There are so many things to consider when you become a mom… when to start tummy time, how to do it, and is it even really that big of a deal?
Tummy time is a huge deal and very important developmentally. Lucky for you, this article is your one stop shop for everything tummy time. Be sure to pin now so you can easily reference it later!
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.
In This Guide:
How Early Can You Start Tummy Time?
Most healthy newborns can start tummy time as soon as they come home from the hospital.
If your baby is premature or has any health concerns, talk to your healthcare provider prior to starting tummy time.
Scheduling tummy time for newborns can be more difficult since they tend to be so sleepy. As we all know, babies should be placed on their back for sleep. Tummy time is for play time.
The “back to sleep” campaign has been very successful, so much so that some parents fear putting babies on the tummies ever.
For safe tummy time, make sure your newborn is awake, alert, and directly supervised.
How Long Should You Be Doing Tummy Time?
Start out by doing tummy time how long baby will tolerate it. Since most newborns don’t like tummy time, your first attempts may be really short. Try for a few minutes of tummy time a few times a day.
Keep increasing the amount of time as your baby gets stronger and baby hopefully gets used to it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 3 to 5 minutes of tummy time 2 to 3 times each day.
The American Occupational Therapy Association takes it even further and recommends that you work up to a total of 40 to 60 minutes of tummy time per day.
Is Tummy Time Good for Newborns?
Yes! Babies spend a lot of time on their backs.
For one thing, newborns sleep a lot and their back is the safest sleep position. Even when awake, they are often confined in bouncy seats, swings, strollers, and high chairs in a reclined position.
Most of the day is often spent on their backs, so it is important to get some time on their tummy.
Since the “back to sleep” push to reduce SIDS, it was noticed that more babies started to develop flat spots on their heads (or phagiocephaly). While this is common and treatable, it is often caused when their soft skulls are usually placed in the same position such as lying on their back.
Tummy time is one of the ways parents can help to prevent these flat spots.
More benefits of tummy time include strengthening baby’s core, neck, and upper body muscles. Since babies get stronger and practice gross motor skills during tummy time, they are more likely to achieve developmental milestones earlier.
Tummy time can also help treat and prevent Torticollis (a condition in which the neck muscles tighten causing the head to tilt).
The findings from this study showed that tummy time was associated with a decrease in BMI suggesting a possible link to childhood obesity.
What’s the Latest on When to Start Tummy Time?
Tummy time is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and backed by tons of tummy time research.
The AAP directs providers to start discussing tummy time at the initial birth visit around 2 days old. This would suggest that right after birth is the ideal answer to when to start tummy time.
According to this article, “Australian and Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines recommend infants receive 30 minutes of tummy time daily”. They looked at measurement tools and devices that can be used to assess tummy time.
This recent study from 2019 addressed the biggest issue on when to start tummy time, baby tolerance. It discusses how even though parents know tummy time is important for motor development, many don’t do it because of baby fussing. This study showed that parents who were trained in different positioning and engagement techniques were more successful with achieving the right amounts of tummy time.
The Best Tummy Time Toys
While you don’t necessarily need any special toys or equipment to do tummy time, it can make the experience much more enjoyable for your baby, and consequently, for yourself.
If you already have a Boppy for breastfeeding, it can double as a great tummy time prop. Baby is placed on their chest with their arms and head over top of the Boppy so they are at an upward incline. Because the Boppy is fairly large, it may be too big for some babies to use for tummy time, but you can get a smaller Boppy specifically for tummy time that also has attached toys. Some moms use the Boppy Newborn Lounger for tummy time as well.
A tummy time mat makes a perfect spot of your little one while hopefully keeping them occupied. There are several tummy time mats out there, but this one is particularly popular. It includes a mirror, rattle, and attached toys for baby to play with as well as a pillow for propping baby up.
This activity station is sure to keep baby engaged during tummy time. The interactive bar lights up and plays music. Probably the best thing about this toy in particular is that babies love it long *after the tummy time days have passed and well into toddlerhood.
Babies love to look at themselves so a safe floor mirror may hold their interest. This mirror is soft and has a high contrast frame which is easier for young infants to see and will hopefully grab their attention.
Getting an interactive toy like the Infantino Pat and Play Water Mat gives baby something interesting to play with and look at during tummy time. This engaging toy has the sea creatures float around while baby presses the mat.
How Do You Do Tummy Time with a Newborn?
First and foremost, it is imperative that baby is always supervised during tummy time.
For safety, baby should be placed on a firm surface on the floor. Do not lay baby on a bed or a couch for tummy time, even if they are not rolling yet.
There are a variety of methods and positions for tummy time:
- Lay baby directly on a playmat on their tummy.
- Use rolled up towels or mats to support under baby’s arms and prop them up.
- Caregiver lying on the floor with baby on their stomach (tummy to tummy).
- Place baby on their side, supporting the front a back with blankets. Arms should be in front of baby and their hips slightly bent.
- Caregiver reclined on a chair or bed with baby on their chest facing them.
- Position baby laying down across the caregiver’s lap.
Tips for Newborn Tummy Time
Let’s face it- most newborns don’t love tummy time. If you’re struggling, check out these tips to make tummy time more enjoyable.
Break Out the Toys. There are tummy time toys specifically made to position baby and engage them. See our list above for all the toys that can make your life easier!
Start Small. For young newborns, start with 2-3 minutes. Set the timer so you’ll have the reminder to pick them up after that time. It’s best to get them while they’re happy rather than waiting for baby to fuss. Build up the time each session/day.
Right Mindset. Make sure your baby is alert, awake, and in a good mood before starting tummy time. Avoid tummy time right after they eat as that can encourage spit up.
Switch Positions. We’ve listed out above all the different methods for tummy time above. If your baby doesn’t like one, trying changing it up! Many early newborns prefer to do tummy time on chest.
Break It Up. Tummy time can be performed in short sessions throughout the day. For example, if your pediatrician’s goal is 20 minutes of tummy time you can try four separate sessions of five minutes each.
Switch Up Location. Tummy doesn’t have to be on the same playmat every time. Try to get some tummy time in while toweling baby off, changing clothes, or after diaper changes.