Tummy Time

Tummy time is very important for the development of your baby. This page helps to answer the questions:

  • What is tummy time?
  • When should I start tummy time with my baby?
  • How do I start tummy time with my baby?
  • How can I make tummy time fun for my baby?
  • What are the best ways to encourage my baby to stay in tummy time for longer?

What it is

Very simply, tummy time is putting you baby on their tummy to play.

Tummy time is one of your baby’s first exercises and arguably the most important as it builds the foundations for your baby to meet their developmental milestones. Tummy time is crucial for your baby’s motor, visual and sensory development. It is also a great way to play with your baby and strengthen the bond between you.

When to start

Tummy time can be started from birth. Your baby probably won't enjoy it much to start with but there are ways to make tummy time more enjoyable for your baby.

Don’t worry if you didn’t start tummy time straight away, it’s never too late to start and any tummy time will really benefit your baby, no matter what their age.

How to tummy time

The best time to give your baby tummy time is when they are awake, alert, changed and happy. It is recommended to not give your baby tummy time straight after a feed as you may find they are uncomfortable and can be sicky.

Start your baby’s tummy time by placing them on a clean towel or mat. Surround your baby with their favourite or toys or interesting toys during their tummy time session as this will make tummy time interesting and fun for your baby. Further on in this article are some tips to make tummy time fun for your baby.

It is important to remember to never let your baby sleep on their tummy during tummy time as this can increase the risk of SIDS.

How long should you do tummy time with your baby?

Depending on where you look, there are different guidelines given however the general consensus is to aim for 30 minutes a day. This can be broken up throughout the day instead of doing it all in one go. Even if you just pop your baby on their tummy after every nappy change, those minutes will quickly add up.

You should continue doing tummy time with your baby until they are crawling, as they will then get the same benefits of tummy time from that,

Benefits of tummy time

The benefits of tummy time for your baby include:

  • Preventing flat spots on your baby’s head
  • Setting the stage to develop motor skills and get baby on the move
  • Developing your baby’s neck, back and shoulder muscles
  • Giving your baby awareness of their body as they move and shift their weight (proprioception)
  • Improving your baby’s sense of touch (tactile sense)
  • Improving your baby’s balance and movement (vestibular sense)

Making tummy time more fun

You will probably find your baby cries during tummy time, however there are ways to make tummy time more enjoyable for your baby. Here are some ideas to make tummy time more interesting for your baby:

  • Eye contact - Make lots of eye contact with your baby. They will feel a lot happier knowing you are there and they are safe. It is also great for bonding with your baby during their tummy time session.
  • Water mat - Water mats are a great way for your baby to enjoy tummy time. The water mats are great fun and great for your baby to look at.
  • Foil blanket - Place a foil blanket on the floor for your baby during tummy time. Your baby will love looking at the shiny surface and making lots of noise during their tummy time session.
  • Light up toys - Light up toys such as this *light up drum* are great for your baby to look at and will distract them during tummy time.
  • Vibrating toys - My little boy loves watching this *vibrating ball* during his tummy time sessions. This will also help your baby to track objects and will stimulate their hearing as it plays songs.
  • Monochrome cards - For little babies doing tummy time, propping up using a rolled up towel or blanket will help them to feel happier during tummy time. It will also help your baby to look at *monochrome cards* during tummy time. These cards are great for babies during tummy time sessions as your baby will not see in colour until they are between 2 - 4 months old.
  • Get down with them - Get down with your baby and sing songs or be silly. It’s nice for them to have some company and your baby loves it when you are acting silly or singing their favourite nursery rhymes.
  • On your chest or in a sling - Tummy time doesn’t just need to be on the floor. Putting your baby in a sling for them to look around. You can also lie down on your back and place your baby on your chest. These alternatives to tummy time on the floor will let your baby increase their strength and have the benefits of tummy time without always being placed on the floor.
  • Exercise ball - Another alternative to tummy time is to place your baby on an exercise ball. Your baby will like the bouncing and movement and won't feel so restricted in their movement. This is great, especially for babies that hate tummy time.
  • Mirror - My little boy loves looking at the baby in the mirror, so I found putting a baby safe mirror in front of him during tummy time really helped him to concentrate and forget how much he hated tummy time.
  • Invite a sibling to join in - Babies love watching other children so get their older brother or sister to get down with your baby and join in the tummy time session.

The aim is to increase your baby's stamina in their tummy time sessions slowly. Tummy time goals for your baby (please remember this is just a guide and babies may hit these sooner or later):

1 month - Your baby will attempt to lift their head if only for a couple of seconds.

2 months - Your baby will start lifting their head up for a few seconds but may protest and cry when in tummy time.

3 months - At about three months old, your baby should be able to put weight on their elbows and lift their head 45-90 degrees. Your baby should also be starting to track toys if you slowly move them across their vision during tummy time.

4 months - Around four months old your baby should be able to hold their head at about 90 degrees and support their weight on their forearms and lifting their chest off the floor. Your baby should also be able to move their head to track people, voices and toys of interest.

5 months - As your baby reaches five months old, they will start to push up on their hands with straight elbows during tummy time. Your baby will also start reaching for nearby toys and passing toys from one hand to the other.

6 + - When your baby reaches six months, your baby will start reaching out and grabbing toys in a sweeping motion and your baby will start rolling tummy to back and front again. You may even find your baby prefers to be on their tummy as it allows them to play with toys more easily.