Here is your complete guide to Tummy Time for Babies; why it’s important, how to start, what to expect & tips to make it comfortable for baby – and you!
From the time your baby is born, he is on his back, either in your arms or in his crib. This may seem normal enough, after all we don’t expect babies to walk just yet! However, even babies can do with a slight change in position, which is where tummy time comes in!
Tummy time is when you place your baby to rest on her stomach, while fully awake. A baby sleeping on his stomach is not considered tummy time. Tummy time is meant for babies to move and play while on their tummies, and this acts as a workout for your baby, strengthening all his muscles. The baby usually balances his or her weight on the forearms.
Tummy time isn’t just entertaining for baby, it is essential for baby’s development and to help babies hit their physical milestones on time. Here is a more detailed look at the benefits of tummy time for babies.
Tummy Time for Babies – Why is it Important?
1. Being on the tummy encourages the development of strong muscles in the neck, back, shoulders and core
2. Tummy time helps baby get the hang of controlling their head
3. When babies move to adjust their weight, they develop a sense of balance and body awareness
4. The muscles strengthened during tummy time ensure babies reach crawling, sitting, standing and other milestones on time
5. Babies who practice tummy time walk on average 101 days earlier than babies who don’t do tummy time
6. Being on their tummies encourages hand eye coordination as babies can now see their hands
7. Spending time on their tummies boosts babies’ gross motor skills
8. Tummy time encourages using muscle groups that are not used when lying flat on the back
9. Spending regular periods of time on the tummy can prevent positional plagiocephaly or flat spots on the head which can cause asymmetries in the face
10. Tummy time also helps prevent positional torticollis, where the baby’s head tilts to one side due to stiff neck muscles
11. Babies who are used to tummy time find it easier to adjust to new sleeping positions, improving sleep duration
12. Being on the tummy for a few minutes every day can reduce gas pain
13. As babies are propped on their tummies, they get a whole new view of the world than when they were on their backs
14. Tummy time gives babies a chance to explore everything around them, as they see and touch things in their vicinity
15. Being able to stay propped up on the tummy gives babies a sense of independence and encourages to move more
16. Tummy time is a good opportunity for baby to bond with parents, grandparents and siblings
Tummy Time Milestones
It’s never too early to start tummy time for babies; in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that babies can begin tummy time as soon as they come from hospital. Here’s a checklist of what you can expect as the weeks go by.
1 – 2 Months:
- She is comfortable spending at least a minute on the tummy
- Baby can turn her head to the sides
- She tries lifting her head up
- Baby uses her hands to anchor her weight as she tries to lift up
- She feels confident enough to move her hands out a little
- The legs alternate between being straight and bent
3 – 4 Months:
- Baby can spend a total of 1 hour on the tummy every day
- She can lift her head without tilting, starting at about 45 degrees and up to 90 degrees
- She can follow toys with her eyes while on the tummy
- Baby puts more weight on the forearms, elbows directly under or behind the shoulders
- She can lift her shoulders a little higher now as well as part of her chest
- She may be able to lift the arms and feet, arching the back
- Baby now enjoys tummy time and can spend longer in this position
- She can now push herself up completely on her hands with elbows straight
- She can extend her hands forward to reach for toys around her
- Babies of this age can pivot in a circle while on the belly
- They can roll from the tummy to the back and vice versa
From 7 months, most babies have become more mobile and are crawling, so they won’t spend as much time on their tummies anymore. However, it’s important to remember that every baby is different, so each baby might reach their milestones at different times.
How to Start Tummy Time for Babies?
You don’t need much to start your baby’s tummy time routine. Decide on a certain part of your home and clear all things out of the way. Place a soft blanket on the floor. Place your baby slowly on the blanket, preferably when she’s in a good mood, like after a nap or diaper change, not when she’s sleepy. Let her get used to the new position for as long as she’s comfortable. When she starts fussing, pick her up and try again later.
In the early days, you can use a firm cushion like a nursing pillow under the baby’s chest to prop her up. At the beginning, let baby stay tummy down for 3-5 minutes, 2-3 times a day. As baby starts getting used to playing on her tummy, you can extend the time and increase the frequency. By 3 months, most babies can spend a total of one hour on their tummies over the course of a day. To make tummy time more interesting, you can engage baby in some activities for baby.
Tummy Time Activities for Baby
1. A good starting tummy time activity for newborns is the chest to tummy position. Lie down on the floor or bed, and place baby on your chest so you’re face to face. Talk and coo to your baby and he’ll try to lift his head to look at you.
2. Babies may get alarmed at the sudden change in view. Ease baby’s worries by getting down to baby’s level and smiling at baby from the side. You can move from one side to another to encourage baby to turn her head to look at you.
3. Try baby push-ups where you place your hands under baby’s abdomen and gently pull, coaxing baby to lift her body.
4. Place baby’s favorite toys and books around her, so she’s encouraged to lift her head and look.
5. Babies enjoy looking at mirrors, so placing an unbreakable mirror in front of her during tummy time is a good idea.
6. Place baby tummy down on a gym ball, holding on to her. Slowly roll the ball towards and away from you, in tiny motions that mimic rocking.
Tips for making Tummy Time Comfortable for Baby
- Never leave baby unattended during tummy time – there should always be an adult close by
- Avoid tummy time if you are feeling sleepy or groggy – it can be unsafe for baby
- Dress baby in loose clothes that allow for movement
- Create a routine where baby gets tummy time after every diaper change or nap
- Avoid tummy time right after feeding as the pressure on her tummy can cause her to spit up
- Don’t put baby on her tummy when she’s sleepy
- Inform other family members about baby’s tummy time routine
- Use this opportunity to sing songs and talk to baby
- Rather than spending too much time, try to get in 1-2 minute sessions through the day
- If baby seems bored, change the location, by taking him to another room or outdoors
- Babies usually enjoy the company of other children during tummy time, like siblings
- Change baby’s direction and position during her tummy time sessions so she can experiment
- Tummy time is a good opportunity to massage baby
Every baby reacts differently when placed on the tummy. Some babies love the new view, while some may sulk a little before they get comfortable. If your baby seems to resist, don’t worry. Just pick her up for now and try later when she’s in a better mood.
Babies with reflux may find tummy time troublesome at first, but they soon get used to it with some practice. Monitor how your baby is progressing as she spends more time on her tummy. If you notice that she is not able to lift her head at all by 3 months, you may need to see baby’s pediatrician. Also make sure that baby is able to move her head to both sides equally and isn’t preferring one side all the time.