Right Start

Why Is Tummy Time So Important For Babies?

Why Is Tummy Time So Important For Babies?

Even if you are new parents, you have probably heard people mention the term “tummy time.” Perhaps you have an idea of what it is and how it benefits your newborn, or maybe it’s still a mystery! 

At Right Start Inc, we know that tummy time is essential for infants because most important milestones are achieved in this position. These milestones include neck and core strengthening, rolling, upper body strengthening, crawling, and in later years, handwriting! 

When a baby lifts his or her head against gravity, even for a few seconds, this helps him/her to strengthen and coordinate the muscles in his/her back and shoulder muscles.  These muscles and skills are necessary for a baby to learn how to roll, sit up, and crawl!

During his/her first 3 months, your infant will start developing the strength and initiative to explore his/her body movement skills by moving various parts of his/her body. He/she will learn to raise his/her head, arch his/her body, and flex his/her legs at this time. You can support his/her gross motor skills by using simple exercises that strengthen his/her large muscle groups.

In addition to these strengthening skills, participating in tummy time helps to prevent flat spots on the back of the baby’s head, which is also known as positional plagiocephaly.

This occurs because babies’ heads are made of soft, moveable plates that harden as they grow older.  In order to avoid flat spots, it is important for babies to play in various positions throughout the day. But let’s not forget that laying babies to sleep on their backs for safety is a must.

When should babies start tummy time?

Babies can begin tummy time as early as one day old, unless otherwise specified by a doctor. In early infancy, place your baby on your chest while you are seated or lying down. This is a great time for skin-to-skin contact with your baby too.

How long should babies spend in tummy time?

Our pediatric occupational therapist is often asked how long  babies should tolerate tummy time. Listen to your baby’s cues and go from there.  Place a blanket on the floor in a clear area after nap time or a diaper change and place your baby on his or her stomach for one or two minutes (or 30 seconds if that’s all the baby can tolerate), two to three times per day.

Right Start Inc suggests that you aim for 20 minutes of tummy time per session by the time your baby is three or four months old in order to ensure that they reach their gross motor milestones of rolling and “army crawling” which typically emerge around this time. 

What your baby is working toward

  • Holding his/her head up to look back at you when held upright

  • Turning his/her head to look toward a voice or noise in the room 

  • Watching someone walk through the room and maintain head upright

  • Reaching for items when playing on the floor

Top 3 positions for Tummy Time- Newborn

*Never leave a baby unattended or unsupervised during tummy time

  • Place your baby on your chest while you’re in a reclined position in a chair or on the couch/bed with pillows propped behind you.

  • Lay on the floor very close to your baby, talk to him/her and encourage him/her to turn and look for you. Use big facial expressions and a calm and encouraging voice to gain attention.

  • Lay your baby across your lap with something to look at ie. books, pictures, etc.

 Top 3 positions for Tummy Time- baby 1 month +

*Never leave a baby unattended or unsupervised during tummy time

Babies of this age can usually tolerate tummy time for 6-10 minute chunks. Aim for 60-90 min total for the day.

  1. Place your baby on a boppy or a towel roll – place baby’s hands up by the face with elbows in at the sides. Place gentle pressure on his/her bottom to help move a little of weight off of the chest and into the hips 

  2. Place your baby on the floor/firm surface with books, or noisy touch toys spread around them 

  3. Place your baby on the floor in front of a mirror

Important tips to remember during tummy time

Remember to always supervise the baby during tummy time. They should never be left alone; it is a time to connect and engage with your baby, not a chance to walk away or take a break.

Your baby will enjoy this time much more if they can see your smile, your face, your hair, and hear your voice.  Tummy time is only for when a baby (and you) are awake and alert, not for when they are napping or sleepy. Never leave your baby unsupervised. This cannot be overstated.