If you’ve heard about tummy time for babies, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Lots of healthcare professionals will tell you it’s important and will urge you to do it with your little one. But sometimes it’s easier said than done. Especially if you’re not sure where to start or what to actually do!
So, we’ve created this guide to tell you everything you need to know. We’ll talk about why tummy time is so important for your baby’s development. Share tips and tricks for little ones that hate being on their front. And give you some fun baby play activities that will keep your baby busy during tummy time!
Table of contents
- What Is Tummy Time and Where Does It Come From?
- How Important Is Tummy Time For Babies?
- What Happens If You Don’t Do Tummy Time For Babies?
- What Age Should You Start Tummy Time?
- What Time Of Day Is Best For Tummy Time?
- How Long Should Tummy Time For Babies Be?
- My Baby Hates Tummy Time, Should I Let My Baby Cry During It?
- My Baby Suffers From Acid Reflux, Should I Still Encourage Tummy Time?
- How to Improve Tummy Time For Babies?
- Encourage Your Baby to Look Both Ways
What Is Tummy Time and Where Does It Come From?
Tummy time is exactly how it sounds. It’s the time your baby spends laying on their front when they’re awake and alert.
This concept was first introduced in 1998 when a study noticed that infants who slept on their fronts had better motor skills. These children achieved physical milestones quicker than babies that slept on their backs. For example, they were able to roll, sit supported, creep, crawl and pull themselves to standing earlier.
However, the Safe to Sleep Campaign found that putting a baby to sleep on their tummy caused a lot of cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). So giving babies tummy time in the day, when they’re awake was introduced. It meant that infants could reach their physical milestones. And sleep safely.
How Important Is Tummy Time For Babies?
We’ve already mentioned some of the advantages of tummy time. But you may still be wondering, is tummy time necessary for babies?
And the answer is yes.
It helps to:
- Strengthen your baby’s neck, shoulder, and core muscles. These are all needed for rolling, crawling, standing. And eventually walking.
- Prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head
- Learn to roll, creep, and crawl quicker
What Happens If You Don’t Do Tummy Time For Babies?
It’s quite difficult to not do any tummy time with your baby at all. Because just letting them lay on your chest or certain winding positions help.
But not giving your baby enough time on their front will mean that they’ll be slower in meeting physical milestones. Like rolling, sitting, and crawling. It’s not all bad though. Because the study previously mentioned, found that there wasn’t a difference in the age babies learned to walk.
So in other words, your baby will be slower when learning to crawl if they don’t have a lot of tummy time. But they won’t be slower to learn to walk.
What Age Should You Start Tummy Time?
It’s safe to start tummy time with your newborn as soon as they’re home from the hospital. They may seem fragile at this young age but tummy time is good for newborns. You don’t have to lay them on the floor on a blanket at first though. There are different holds and positions you can try that will help them get used to it.
Read more: How to Do Tummy Time With a Newborn
What Time Of Day Is Best For Tummy Time?
Any time of day is best for tummy time. And you should aim for little and often sessions throughout the morning and afternoon. Just make sure you:
- Wait a little while after feeding. Laying them directly on their tummy after a feed could cause your baby to spit up and be sick.
- Put your baby on their front when they’re awake and well-rested. And always turn them over if they fall asleep during tummy time.
How Long Should Tummy Time For Babies Be?
The duration of tummy time depends on your baby’s age. For example, a newborn will only have a few minutes a couple of times a day. Whereas a 4-6 month old should have a total of 1-2 hours throughout the day.
Here’s our timings guide to help you make sure your baby’s getting plenty of time on their front. All of these times are little and often throughout the day.
Remember, tummy time is a strenuous exercise for your little one and they’ll find it difficult to do all of the recommended time in one long session. Little and often is best.
Newborn – 2 to 3 minutes a few times throughout the day
2 months old – 20 to 30 minutes
3 months – 40 to 60 minutes
4-6 months – 1 to 2 hours
6 months and older – 2 hours+
Every baby is different and you know your baby best. So watch out for signs and cues that they’ve had enough.
If your baby is enjoying the time spent on their front, leave them be. But try to change their position every 15 minutes.
My Baby Hates Tummy Time, Should I Let My Baby Cry During It?
You may find that your baby doesn’t like or hates tummy time. And they may become upset. This new experience is an uncomfortable workout but necessary. It’s normal if they become a little fussy or seem like they’re struggling. And it’s ok to leave them on their front for a few minutes if this is the case.
But if you’re finding your little one just cries, don’t leave them to cry. Just turn them onto their back and try again later.
My Baby Suffers From Acid Reflux, Should I Still Encourage Tummy Time?
It’s common for babies to suffer from colic or acid reflux when they’re little. The good news is that it usually peaks at 4 months old. But the bad news is that it can make tummy time for babies even more difficult and uncomfortable. It can be tempting to avoid tummy time because of this. But you shouldn’t and there are a few things you can do to help.
Putting your baby in a more upright position during tummy time will make a massive difference. It will put less pressure on their stomach and help them to be more comfortable.
Putting your baby on your chest. Laying them on a gym ball or using a tummy time boppy pillow will help them lay in a more upright position.
You can also put a muslin in front of your baby so that you can easily clean any spit-up.
How to Improve Tummy Time For Babies?
There are lots of different ways you can improve tummy time for babies. Especially for babies who hate it or just lay there. Here are a few ideas:
- Use a tummy time pillow or roller to make your baby more comfortable
- Try different Infant activities to distract your baby when they’re laying on their front
- Give your baby a variety of different materials and things to lay on. A comfortable mat, your chest, a foil blanket, gym ball, and silky scarves work well and will keep them interested.
- Use different tummy time toys and baby play games to entertain your little one. Like a baby sensory water mat for example.
Encourage Your Baby to Look Both Ways
You may notice that your baby only looks one way. Or is leaning to the side when laying on their front. If this is the case, try encouraging them to look the other way as often as you can.
Try using an instrument to grab their attention. Start on the side they favour and then slowly move it to the opposite side. This will get them more used to turning both ways and will help with their visual tracking.
You can also try sitting on the side they like the least. Then try to get them to turn their head to look at you.
There are so many benefits of tummy time for babies, it’s important to include it into your baby’s daily routine.
It doesn’t have to be all at once. In fact, little and often sessions work best because they give your baby a break from the exercise.
Trying different positions and holds will also help if your baby hates tummy time. They also help if your baby is colicky or suffers from acid reflux.
Remember to always supervise your little one when they’re on their front. Never leave them unattended. And roll them onto their back if they fall asleep.