What to Do When Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

Advice from the experts
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Photo courtesy of JC_Silver/Shutterstock.com

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you put your baby on her tummy to play during supervised awake time to strengthen her muscles. Tummy time helps your baby strengthen the muscles in her neck, shoulders, back and hips. She uses these muscles to achieve developmental milestones on time including rolling, crawling, sitting, standing and walking. It can also help in the prevention of flat head syndrome, or plagiocephaly. 

“Back to sleep, tummy to play” sounds easy enough, but not all babies enjoy tummy time. What can you do if your baby is not a fan?

1. Start tummy time early.

Babies can, and should, have some tummy time from day one. In fact, most babies do get tummy time on day one, by laying skin to skin on mom’s chest right after birth. That’s a great position for tummy time in the early days when your baby wants to be close. Many babies are comforted by snuggling up, chest-to-chest, with a loved one. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to plan some tummy time with their baby beginning the first day they arrive home from the hospital. Babies who start tummy time during their first days of life are more likely to tolerate and enjoy being in this position. That being said, it’s never too late to start!

2. Provide many opportunities for tummy time throughout the day.

In the beginning, it’s not important to give your baby one long tummy time session every day. Tummy time should happen numerous times throughout the day, even if it’s only for a minute at a time. All of those minutes add up. Take advantage of using the things you are already doing to incorporate tummy time throughout the day. Time to burp? Lay your baby on his tummy over your lap to pat out that burp. Need to carry baby to the next room with you? Carry her in a tummy down carrying position. Changing baby’s diaper or dressing him? Roll him over afterwards to get in some tummy time. Going somewhere? Take a blanket so you can lay her down on her tummy for a play break once you get to your destination.

3. Make tummy time interesting.

Get down on your baby’s level to see what he can see from that perspective. Put an interesting book or toy at his eye level so he has something fun to look at. If you are down on your baby’s level, your face will motivate him to pick up his head. Don’t overdo it with too many things to look at, as this could be overwhelming. Sing songs and talk to your baby to make it fun. Use a baby mirror so he can lift his head to see the most fun person of all — himself!

4. Make tummy time easier.

If your baby is having a hard time lifting up her head when she is on her tummy, you can help make it easier by putting a small, rolled-up towel or blanket under her chest. You can also use tummy-down carrying positions to help her practice lifting up her head and to help strengthen her muscles to make it easier when she is down on the floor on her tummy.

Tummy time should be a fun way to play with your baby and help her strengthen her muscles for additional milestones to come. With a little practice, your baby will learn to love tummy time.


Rebecca Quinones and Rachel Gandy are founders of Babies On The MOVE, a Cary-based organization committed to helping children excel in motor development with in-home pediatric physical therapy and community-based infant movement classes for children of all abilities. Learn more at babiesonthemoverdu.com.


Categories: Baby, Health and Development, Solutions