy Time for Your Baby