Tummy time is when you place your baby on his or her stomach while awake and is an important part of every baby’s growth. Tummy time provides a foundation for early motor skills like lifting their head, pushing up with their arms to crawl, and strengthening the muscles that help them sit up. This time can also be tied to fine motor skills, like handwriting, that develops later by strengthening the small muscles in the shoulder. Letting your baby experience a variety of positions throughout the day can also help prevent flat spots on the back of the head. All tummy time should be practiced when your baby is awake and supervised.
There is no set amount of tummy time that each child needs, but specialists recommend you try to squeeze in at least a few minutes a couple of times a day. As your baby gets used to being on their belly, you can increase the time of each session or practice it more often. Some other tips to practice tummy time include:
- Create space – put a blanket down on the ground or set apart an area just for tummy time that’s clean.
- Make it interesting – put age-appropriate toys within reach for them to play or interact with or talk to them.
- Time it – wait until after a diaper change or when they wake up from a nap to ensure they’ll be awake and active.
Even with these tips, sometimes babies just don’t like lying on their stomach. If that’s the case, there are a few alternative ways to practice tummy time:
- Use a pillow – prop up their head and chest with a pillow so it’s higher than their legs. This can help them see more or interact better.
- Over your legs – lay them across your legs while positioning their head higher than their legs.
- Prone position carry – lay the baby down your arm, supporting their body but letting them lift their head.
- Don’t have floor space or have a curious pet that might get in the way? Use a pack ‘n play! If you don’t have a separate space where baby can play on their belly uninterrupted, a pack ‘n play is a good alternative space.
Expectant mothers in the community are fortunate as the Cone Health network provides exceptional women’s services that are dedicated to educating mothers and families during and after pregnancy.
Carrie Sawulski is a licensed physical therapist at Cone Health Outpatient Orthopedic and Pediatric Rehabilitation at Greensboro. Sawulski has also earned a specialty designation as a pediatric clinical specialist through the American Physical Therapy Association. She received a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy from Ohio State University in 1997.