Tummy time for baby: The basics explained

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The A-Z of tummy time for your baby is explained in this article. We even give you some great tips and tricks on what to do if your baby hates tummy time. Must-read for pregnant mums, and new parents!

If you are about to bring your newborn home, or have just done so, your doctor may have explained the importance of placing your little one down on his back to sleep.

It’s equally important to ensure that your baby has supervised time lying on his stomach while he is awake. This, in fact, is what tummy time is, according to Dr. Wendy Wallace, a paediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Care Network.

tummy time for baby

Regular tummy time as an infant will help prepare your baby for important physical milestones such as rolling and crawling. In this image, the baby (around 7 months old), has raised himself on his arms from tummy position and is preparing to crawl.

Why is tummy time important?

Adequate and regular tummy time helps your baby strengthen his neck muscles and upper body, which will, in turn, assist him in reaching important physical milestones such as sitting, crawling and walking in the later months, says rehabilitation trainer Mr Poh Ying Bing.

It’s also very likely that he will hit these physical milestones earlier than babies who don’t spend any time, or little time on their tummies, as suggested by research.

Also, if your baby is always on his back, he may get a flat spot on his head (positional plagiocephaly). This is because an infant’s skull is still soft and is made up of several ‘movable’ plates, explains Dr. Jay Hoeker of Mayo Clinic.

So, if your baby’s head remains in the same position for a long time, then these plates may move and mould together in a way that causes a flat spot.

While this is mostly a cosmetic issue which will eventually go away, the medical experts at WebMD point out that this also means your baby’s head, neck and shoulder muscles aren’t getting adequate exercise.

Another reason tummy time is important is that when your baby is on his belly, he has to look up and to the left and right to see what’s going on around him. This is very good for his eye muscles.

tummy time for baby

Some health professionals say you can start supervised tummy time the day you bring your baby home.

When should you start tummy time?

Dr Wendy Sinnathamby, a specialist in paediatrics and consultant at Raffles Children’s Centre, says you can start tummy time for your baby when he is around six weeks old — ensuring all the while that you watch him very closely.

However, paediatric bodies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest you can start tummy time for your baby from the day you bring him home.

Either way, it’s best to check with your baby’s paediatrician about the best age for your little one to start tummy time.

tummy time for baby

The best time to get tummy time started is after a nap or diaper change.

Getting started

Choose a time when your baby is alert and awake. A good time is after a nap or diaper change. Its best to avoid tummy time immediately after a feed, as this may make him feel very uncomfortable.

Keep it simple. Place a mat or clean blanket on the floor and place your baby on his stomach on it. Start with sessions that are just 3-5 minutes long, two to three times a day.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should aim to get at least 20 minutes of tummy time a day for your baby by the time he is three to four months old.

As you start tummy time, you may notice your baby’s head landing in an awkward ‘face-plant’ position more often than not. Don’t worry about this — but be alert as to when this happens so you can quickly encourage him to raise his head.

If he starts to cry after a minute or so, try to encourage him to stay on his tummy for just a few seconds longer by talking and singing to him, or interacting with him in other ways (we describe these on the next page).

But if you feel he’s really had enough, carry him and try again later.

Tricks to try when your baby hates tummy time — please go to the next page for these. 

Newborn Newborn Development