What is Tummy Time and why is it important?
Tummy Time is one of baby’s first exercises—and the most important! It is any period of the day where the child is placed on his or her stomach to play. It is a crucial exercise for baby’s motor, visual, and sensory development. Practicing tummy time helps babies develop the muscles necessary to lift their heads and, eventually, to sit up, crawl and walk. Tummy time is not an activity for sleep! Your baby should always be awake and supervised when lying on their tummy.
Tummy time is important because it:
- Helps prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head
- Makes your baby’s head, neck and shoulder muscles stronger so they can start to sit up, crawl, and walk
- Improves your baby’s motor skills (using muscles to move and complete an action)
- Alleviates gas and gastrointestinal pain
- Helps master head control
- Exposes your baby to different sensory environments
- Engages and promotes bonding between you and your baby
When should Tummy Time start and how long does it last?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents start tummy time early. In fact, babies born at full term with no health issues can start tummy time as soon as their first day home from the hospital. As a new born, your baby can benefit from 2-3 tummy time sessions every day, lasting around 3-5 minutes each. As they get older and become more able to tolerate tummy time, your baby should gradually practice more each day. When your baby is 3-4 months old, aim to achieve at least an hour total per day. You should continue doing this with them until they are at least 7-9 months old when they begin crawling. At this age, they will be getting the developmental benefits of tummy time while moving, and it is not as essential to have them do it, however, it is still beneficial to have your baby lying on their stomach during play.
Why doesn’t my baby like Tummy Time?
Some babies may not like the tummy time position at first, particularly when they have not yet developed the muscles to lift their head and neck. Eventually, your baby should enjoy lying on their tummy and begin to enjoy play in this position.
Tips for making tummy time more enjoyable:
- Place yourself or a toy in reach for him or her to play with.
- Lie on your bellies together, side-by-side or face-to-face, on a comfy surface.
- Put your baby tummy-down on your chest while you do your sit-ups. Add some funny faces and silly noises with each rep.
- Change locations, giving your baby a different view to look at each session.
- Entertain your baby with colorful toys that make noises and have lights while lying on their tummy.
- Use a pillow or folded towel under your baby’s arms to slightly elevate them when lying on their tummy.
Tummy Time Abilities
At 2 weeks your baby:
- Using tummy-to-tummy with you, tummy down carrying positions, and lap soothing positions
- Working towards lying on the floor on their tummy
- May become irritated when placed on their tummy, especially on the floor
After 1 month, your baby:
- Should attempt turn their head while lying on their stomach
- Attempting to lift head up, even if they are unsuccessful
At 2 months, your baby:
- Spending at least 1-2 minutes lying on their stomach without becoming upset
- Doing most exercises on the floor
- Tilting their head to one side (Note: ensure they are tilting their head to both sides and watch for early signs of Torticollis)
At 3 months, your baby:
- Is beginning to put some weight in their arms, with elbows behind their shoulders
- Gaining more head control for longer periods of time
- Spending a total of 1 hour total each day lying on their stomach
- Visually tracks toys and objects in front of them
At 4 months, your baby:
- Lifting their head to a 90 degree angle and keeping it centered
- Pushing up on their arms to bring chest off the floor
- Lifting head and moving neck simultaneously to visually track you and toys in front of them
At 5 months, your baby:
- Beginning to push up on hands with straight elbows
- Starting to reach for toys placed nearby and moving/scooting forward
At 6+ months, your baby:
- Initiates lying on tummy on their own during play
- Reaching and grabbing toys
- Pivoting in a circle while on their stomach
- Rolling from their tummy to their back and vice versa
- Prefers being on their stomach to allow for easier play, movement, and exploring
How can Carolina Therapy Connection help?
We often have parents ask us about tummy time, so our amazing physical therapist, Emily Tower, is here to help! Watch this video to learn more about how you can engage your child in tummy time.
If you have any questions about tummy time or your child’s development, contact Carolina Therapy Connection!
- Our email is info@carolinatherapyconnection
- Our phone number is 252-341-9944
- We will be happy to do a FREE screening!