Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
February 8, 2022

Tummy Time 101

We are sure you have heard, “back when I had babies, we didn’t have to do this so-called tummy time,” at least a dozen times. That is because this purposeful play position wasn’t introduced until the mid 1990s when back sleeping was identified as a way to lower a baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Since the launch of that campaign, pediatricians have been urging parents to put babies on their backs to sleep and tummies to play. This recommendation must be a good thing if it is saving lifes, right?

Absolutely! Except for one thing. Since newborns spend so much time sleeping on their backs, they often find it difficult and uncomfortable when placed on their bellies. Many babies will despise those early days of tummy time and parents may struggle to work through the cries and struggles of tummy time.Unfortunately when babies don’t spend enough time in prone, they miss opportunities to build better head control, push up through their arms to strengthen the shoulder to hand muscles, and are susceptible to flat spots on their heads. As a result, they can struggle to reach milestones like rolling, crawling, and getting in and out of sitting. Insufficient strength in their arms and hands at this stage can even lead to difficulty with higher level fine motor skills like buttoning, cutting, and writing. I know it seems crazy to think about these skills as you look at your tiny baby but the truth is, the foundation for these skills starts in infancy. 

 

 

Does your baby hate tummy time? Here are some tips to help make it a little more tolerable: 

 

Newborns:  After babies are born they are often still curled up in a cute little flexed position, just like they were in the womb.  Their muscles need to stretch out and they realize their head is very HEAVY in comparison to the rest of their body.  Because they still need to build strength in their necks and backs, it can be very difficult to lift those (big) little heads off the floor.  One of the most soothing ways to help newborns tolerate tummy time is to lay them on your chest when you are in a reclined position.  The rhythmic rise and fall of your chest provides familiar comfort and support, and the skin-to-skin contact offers tons of therapeutic tactile input.  

 

1-3 month olds:  As those flexor patterns begin to disappear and your baby builds strength, she’ll be more successful at lifting her head while in the prone position.  At first, her head may bob around a bit or she’ll only be able to lift it for short moments before laying it back down, but with practice, she’ll build endurance.  Around 3 months, we do want to see the head in a more neutral/midline position while in tummy time and she should start lifting her upper chest off of the floor.  If you think your baby needs some extra support, roll a small towel and prop it horizontally under her armpits. This will help keep her head and chest up for longer. Provide lots of motivating toys (think black and white image cards or mirrors) for your baby to look at, or get down at eye-level—she loves to look at you!

 

4 months and beyond:  This is when tummy time starts to get more fun. At this point, your baby should be able to maintain tummy time for longer periods and with less frustration.  Around 4 months, he will be able to support his weight through his forearms and keep his head upright for the entire tummy time practice.  He should also start shifting his weight onto one arm while reaching for a toy with the other.  By 6 months, he should be able to push himself up through extended arms (think cobra position if you are a yogi!) and start to pivot around.  This is a good time to put toys in a circle to motivate him to get moving and start practicing that army crawl. 

 

While designating specific “tummy-time” is important, we never want to extend the session to a point of real distress. If your baby whines or seems mildly uncomfortable, try to switch around some toys or sing songs to help her feel more relaxed. You can also roll her in and out of this position to give them a little break.  If she has made it clear she’s had enough, don’t worry!  Your baby is still getting plenty of benefits from short but frequent tummy time sessions. Try to, focus on the number of opportunities throughout the day, rather than the number of minutes. Still think you would like some additional ways to make tummy time easier and more fun? We offer lots of tips and tricks in our course, Babies on the Move

 

BOTTOM LINE: TUMMY TIME IS NOT EASY, BUT GETTING STARTED RIGHT FROM BIRTH, USING ADAPTIVE POSITIONS AND MAKING IT FUN WITH TOYS, CAN HELP YOUR LITTLE ONE ENJOY THIS IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTAL ACTIVITY!



Check out all the tummy-time related questions other parents have asked on our FREE community here. If you have any questions, post a New Topic and we will be happy to answer you!

 

Free Download

5 Things Your Baby Wants You to Know About Their Development

If you’re like most parents, your baby’s first-year milestones feel sort of mysterious. You may know the big ones they need to hit… but knowing how to make them happen is a whole different story.

Download this free guide to learn five surprising things about your little one’s development. (You’re going to loooooooove #4!)

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Trusted by 100K parents and counting.

 

@totsontarget

[FREEBIE] 5 Things Your Baby Wants You to Know About Their Development

Enter your name and email address below and we'll send this helpful guide! 

Thanks! Check your inbox! (It may take a few minutes...)

[FREEBIE] 5 Things Your Baby Wants You to Know About Their Development

✔️ Learn how to help your baby reach special milestones
✔️ Get tons of actionable activities you can practice with your little one (without all the expensive toys)
✔️ Discover exactly what your baby needs to build strength and confidence

Enter your name and email address below and we'll send this helpful guide! 

Thanks! Check your inbox! (It may take a few minutes...)