By Renee Roberts, PT, DPT
What is tummy time and why is it important?
Tummy time is when an infant is placed on their stomach to play and explore their environment during waking hours. Tummy time is crucial for your baby’s motor, sensory, and visual development. Tummy time can also help prevent conditions such as Plagiocephaly and Torticollis.
How does tummy time help with meeting milestones?
Motor: Tummy time allows your baby to strengthen their muscles of the neck, core, back, and shoulders to develop control for future milestones such as rolling, sitting, crawling, and standing.
Sensory: Feeling different textures (carpet, blankets, etc) on their arms, hands, and cheeks helps develop your baby’s sense of touch. As your baby begins to move and weight shift during tummy time, they will begin to develop body awareness and vestibular senses.
Visual: Tummy time allows babies to watch their hands as they play which will help develop their hand-eye coordination.
When should my baby start tummy time?
Tummy time should begin early to help with development. You can start tummy time as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital. As a newborn, start with 1-2 minutes at a time, several times daily. As your baby begins to tolerate tummy time, gradually increase tummy time increments. By 3 months, your baby should be able to tolerate 1 hour of total tummy time per day (may be split up into smaller spurts). Consistent daily tummy time is important until your baby is crawling independently.
Tummy Time Milestones
2 weeks: Your baby is still getting used to tummy time. To make tummy time a part of your daily routine, place your baby in tummy time for a brief period after every diaper change. Tolerance can be increased by using Tummy to Tummy, Tummy Down Carry, and Lap Soothe positions.
1 month: Your baby will start to turn their head during tummy time. They will also begin lifting their head (even just for a second before putting it back down).
2 months: Your baby should be increasing tolerance to tummy time, spending at least 1 minute on their tummy without becoming upset. Your baby will slowly begin to get better at lifting their head up.
3 months: Your baby is getting stronger and now will begin to bear weight on their arms while lifting their head up to look at toys.
4 months: Your baby will now be able to push up on their arms with elbows under them at 90 degrees. They will also be able to lift their head up to 90 degrees and will begin to move their neck to look at toys.
5 months: Your baby will begin to push up on their hands with extended elbow. Your baby may also begin to reach for nearby toys.
6+ months: By now your baby will start self directing tummy time and will begin rolling in and out of tummy time all by themselves. Your baby will begin to explore moving on their belly and will pivot in a circle to get toys.
7-9 months: Your baby will begin to belly crawl and eventually crawl on hands and knees.
Tummy Time Tips
- Make tummy time part of your daily routine. Use diaper changes to place your baby in tummy time for one minute so your baby begins to expect it.
- Avoid tummy time after feeding
- Tummy time should be while your baby is awake and supervised. If your baby falls asleep during tummy time, place them on their back.
- Try tummy time when your baby is in a calm and happy mood for the most success
- Use a rolled up towel or blanket under your baby’s chest to improve tolerance
- Make tummy time fun!
- Sing songs
- Use rattles or toys to engage tour baby
- Lay on the floor with your baby, they love to look at faces!
Tummy Time Activities
Tummy time doesn’t always have to take place on the floor! Lie down on your back, with your head flat or propped, and place your baby on your chest or tummy so you are face-to-face. Always hold your baby for safety. Encourage your baby to look at you by talking or singing songs.
Lay down on the floor with your baby and encourage eye contact. For increased support, roll up a small towel or blanket and place it under their chest.
Place baby face down across your lap to burp or soothe them. A hand on baby’s bottom will help steady and calm them.
Tummy Down Carry
Slide one hand under the tummy and between the legs when carrying baby tummy down.
Other Tummy Time Resources: