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. Here’s an easy guide to making tummy time fun for parents and baby.
What is tummy time?
Tummy time is simple: When you place your baby on their stomach for a few minutes of supervised "exercise," that's tummy time. Tummy time is meant to happen only when you and your baby are alert and awake—never when they're sleeping, as babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS1.
Why is tummy time important?
Tummy time is important for so many reasons. First, tummy time is good for preventing flat spots on the back of your baby's head—something that's important, since their skull remains malleable during the first year.2 ,3 Tummy time also encourages your baby to lift their little head up, strengthening the muscles in their neck and shoulders—which is key to eventually developing gross motor skills such as rolling, crawling, and walking. Finally, tummy time is playtime and a great opportunity for parents and babies to bond.
When should my baby start tummy time?
The "tummy time age" begins on the day your baby comes home—yes, even with their umbilical stump attached. Newborn tummy time helps establish the routine, so your baby will become used to (and perhaps even look forward to) this important part of their waking hours. Don't worry if your newborn can't lift their head up high just yet—it will happen before you know it.
How long should tummy time last?
Pediatricians recommend doing tummy time two or three times per day. At first, a tummy time session can be just 3 to 5 minutes long, but over the next months, you'll want to increase the length and frequency until your baby gets a daily total of one hour of tummy time per day.
When should I schedule tummy time?
Tummy time is meant to happen only when your baby is awake. 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.
What if my baby doesn't like tummy time?
Some babies enjoy tummy time, but for others, it takes a while to adjust. Who can blame them? Their little muscles haven't experienced this kind of "workout" before! But as they grow stronger, most babies grow to enjoy tummy time. Here are some ways you can make tummy time fun:
- Get down on the floor at eye level, so your baby can engage with you.
- Place an infant-safe mirror within your baby's sight line.
- Place toys just out of reach to encourage your baby to reach for them.
- Lie down on your back, holding your baby so you're stomach to stomach.
Tummy time should continue until your baby starts rolling over on both sides—usually when they're around 6 months old. At that point, your baby will discover all sorts of ways to enjoy their new skill, and dedicated tummy time won't be necessary any longer. As the saying goes, they grow up (and roll over) so fast.
Beyond tummy time there are tons of ways to give your baby a boost during their first month. Discover these activities for newborns and make the most of these first weeks!