You have probably heard that your baby should spend time on the stomach. Do you wonder why that is important?
My baby hated spending time on her belly, so I struggled to keep her entertained. Because I know many babies hate tummy time sessions, I will walk you through tips for making it fun and getting the most out of it!
In this post, we will discuss all the great benefits of tummy time for a child’s health. Also, let’s also cover how to do tummy time properly and when to start!
Tummy time is important for babies because it helps them build strong muscles they need for holding heads, sitting, rolling, crawling, and walking. Here is a quick overview of the most relevant benefits of tummy time sessions.
Noteworthy tummy time benefits are related to a complete child’s health, especially physical development. During tummy time, the newborn works on the neck and shoulder muscles required for head control and upper body movements.
If you don’t start tummy time, your baby might eventually find itself struggling with developing some motor skills and have weak muscles.
Tummy time is essential for symmetrical head shape because it prevents flat head syndrome. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 
However, lying on a flat surface for longer periods isn’t suitable for a baby’s head shape. It puts pressure on soft skull bones and causes flat spots, leading to positional plagiocephaly.
The benefits of baby sleeping on tummy are negligible compared to the risks. Therefore, keep babies on their backs until they are one year old.
Babies spend most of their time facing upwards, and they experience gravity and other sensations from that position only.
Tummy time stimulates the baby’s nervous system differently, so it helps the baby understand body positions, improve vision, and process various sensory messages from different perspectives.
Because you need to supervise your baby the whole time when they are on their stomach, you get a lot of opportunities to foster that parent-child bond.
Parents can sing songs or use age-appropriate toys to entertain the baby to make tummy time fun! Babies will have positive associations with tummy time if you are included!
Further reading: How to Make Tummy Time Fun
Does tummy time help with gas? Sure, it does!
Abdominal pressure during tummy time pushes gas out and relieves intestinal pain. So, going through colic pain during the first few months is another reason babies need tummy time!
Related: How to Soothe Colic Baby
You can start tummy time as soon as the umbilical cord stump falls off, which is, for most babies, in the first week after birth. You can start with one minute for newborns, and repeat it up to three times per day.
As your baby grows, gradually increase the duration of tummy time to three to five minutes and longer. Around three months of age, your child should reach a full hour of tummy time, broken into brief periods a few times per day.
The infant should lie on a flat and firm surface on the belly. You can also use a rolled-up towel to support the baby. Excellent tummy time tips include using a baby play gym to keep your kid entertained during tummy time, or a nonbreakable mirror to stimulate independent cause-and-effect play.
Tummy time differs for infants and babies over six months. So let’s see how to practice tummy time with your child at every age to get the most out of every session!
The best way to practice tummy time with young babies is on your chest. It is also a great way to do it for prematurely born babies. You can start with a minute or two per session and gradually extend the duration. The alternative is to place the baby on your lap.
When your child reaches tummy time milestones – you should be spending several minutes on the tummy without the baby fussing and holding its head for several seconds, increasing the duration.
During the third and fourth months of age, some babies can spend around ten minutes on their tummies per session. You can also prop the baby with a blanket or use a specialized pillow. I like the colorful Boppy Tummy Time Prop Pillow.
As the baby grows, it should keep its head centered and straight during tummy time. The little one should lift its chest from the floor, and transfer the weight to the arms.
Ensure the elbows are in front of the shoulders or at a 90-degree angle under them. It will provide an appropriate position for the baby to track surrounding objects and communicate with parents.
Even if your baby is able to roll over and sit straight after six months, you should still ensure your sweetheart gets enough tummy time.
At this age, a baby should reach for toys around and straighten its arms and back. Once the baby starts crawling, you can stop with the dedicated tummy time.
Related: How to Teach Baby to Crawl
Tummy time doesn’t have to be stressful for your baby if you keep the baby entertained during the whole session. Try the following activities to make your baby enjoy tummy time!
When you are doing a tummy time session on your chest with an infant, keep the baby close to your face and look them in the eyes. You may find your baby looking back at you and getting more relaxed.
- Entertain the Baby Without Props
You don’t have to use props to keep the baby happy. All your baby needs is you! Lie down on your back and hold your knees close to your chest.
Put your older baby on your shins and gently rock them back and forth, keeping eye contact and making funny sounds. The baby will giggle and have a great time!
Your pregnancy ball can be an excellent prop for tummy time! Put the baby on the ball, facing down to the ball, and gently rock the ball in a different direction.
Keep one hand on the baby’s back the whole time to ensure it is safe.
Tummy time on the ball promotes the baby’s perception of its body in space and helps with balance besides developing gross motor skills.
The purpose of tummy time is huge, so you shouldn’t give up even if the baby is fussy. In fact, a lot of babies spend the several first sessions of tummy time crying.
Related: Why Do Babies Cry
Test the following tips to get through the fussiness and still enjoy the advantages of tummy time:
- Hold your baby on your arm, with its head close to your elbow as you walk
- Ensure the baby is comfortable with slightly bent arms
- After feeding, place baby on your lap for burping
- Try rolling the baby during tummy time to keep it entertained and to help it understand the rolling pattern
- Place contrast cards around your baby to distract the baby
- Use toys and sing to the baby during tummy time to keep it happy
- Practise tummy time when the baby is fed, and after diaper change or nap
- Try short period of tummy time several times per day
If nothing works and your baby hates tummy time, you can then consider trying some tummy time alternatives such as baby wearing and side lying.
During all activities with your baby, safety is a top priority.
Here is a brief checklist of tummy time safety with all the things you should and shouldn’t do to keep the baby safe during tummy time!
- Keep the baby supervised all the time
- Place your baby in a firm, flat, and low position
- Keep the baby cozy and warm
- Start with brief sections on your body or your laps
- Keep the baby awake and transfer it to a baby crib if it accidentally falls asleep
- Avoid tummy time immediately after eating
- Put the baby on the couch or mattress where you risk them rolling over
- Allow the baby to fall asleep during tummy time on its stomach
- Practice tummy time without getting the green light from consulting a pediatrician
As you can see, tummy time is important and indispensable for proper baby development and child health.
You should practice it from birth as it will help the baby build gross motor skills, straighten the whole body, increase perception, and help achieve other milestones!
You can use toys and props to keep the baby entertained. But, remember, your baby’s favorite toy is you!
Being there for the baby during tummy time will help you bond with the baby and make the sessions less unpleasant for your little one!
I hope you find the article helpful. Don’t hesitate to pop a question if you have any – I’ll be happy to help you!
Last update on 2022-10-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API