Author: Rebecca Rudisill PT, DPT, Pediatric Certified Specialist
What do you think of when you hear “tummy time”? That short phrase is a source of stress for many new parents. Not only is getting a baby to enjoy tummy time often a challenge, the recommendations and best practices can sometimes be unclear.
- How long should tummy time last?
- Where should you do tummy time?
- What do you do if your baby hates tummy time?
- The list goes on.
But have no fear, I am happy to be your tummy time guide and answer those frequently asked questions.
What is tummy time?
Let’s start with the basics. Tummy time is intentionally placing your infant on their stomach while they are awake and supervised. You as the supervising adult should be awake, alert, and physically present with your child the entire time.
Why encourage tummy time?
Participating in tummy time is an important tool that helps your baby with many aspects of development. Spending time on their belly helps keep your baby’s head round or helps it round out if they have a flat spot. Propping on their forearms helps develop shoulder strength, which helps your infant reach milestones such as rolling and crawling on time. Over time, babies will develop head control and will be able to look at you and follow a toy while on their bellies. Visual tracking during tummy time lays the groundwork for your child’s future hand-eye coordination. If your infant does not participate in tummy time, it will be much more difficult for them to achieve these milestones.
When should you do tummy time?
You can do tummy time at any point during the day. Just pick a time that is convenient for you and your baby. Your baby may prefer to do tummy time before they eat, or they may be happier lying down after they have had a bottle. Either way is fine. The only caveat is that you must pick a time when your baby is awake. If they fall asleep on their stomach, roll them gently to their back and plan to resume tummy time once they are done napping.
How long should tummy time last?
Newborns, who can begin tummy time as soon as they come home from the hospital, should start with just a few minutes a couple times a day. From there, infants should build up slowly over time until they are participating in 1 hour or more of tummy time per day as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Tummy time can also be broken up into small chunks spread throughout the day. One sixty minute tummy time session gives the same benefit as sixty one minute sessions. While that is an extreme example, it does illustrate the way tummy time can be tailored to your baby’s specific tolerance.
Where should my baby do tummy time?
Your baby can participate in tummy time on any safe and firm surface. This can include on the floor, on a play mat, over a Boppy pillow, and on a caregiver’s lap or chest. It is not recommended to place your baby on their belly on adult mattresses or thick comforters/duvets as these surfaces are too soft. Creative accessories such as water mats or towel rolls can also be used. As always, base your decisions on what works best for your baby.
What is my role when my baby is in tummy time?
Your role in tummy time is twofold – supervision and engagement. As previously stated, you must remain present and alert while your baby is on their belly. But beyond that, tummy time can be a great opportunity to bond and play with your child. Get down on their level, and make eye contact with them. Talk to them, play with them, and engage them. You will see them watch you and respond to your actions!
What do I do if my baby hates tummy time?
If your baby is unhappy during tummy time, try making your sessions shorter and more time constrained. Try singing a favorite song to your baby each time they are on their belly. As soon as the song is over, roll them to their back. If you repeat this pattern frequently, your baby will start to understand that once the song is over, tummy time is too. Elevating your baby’s head higher than their hips using a Boppy pillow, towel roll, or wedge cushion can also help make tummy time easier. This angled position decreases the effort required for baby to lift their head against gravity. Distracting your baby with yourself or interesting toys can also help make tummy time more enjoyable.
If you have specific concerns about your baby’s development or lack of tummy time tolerance, please contact Woman’s Pediatric Therapy team online or at 225-924-8450.