Tummy Time

Tummy time — placing a baby on his or her stomach only while awake and supervised.

Your baby should always sleep on their back. This has been shown to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But if a baby’s head is left in the same position for long periods of time, the skull bones might move in a way that creates a flat spot. Tummy time is a chance for baby to change position and help reduce the risk of flat spots.

Key points:

  • Babies should sleep on their backs. Their heads should be turning to the left and right while sleeping to avoid flattened head syndrome.
  • Babies should spend a total of about 1.5 hours (90 minutes) every day on their tummies. This can be spread out over many short periods of tummy time.
  • Tummy time can help prevent flat spots from developing on your baby’s head (positional plagiocephaly).
  • Tummy time can help your baby build strength needed for sitting up, rolling over, crawling and walking.
  • There are many ways to help your baby enjoy tummy time.

Activities for tummy time

To make sure your baby spends time in a variety of positions, try these activities:

  • Position toys on both sides of your baby’s head within their field of view. This will help your child learn to turn their head in both directions and give them something fun to look at.
  • Place your baby’s chest on a rolled towel, cushion or over your knees. This may be more comfortable for your baby. It can also improve upper body strength and head control.
  • 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.

Once your baby can lift their head and push up onto their forearms, try these ideas:

  • Use toys around your baby to encourage weight shifting and reaching. This strengthens the arms, hands and back muscles to prepare your baby for sitting, rolling and crawling.
  • Play Peek-A-Boo while you and your baby are both on your tummies.
  • Hold a blanket between you and encourage your baby to pull down the blanket. This game helps strengthen the muscles your baby uses for crawling, sitting and fine motor skills. It also helps with language and with social and mental skills.

Not all babies enjoy being placed on their tummy, 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.
  • 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.

Never leave your baby unattended during tummy time.

Back to sleep — tummy to play!

Tummy time: Helping your baby. (2010, March 5). Retrieved from About Kids Health

Services related to this information:

811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555

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Last updated: 2019-06-13