Before babies can learn to roll over or walk, they need to strengthen and develop muscles. To help them grow stronger, incorporate tummy time into their daily routines. Let’s explore what tummy time is, when to start, how to do it, the best positions, and why it's so important for your baby's growth and development.
What is tummy time?
Tummy time is when you place your baby on their stomach for a short time while they’re awake and supervised. With their weight on their forearms, they are encouraged to lift their head, helping build their neck, head, and upper body strength.
When to start tummy time
Tummy time can begin as early as a few days after birth—yes, even with their umbilical stump attached—as long as your baby is awake and alert. The first sessions can last around three to five minutes. As your baby grows and develops, you can gradually increase the amount of time they spend on their tummy.
Newborn tummy time helps establish a routine, so your baby will become used to (and perhaps even look forward to) this valuable part of their waking hours. Don't worry if your newborn can't lift their head high just yet—it will happen before you know it. By three months of age, your baby should spend at least 30-60 minutes daily on their stomach.
Tummy time should continue until your baby starts rolling over on both sides—usually when they're around six months old. At that point, your baby will discover all sorts of ways to enjoy their new skill, and dedicated tummy time will no longer be necessary. As the saying goes, they grow up (and roll over) so fast.
How to do tummy time
Tummy time is meant to happen only when your baby is awake—never while sleeping. You might try doing tummy time right after a diaper change or when your baby is well-rested. If your baby shows signs of being tired, or it's almost naptime, consider waiting until after their next sleep session.
When introducing tummy time, keep in mind that every baby is different. Some babies enjoy tummy time, but it can take others a while to adjust. Who can blame them? Their little muscles haven't experienced this kind of "workout" before! But as they get stronger, most babies grow to enjoy tummy time.
Tummy time positions
Ready to try tummy time with your little one? There are a few different positions you can use. Here are three of the most common.
Tummy to chest
To start newborns with tummy time, hold your baby on your chest or lap or use a rolled-up towel or small pillow to prop them up.
Tummy down carry (aka football hold)
The football hold is an alternative to carrying your baby upright, but it still counts as tummy time. Carry your little one belly down over your forearm with one hand between the legs and under the tummy and trunk for support. The bend in your elbow supports their head.
Floor tummy time
Once your baby gets a little bigger, you can place them on their stomach with their arms in front of them on a blanket on the floor. When your baby is on the floor, it helps to get down and join them—and show them how excited you are to have fun! Talk to them, play with them, and encourage them to lift their head and look around.
Best tummy time toys
To add to the tummy time fun, you can use toys or a mirror to engage your baby. The following are some ideas for incorporating these into your baby’s tummy time.
- Choose safe toys with different colors, textures, and sounds that will keep your little one curious and interested.
- Place an infant-safe mirror within your baby's sight line. Let them look at the cute face staring back.
- Plush toys with various bumps, ridges, or crinkles can be used to encourage babies to reach and grasp.
- Soft and lightweight balls can be fun for your baby to bat around and even try to chase after.
Your baby might not be able to move very far just yet, but these stimulating activities are helping them prepare to be on the move.
Why is tummy time important?
Tummy time is necessary because it helps your baby develop strong neck, back, and shoulder muscles. This helps them learn to roll over, crawl, and eventually walk. It also helps prevent flat spots on the back of the head, which can develop if a baby spends too much time on their back.
Explore Enfamil Family Beginnings® for more baby development tips
Start tummy time early, gradually increase the amount of time your baby spends on their tummy, and have fun engaging with your little one during this essential activity. Spend special bonding time together as your baby works their way toward reaching their next exciting milestone. For additional tips and resources on baby development, be sure to join Enfamil Family Beginnings®. Enjoy up to $400 in savings, plus exclusive rewards, support, and surprises. Join now.