During your baby's first appointment with their healthcare provider, you’ll likely start being asked questions about tummy time. While it may be evident that tummy time is important, it may not be clear exactly what it entails and why it’s so crucial for your little one. Paired with the fact that many parents find that their baby hates tummy time, it can leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed.
Just know that you aren’t alone. In fact, it’s extremely common for babies to hate tummy time, especially at first. This article explores the importance of tummy time and tips for making it a little more enjoyable for your little one…and you.
What is Tummy Time?
Tummy time refers to the time a baby spends in a prone position (on their tummies) while awake. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs). With so much of their early days (and nights) spent on their back, tummy time is extremely important for a baby’s development.
Think of tummy time as your baby’s exercise.
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Benefits of Tummy Time
While it may not be a favorite pastime among the baby community, there are many benefits associated with regular tummy time.
Some of these benefits include:
- Building of the neck and shoulder muscles
- Improved upper body strength
- Improved motor skills
- Reduced muscle tightness in the neck
- Reduced risk of positional plagiocephaly (flat spots on baby’s head)
- May help reduce gas and constipation (Our easy-digestible bone broth purees are another great way to help reduce constipation once babies begin eating solids. To learn more about how our bone broth purees can help with gut health and constipation, visit Why we Love Bone Broth for Gut Health and Immunity.)
Your baby’s diet and nutrition also plays an important role in their development. Learn more about how fat affects brain development and growth and the role DHA plays in the development of your baby’s brain. Our nutrient-packed purees are a great way to fuel your baby’s brain and body. Try our Meat & Veggies Variety Pack, which are high in fats and proteins that are essential for your growing little one.
How often should babies have tummy time?
It’s recommended to start tummy time within days of birth, starting with 2-3 times a day, each lasting 3-5 minutes. By the time they are 3 months old, aim for several sessions totaling at least 30-60 minutes a day.
Keep in mind that tummy time should only be done when your baby is awake and supervised. If your baby happens to fall asleep, simply roll them onto their back in a safe sleep environment.
Tips for encouraging tummy time
Unfortunately, nothing seems to bring on the tears quite like the dreaded tummy time. While it's common for babies to dislike tummy time—especially at first—there are several things you can do to help encourage your little one and make it a little more enjoyable for you both.
Start with short sessions and work your way up
With any new exercise routine, it’s recommended to start easy and work your way up—tummy time is no different. It’s not necessary that your baby jumps right into a 10-minute session as soon as they get home from the hospital. A slow introduction may help ease your baby into it.
For example—if 3-5 minutes at a time seems unbearable, start with shorter, more frequent sessions. As your baby builds strength and seems to enjoy it more—or protest it less—slowly add time to each session until your baby is able to do longer stretches at a time.
Entice your baby with toys
Distracting your little one may be the key to a tear-free session. You don’t need a bunch of different toys, just find one that your baby likes and set it aside as the “tummy time toy”.
Here are some popular toys for tummy time:
- Sassy Baby Sensory Development Floor Mirror
- Inflatable Tummy Time Water Mat
- Melissa & Doug Flip Fish Soft Baby Toy
- Fat Brain Toys Rock’n Roller Piano
Join in on the fun
Why should your baby be the only one enjoying all the fun that tummy time has to offer? Lie on the floor in front of your baby and recruit older siblings to do the same. You can distract your little one with funny faces or by singing a song. Your older children will enjoy feeling like they are being helpful and babies will love spending time face-to-face with them.
Try alternate positions
Tummy time doesn’t have to just refer to time spent belly-down on the floor. There are several other ways to incorporate tummy time into your baby's routine.
Some examples of other tummy time positions include:
- Placing your baby belly-down on your chest or across your lap
- Propping your baby’s chest up slightly with a pillow
- Carrying your baby tummy-side down once they have a little more neck strength
- Playing airplane with your baby once they have a little more neck strength
To learn more about how to keep your baby safe in some of these alternate positions, such as playing airplane, read our article on Safe Rough Play for Babies.
Don’t get discouraged
Babies can sense a parent’s emotions from a very young age. If you’re feeling discouraged or frustrated, it’s likely that they can sense it. Try to remember that every baby is different and what works for one baby, may not work for another. It’s important that you stick with it and keep trying to find what works best for you both.
Article written by Jennifer Wirth, a professional health writer, leveraging her scientific background as a Chemical Engineer to uncover the most interesting aspects of infant nutrition, pregnancy, and parenting. As a wife and mother of three young children, Jennifer is passionate about providing the best possible nutrition for her family. She believes that developing healthy eating habits early helps build the foundation for a long, fulfilling life.
All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.