Tummy Time: How Much of It Babies Need [A Complete Guide]
Tummy time for Babies— what’s the Big Deal?
What is Tummy Time? When you think about ‘it,’ what comes to mind? Perhaps it is the image of a baby on their tummy with their feet up in the air and maybe even a toy in hand? That’s precisely what tummy time is – spending time on the belly. But it’s not always this easy, which is why this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Here, you’ll learn about tummy time for babies and how this skill can help your child’s development. We’ll look at what tummy time is, why it’s important, what benefits it offers and how to perform tummy time correctly.
Then, we will move on to look at the various challenges you may face while trying tummy time with your child. We will also include some tips to help with these challenges and provide suggestions for props you can use while doing tummy time.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What Is a Tummy Time?
The term tummy time is precisely what it sounds like. Tummy time for babies is a specific term that means placing your baby on his tummy to play for a certain length of time every day. It is among the first exercises babies should do!
During this practice, you place your wide-awake baby face down for a short time, closely observing him. You should engage your child in this activity as it can strengthen neck and shoulder muscles and boost motor, sensory, and visual skills.
Newborns can start practicing till they get to their first year.
A Brief History
The A.A.P. recommended tummy time in response to its 1994 “Back to Sleep” campaign, which advocated that babies should always be put to sleep on their backs (not on their stomachs).
Although the “Back to Sleep” campaign helped reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), it had its downside.
Many parents stopped placing their babies on their tummies, and pediatricians started recording infant torticollis (the condition of a baby’s head constantly tilting to one side) increases. They also recorded an increase in plagiocephaly (a flat spot at the back of an infant’s skull).
To stop these infant medical conditions completely, the A.A.P. started advising parents to do daily tummy time when their babies are awake.
Also, in 1998 a research noticed that babies that slept on their stomachs had better motor skills. In comparison to babies who slept on their backs, these children achieved physical milestones faster.
For instance, they could roll, creep, sit supported, crawl, and stand up earlier in life.
Benefits of Tummy Time and Why It is So Important for Babies.
You can benefit your baby from daily tummy time in several ways:
Provides a Great Opportunity for Bonding
Having tummy time with your baby is an excellent way to play with him and strengthen your bond.
It Enhances Physical Development
Your baby benefits from awake-tummy time by gaining flexibility and strength in his upper body, especially his back and neck muscles.
It Can Help Your Baby Crawl Faster
Infants learn to crawl at different times, but frequent time spent on the stomach may increase their chances of learning before eight months.
Your Baby Can Learn To Roll Over Faster
While doing tummy time, your infant will develop the necessary motor skills and strength to roll over, sit up, crawl, and eventually walk.
Promotes Your Baby’s Cognitive and Brain Development
A baby on its tummy gets the chance to observe and explore the world differently. As your baby discovers new perspectives and develops balancing skills, he develops spatial awareness and strengthens his right and left brain connections.
Prevent Flat Head Syndrome and Relieve Torticollis
While awake, lying babies on their stomachs may also help avoid flat head syndrome. Babies with torticollis, a condition that causes tight muscles in the neck, can benefit from tummy time. Combined with physiotherapy exercises, tummy time can help a baby’s tight neck muscles relax.
Tummy Time and Flat Spots
Tummy time helps prevent the risk of flat spots in babies.
The back to sleep, tummy to play practice aims particularly to close the gap between the time spent by babies on their back and the time spent by babies on their tummy.
Babies sleeping on their backs help reduce Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). We are, however, faced with the possibility of flats spots due to the prolonged back-to-sleep position of babies.
This is exactly where we see one of the importance of tummy time.
Babies do not spend time on their tummy when on car seats, bouncers and swings; therefore, limiting the time they spend in those positions also helps to prevent flat spots.
6 Ways to Make Tummy Time Interesting, Fun and Safe for Babies
Ideally, this practice should take place when your baby is awake. He can practice how to hold his head up, look side-ways, and support the weight on his arms.
Tummy-to-Chest or Tummy-to-Tummy
Lie flat on the ground or the bed propped up on pillows. Place your baby on your chest or tummy so that you both can face each other. And Always hold him firmly for safety.
Football Hold or Tummy-Down Carry
Position your one hand under your baby’s tummy and between his legs and carry the baby’s tummy down. With your other hand, support your baby’s neck and head. Get your baby accustomed to the position by nestling him close to your body.
Put your baby’s face down across your laps. Placing a hand on your infant’s bottom will help steady and calm him. You can use this move to burp and soothe your child.
Encourage eye contact by going down to your baby’s level. Babies love seeing your face.
Put your infant on their tummy for one or two minutes at a time. Start a few minutes at a time, and try to do this 4 or 5 times a day. Try to work up to one hour per day in shorter intervals by the end of 3 months.
The best way you can add the tummy time into your infant’s daily routine is by carrying it out for one to two minutes after every diaper change.
Tummy Time with Toys
Keep your baby entertained on his tummy by giving him something to play with or look at. A mirror is a great idea. Help him reach for toys. Help your child bear weight through his arms by keeping his elbows under his shoulders.
Check out this short video on the best ways to do Tummy time.
When To Start Tummy Time for Babies?
As soon as your newborn comes home, you can begin tummy time with him. This practice is good for newborns, even though they appear fragile at this young age. However, you do not have to lay them on a blanket at first. You can try different holds and positions to help them become accustomed to it. Another option is to place your baby on a C-curved pillow or lounger, which is more convenient than an ordinary pillow.
Are you worried about the umbilical cord stump?
Because the stump contains no nerve endings, tummy time won’t harm your infant. Your little one’s umbilical stump will be fine as long as you follow your midwife’s or doctor’s instructions.
What Time Is Best For Tummy Time?
Tummy time is best at any time of the day. Aim for frequent, short sessions in the morning and afternoon. Ensure you do the following:
- After feeding, wait a little while. Your baby may spit up and feel sick after being placed directly on their tummy following a feeding.
- You should place your well-rested baby on his front when he is awake. When they fall asleep on their tummies, always turn them over.
What If Your Baby Hates It?
At first, some babies dislike this practice. You may discover that your baby does not enjoy tummy time. Consequently, they may get upset. Uncomfortable as this new experience is, it is necessary for your baby.
You shouldn’t be surprised if they are fussy or seem overly frustrated. When this is the case, you may leave them lying on their front for a few minutes. Give your infant a toy to play with to distract him and hold his head up.
Help him push up by placing your hands underneath his chest and lifting him gently. Play airplane with him or hold him tummy-down. This practice becomes easier for babies as they spend more time on their stomachs.
However, if your baby is crying, you shouldn’t leave them crying. Lie them on their backs, and then try again later.
Dr. Corwin Sutherin, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, has it that parents and caregivers should supervise tummy time, and babies should be comfortable doing it.
He said tummy time is not torture time; therefore, babies should get a break if they do not find tummy time interesting at the time. If babies lying on their tummy go unsupervised, then it is not tummy time he says.
Tummy Time Milestones
What are the signs that your infant is progressing during tummy time? As the baby develops, make sure it is developing the following abilities.
Two Weeks After Birth
Baby uses Tummy-to-Tummy, Tummy-Down Carry, and Lap Soothe positions. He is working towards floor Tummy Time.
Tip: We advise that you use the Tummy to Tummy for your new baby to allow a lot of cuddling and face-to-face connection with your infant.
One Month After Birth
Baby is practicing with a rolled-up towel, turning head and lifting head up (usually last for few seconds).
Tip: We advise that you lay down at your baby’s eye level. Let him enjoy your face and voice.
Two Months after Birth
The baby is doing the tummy time with his head at 45 Degrees. He is participating in a few minutes of tummy time every day without being upset.
Your baby is performing most of the tummy time exercises on the floor. A slight tilt of the head might be observed in the baby.
Tip: Check to see if they alternate tilting both ways instead of always favouring one direction. That could indicate positional torticollis.
Three Months after Birth
Baby does the tummy time with a toy(s). He begins to put weight on his arms, bringing their elbows to a 45-degree angle.
The baby possesses head control and can raise his head from 45 to 90 degrees without tilting it in any direction.
He can spend about 1 hour every day in Tummy Time. Also, the baby begins to visually track rattles or toys you move around during Tummy Time.
Tip: Lay baby belly down on an exercise ball while holding their sides. Move the ball slowly away and toward you, which will help your baby lift and keep his head easier.
Four Months after Birth
Baby raises his head at 90 degrees and keeping it centred.
He pushes up his forearms and lifts his chest off the floor. Typically, elbows will be in front of shoulders or at 90 degrees to them.
Baby lifts head and move neck to monitor toys, faces, and voices during tummy time.
Tip: Babies are known to love faces, including their own. You can keep them engaged during Tummy Time by using mirrors.
Five Months after Birth
Baby begins pushing up on the hands keeping straight elbows. Also, he starts to reach forward for toys that are placed nearby.
Tip: Perform baby push-ups. Put your hands under the baby’s chest and stomach, and gently lift them to get them to push on your hands for a brief period.
Six Months and above after Birth
Baby carries out self-directing Tummy Time. He reaches out to grab different toys while on his tummy. Additionally, he can pivot in a circle while on belly and roll from back to tummy and verse-visa. Baby begins to enjoy lying on their stomach as they can move, play, and explore super easily.
Tip: Help your baby roll over and move while on their stomach. Keep them motivated using toys.
In a Nutshell
As tummy time provides so many benefits for babies, it’s essential to incorporate it into your baby’s daily routine.
You don’t need to do it in one go. It is best to break up exercise into little and often sessions because they give your baby a rest from the practice.
Changing position and holding your baby during tummy time can also help if he hates it. Furthermore, they provide relief to colicky babies and those suffering from acid reflux.
Constantly ensure to watch your child when they are on their belly. Avoid leaving him unattended. You can turn your little one onto his back if he falls asleep.
Tummy Time FAQs
Is Tummy Time Necessary?
Health experts strongly recommend tummy time for your baby as an essential way of helping develop neck and head control, building muscle strength and promoting sensory development.
Can I Do Tummy Time When My Baby Has Acid Reflux?
When babies are young, they are prone to child colic or acid reflux. Usually, it peaks around four months of age. Unfortunately, it can make tummy time for babies even more challenging and uncomfortable. Due to this reason, it can be tempting to avoid the practice However, you shouldn’t – there are some things you can do to help.
Nevertheless, you are likely to notice a huge difference if you put your baby in a more upright position during tummy time. It will relieve pressure on their stomachs and make them more comfortable.
Put your little one on your chest. Lay the baby on a gym ball or use a tummy time boppy pillow to help him stay in a more upright position.
You can also put muslin in front of your baby so that you can easily clean any spit-up.
When Is It Too Long For Tummy Time?
Depending on your child’s age, tummy time lasts a certain amount of time. For instance, a newborn will have just a few minutes several times daily. While four to six months old infants can have about 1 to 2 hours of Tummy Time every day.
Keep in mind that this practice is a strenuous activity for your child, and he won’t be able to do it in one stretched session. We recommend that you split his tummy time into sessions every day.
- Newborns should do tummy time within 2 to 3 minutes a few times all through the day.
- Two months old infants can stay on their bellies for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Three-month-olds can stay up to 40 to 60 minutes.
- Four and five months babies should do tummy time within 1 to 2 hours per day.
- Six months and older children should stay for 2 hours or more in shorter sessions.
Meanwhile, observe your baby for cues and signs that he has tired of resting on his tummy. Ensure that you change his position after every 10 to 15 minutes.
In the end, you alone know your baby. Don’t compare your child’s capacity of doing a tummy time to another little one.
Once babies totally comfortable, this will become a natural path for them as they start to crawl and walk soon.
What Happens When You Don’t Do Tummy Time?
In one form or the other, you will find yourself doing tummy time with your baby, even if you are just laying him down on your tummy, chest or a particular winding position.
However, if you don’t give your infant enough time on their tummy, it can make them slower in reaching physical milestones, like crawling, sitting, and rolling.
The situation isn’t all bad, though. According to the study previously mentioned, no difference has been found in the age at which babies learn to walk.
This means that your baby may be slower at learning to crawl if he doesn’t get a lot of tummy time. It will not take them long to walk, however.
How Often Should Your Baby Do Tummy Time?
Newborns should do tummy time within two to three minutes a few times all through the day.
Two months old babies should do this practice within 20 to 30 minutes daily.
Three months old baby should use 40 to 60 minutes to practice. Four to six months old babies should be left on their front for 1 to 2 hours per day.
Finally, six months and older children should practice for 2 hours and more.
You don’t have to do the tummy time all at once. You can break the times into shorter sessions to give your baby the time to rest.
Let us know what you think about this blog post in the comment session below! You can also check out a similar article on Baby-led feeding to help boost your child’s motor and oral skills.