There are so many important milestones for your baby to hit in the first few years of life, and many of these developments require your baby to have strong upper body and core muscles. “These are the muscles that prepare your baby for moving around on her belly and for crawling” said Jennifer Norman, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health Clinic in Colorado. “Giving your baby time in the prone position – on his belly – can also help lessen the development of flat spots on the back of his head.
If you’re a new parent, you likely have some questions about tummy time for your baby, including what to do if your baby doesn’t like tummy time. Dr. Norman shares the 1-2-3s of tummy time.
Q: When should I start doing tummy time with my baby?
A: It’s never too early to start tummy time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting tummy time as soon as the day you bring your baby home from the hospital.
Q: How often should I give my baby tummy time?
A: Initially you can start doing tummy time 2-3 times a day for short periods, such as a few minutes. Then, as she gets stronger, increase the time as tolerated by your baby. Keep up the tummy time for as long as she enjoys it.
Q: Where is it safe to do tummy time?
A: Tummy time can be done on any firm surface, such as a clean floor or play mat on the floor. For young infants, tummy time can start by lying on your chest while you are on your back. A firm surface is important to provide support for your baby’s body, and make sure to keep your baby’s head level with his body so there is no strain on his neck. Never do tummy time on an elevated surface, like a couch or bed, which can pose a fall risk.
Q: Can I put my baby down for tummy time during her nap?
A: Tummy time is only safe to do when your baby is awake and must always be closely supervised. If your baby falls asleep during tummy time, then she should be rolled onto her back. Babies should sleep on their backs due to the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation.
Q: My baby cries when I try to put him on his tummy. Is this normal?
A: It’s normal if your baby cries or gets fussy when you put him on his tummy. Babies are used to spending most of their time on their backs, like while sleeping, or with their faces up. Plus, it takes muscles and strength for him to lift his head when he’s on his tummy, which is hard work for a baby!
Q: What can I do to help my baby better tolerate tummy time?
A: To help your baby enjoy tummy time, talk to him and play with him while he’s on his tummy. Try positioning some toys just beyond his reach to encourage him to reach for them. Babies like looking at other babies so you can place a mirror in front of him for entertainment. Another great distraction is reading him a story while he’s on his belly. As he gets older, placing toys in a circle around him can encourage him to move in more ways, including crawling.
If you have questions about tummy time or other developmental milestones for your baby, consult your pediatrician.