What is tummy time?
Tummy Time is the period of time during the day when your baby is awake and supervised while on their stomach. It is a crucial activity for baby’s motor, visual, and sensory development.
Why is tummy time important?
Babies spend lots of time on their back, including while sleeping (as recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society) and while in equipment (e.g. strollers). It is important for babies to spend time on their tummy, too!
Tummy time is important because it:
- can help prevent baby flathead or deformed skull,
- helps your baby develop head control,
- strengthens the upper body, including back, neck, shoulders, arms and hands,
- helps your baby learn to crawl, sit, and roll,
- helps your baby learn skills like holding a small piece or food or moving toys from one hand to another,
- promotes development by changing the position in which you baby sees the world.
Tummy time: how-to
When your baby first comes home from the hospital, you should aim to have them in awake tummy time for a total of 30 minutes a day. This can be spread out over many short periods of tummy time throughout the day. As the baby gets older, tummy time should increase as tolerated.
Positions for tummy time
- For younger babies 0 – 3 months you may place your baby on the floor with their chest on a small rolled towel. Once they get better head control do this without the roll.
- Lay your baby on your chest while you are lying back. This will help your baby develop head control and upper body strength in a safe and enjoyable position.
- Place your baby face down on your lap. You can use your hands to support their position.
- Position toys on both sides of your baby’s head where they can see them. This will help your child learn to turn their head in both directions and give them something fun to look at.
Never leave your baby unattended during tummy time.
What to do if baby is not tolerating tummy time
Not all babies enjoy being placed on their tummy especially in the early months. Here are some ways to encourage tummy time:
- Give your baby something fun and interesting to look at, like a toy, a mirror or your face. Black and white toys with lights or high contrast colors may be helpful in the early months.
- Slowly increase tummy time. Short and frequent tummy time experiences allow your baby to become familiar and feel safe in this position.
- Include short tummy time experiences whenever you change, dress or hold your baby.
- Slowly roll your baby from their back to their tummy. This can be less startling for babies compared to simply placing them on their tummies.
- Firm, flat surfaces can be easier for babies as they learn to use their upper body muscles while playing on their tummies. Remember both you and your baby should be awake during this time.
Back to sleep – tummy to play!
Services related to this information:
- Contact your Public Health Nurse
- Physiotherapy, Janeway Health and Rehabilitation Centre – 709-777-4346
- 811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555