Meghan D Condron
 Physical Therapy, P.C.
Working with families to help children reach their full potential

Tummy Time: When to start & how to help your baby love it!

The back to sleep, tummy to play campaign has made great strides in bringing awareness to the importance of SIDS prevention and positioning. As a physical therapist I want all parents to know tummy time is crucial for following reasons

  • strengthening the extensor muscles throughout body (occurs when baby lifts body part away from surface)

  • balancing the flexor (muscles in front) and extensor (muscles in back)

  • helping baby learn how to push against the surface and move against gravity (the beginning skill for rolling, crawling, sitting and walking)

  • prevent plagiocephaly (flattening of head)

  • develop good visual motor skills 

  • learn to shift weight from side to side for reaching and prepare for rolling

  • more likely to achieve gross motor milestones on time

  • added bonus, release of gas!
As a parent I can relate, it is difficult to find time in the early days between the frequent feedings, diaper changes, catnaps and caring for older siblings.  It has been my experience the earlier you start the more comfortable baby is on his/her tummy.  It is much easier for parents to fit tummy time in when baby is happy rather than coaxing a screaming baby who will probably spit up because of the crying.  To be fair, I have therapist friends who started their babies day one with tummy time and it took awhile for baby to truly enjoy it.  Each baby is different and hopefully these tips will help!
When to start?

  • Start early, in the hospital have baby chest to chest with you

  • Holding your newborn on your shoulder while you are slightly reclined in a chair is tummy time

  • As baby's head control improves, you can increase the incline until baby can lie on your tummy while you lie on the floor

  • Tummy time on your lap is another good option (you can sit in a chair or on the floor).  Please keep your hands on baby 100% of the time so baby cannot fall.

  • It is always best to have baby awake and alert to get the maximum benefit, but a drowsy baby is ok too.  Make sure to turn baby onto their backs if he/she falls asleep.

My baby hates his/her tummy!

  • If baby has a hard time you can roll a small blanket or use a small pillow under their chest to assist with lifting head

  • Use bright colorful toys with lights and music to encourage baby to lift their head

  • Lie on your tummy facing baby so he/she will look at you, better yet get siblings involved!

  • Babies love babies, if another little one is not  around use a mirror

  • Stick with it!  The more exposure baby has to tummy time, the stronger they become allowing baby to play and have fun!
How much tummy time does my baby need?

  • During the first few weeks aim for 2-3 minutes, three times a day

  • Add at least one minute per week with a goal of 10 minutes by 2-3 months of age

  • By four months baby should be able to play on belly happily, scratching at blanket, chest lifted off surface, turning head to look around

  • Once baby is down to 5 or 6 feeds a day, aim to put baby on his/her belly between each feed even if for a short amount of time