What is tummy time? 

Placing your little one on his or her tummy to play with toys or interact with you is known as “tummy time.” It’s important that babies are always awake and being watched during this time. If they doze off while playing, parents or caregivers can pick them up or simply flip them onto their backs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a recommendation that’s easy to remember: “Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play.”

When and for how long should these tummy time sessions happen?

From the first day your little one comes home, they will benefit from tummy time. To ease them into the routine and build up their strength, you can start with 2 or 3 sessions per day for a brief period of time (3-5 minutes). Increase the duration and frequency at a pace that works best for you and your little one, with the goal of reaching a total of at least 30 minutes each day.

Is tummy time really necessary?

You might be thinking, “Won’t my baby’s muscles naturally develop on their own, whether they spend time on their tummy or not?” In addition to a range of physical and cognitive benefits (more on this below), also helps prevent babies from developing flat spots on their heads. 

It’s been over 20 years since the AAP first issued the recommendation that parents put their infants to sleep on their backs. Since then, the death rate from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has dropped significantly. But because babies are spending so much time on their backs during nighttime and naps, head flattening, or positional plagiocephaly, has become something to watch out for more closely. (Positional plagiocephaly is more of a cosmetic issue than a medical one, and many cases improve naturally as the baby gets older.)

When an infant’s head stays in the same position for long periods of time, the skull bone plates can shift in a way that causes a flat spot. Tummy time gives your little one a break from being on their back and a chance to enjoy a new position. 

Developmental benefits:

  • Eases pressure on the back of the head 
  • Helps babies develop around the head
  • Builds babies’ shoulder, neck, stomach, back, and arm strength
  • Prepares babies for when they will be able to roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk
  • Improves motor skills by motivating babies to move and use muscles to complete an action
  • Encourages arm, hand, and finger movement as well as hand-eye coordination, as babies reach for toys during tummy time
  • Gives babies a new perspective on the world, which promotes cognitive skills

What if my baby doesn’t like tummy time?

You may find that your baby isn’t the biggest fan of tummy time at first. This is common, and you aren’t alone in facing this obstacle! While no mom, dad, or grandparent likes to see their favorite little one frustrated or in tears, the benefits of tummy time are enough to make you want to stick with your goal of achieving a total of 30 minutes each day. Be patient. Your baby will increase their strength and comfort level with tummy time, and you’ll find tips and techniques that make it more enjoyable for both of you.

Timing can make a big difference. Right after a nap or whenever your baby is alert and well-rested is an ideal moment to try a little tummy time. 

For more specific tummy-time play tips, download the Kinedu app and look for the Curiosity Moves Us™ collection under the “Tummy Time” milestone section.  

Early childhood experts at Kinedu partnered with Baby Einstein™ to create the Curiosity Moves Us™ activity series because the benefits of curiosity extend beyond cognitive development. Curiosity compels us to challenge ourselves physically and use our bodies to explore and discover what interests us. When a baby’s curiosity is sparked during this time, the experience is more rewarding and fun for everyone.

If you have concerns: At around 6 to 7 months of age, your little one will most likely be able to roll over on their own —moving from their back to their tummy and into other positions. Every child develops at his or her own pace, but if you have concerns about your baby’s ability to roll over independently, their pediatrician is your best resource.