How to Provide Tummy Time for Your Baby

Placing an infant on their stomach daily – also referred to as tummy time – can help encourage healthy development.

Key takeaways:
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    Tummy time involves placing your infant on their stomach for designated periods throughout the day.
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    Doing tummy time can help to encourage healthy development in your baby.
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    With time, your baby will adjust to tummy time and learn to tolerate it for longer periods.
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    Always take steps to keep your baby safe during tummy time, paying close attention to their safety and comfort.

Tummy time is an important activity for babies of all ages, and it can begin as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital. Daily tummy time helps babies build neck strength and develop their motor skills.

What is tummy time?

Tummy time involves placing your infant on their stomach daily. This practice allows your baby to practice moving their head, helping them strengthen neck muscles. Over time, your baby will eventually figure out how to roll over from their stomach onto their back. Babies typically roll from front to back before they roll from back to front, so doing tummy time allows them to master this milestone.

When can babies start tummy time?

Babies can start tummy time as soon as they are brought home from the hospital. It is recommended that parents start slowly with tummy time, easing their baby into the routine. This means you’ll only need to place them on their stomach for a few minutes at a time – but you’ll want to do this two to three times a day. Some babies are not big fans of tummy time (especially when first getting used to it). If your baby doesn’t like to be on their stomach when placed on the ground, try holding them on your chest and doing tummy time that way.

What does tummy time help with?

When your baby is first born, he or she won’t have much neck strength. Tummy time allows them to try using their neck muscles to hold their head up, helping them with important motor development. With practice, your baby will eventually figure out how to hold their head up and move it around. They’ll also start to use their hands to push their chest up off the floor.

Even older babies benefit from tummy time. Between four and seven months of age, tummy time benefits babies by allowing them to practice pushing more of their body up with their arms and starting to crawl. Tummy time helps your baby figure out how to roll from front to back and then from back to front.

A condition called flat head syndrome can occur when babies spend too much time lying in one position on their backs. Doing tummy time regularly can help prevent flat head syndrome by giving your baby time to lie in new and different positions.

How long should tummy time last?

When first starting tummy time, it only needs to last for about one to two minutes, two to three times per day. You can work up to doing tummy time for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Try adding about 10 extra minutes of tummy time per month of your baby’s life. So, for example, at one-month-old, they should be able to tolerate tummy time for 10 minutes at a time. At two months old, they should be able to do it for 20 minutes at a time, and so on.

Keep in mind that every baby develops at a unique rate, and there is no right or wrong way to do things. Your baby may love tummy time and take to it right away, or it may take longer. If you have concerns about your child’s development, consult your pediatrician.

How to do tummy time

With newborns, you can start by letting them lie across your chest on their stomach while you are leaning back, or you can lay them across your lap if that’s easier.

Here are some steps for doing tummy time on the floor with your baby:

  • Find a safe place to do tummy time. We recommend a padded area of your homes, such as a rug or carpet.
  • Put down a clean mat or blanket for your baby to lie on.
  • Place your baby on their stomach on the mat or blanket.
  • Always remain with your baby during tummy time and watch them closely to make sure their mouth and nose do not become covered.
  • Give your baby a few minutes to remain on their stomach (or let them do it for longer if they enjoy it).

Safety precautions for tummy time

It is important to always remain with your baby and watch them closely during tummy time to keep them safe. Young babies who can’t move their heads or roll over on their own are at risk for suffocation if their mouths and nose become covered. For this reason, you always need to pay close attention during tummy time. Watch your baby to ensure that they can breathe and that their airway is not compromised.

Always practice tummy time in a safe environment. Keep the area where your baby is lying free from other kids or pets so that they don’t get stepped on or injured. Make sure you’re laying your baby down on a clean surface by placing a mat or blanket down for them. Don’t lay your baby down for tummy time on a rug or carpet that has been walked on with shoes and hasn’t been cleaned since this could expose your baby to bacteria and germs.

Talking and singing to your baby can help make tummy time more enjoyable for them. If your baby seems uncomfortable or upset during tummy time, then it’s okay to stop and try again later when they’re feeling better. Try to avoid starting tummy time immediately after your baby has been fed since this can cause them to spit up.

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