Your Baby

The Ultimate New Mom’s Guide to Tummy Time

What it is, and why you should do it.
Jennifer Taylor

If you’ve spent any amount of time around other parents or reading mommy forums, you’ve probably come across the term “tummy time.”

The term has really only become popular lately, and if you ask someone who raised kids in the 80s or earlier, they’ll probably have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about!

Why, might you ask? Well, during the mid-90s, the “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched, informing parents that it’s best for babies to sleep on their backs as opposed to their tummies, as a way to prevent SIDS.

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What is tummy time? As you can probably guess, it’s referring to time spent on the tummy, which is a necessity for normal development.

Unfortunately, since we all know that babies should sleep on their backs, it’s lead to parents being scared of putting their children on their stomachs at all, so we don’t give our children much time on their tummies these days.

What Are the Benefits of Tummy Time?

Kids Love Tummy TimeThere are a number of benefits to “tummy time” for infants. It helps them develop their neck and shoulder muscles. When they’re on their tummies, they lift their heads up, helping to strengthen those muscles.

There are benefits to this, too; a baby with properly-developed neck and back muscles has a decreased risk of SIDS, because if they find themselves face-down, they can lift their head away from the blanket to be able to breathe properly.

Furthermore, research suggests that infants who get tummy time start to crawl sooner than those that don’t.

This time helps develop the muscles your baby will need when they start getting mobile, rolling over, crawling, sitting and scooting. The more time a baby spends on their tummy, the quicker they’ll start to crawl on their own.

Tummy time helps develop motor skills. Your baby will be curious to see the world around them, and being on their tiny tummies helps them get a view of everything.

When a baby is developing, she first gains control of her head, then the shoulders, then the rest of the body. Since the first thing she’ll gain control of is the head, she’ll be very curious to look around!

It’s also necessary for proper skull development. If your child is always on their back, the back of their skull is always touching the floor, which can lead to developing flat spots on the back of the head. Tummy time helps prevent this.

How Do I Know When To Start Tummy Time?

My Baby Hates Tummy TimeAccording to WebMD, you can start your baby on tummy time as soon as they come home from the hospital. If not then, they should definitely be up to it by 1 month of age. You should only do it when your baby is well-awake and alert, and it should only be done on a hard surface.

To first start out, lay your baby across your lap on their tummy for a few minutes per day. As they grow and get stronger, you can start to place them on the floor.

Place some of their favorite toys just out of reach. This will encourage them to look and reach for them!

How Long Should Tummy Time Last?

As an infant, tummy time should last about 2-3 minutes at a time, maximum. As they get older, 10-20 minutes of time per day should be adequate.

What Do I Do If My Baby Hates Tummy Time?

Not all kids love tummy time. If yours is anything like my son, I could only get him to take part in it for a few minutes before it got outright cranky and upset. Now, just because your baby squawks, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like it.

It was a struggle, and I had a lot of back-and-forth with my doctor about it. Eventually, I figured out a few tummy time tips.

  • Use toys. Their favorite toy can make a great distraction, plus it can also give them a link to associate the time with their favorite toys. Place them just out of reach to encourage reaching!
  • Get on the floor with them. Getting face-to-face (and making funny faces!) makes it a lot more fun and less scary, too.
  • Get a tummy time mat. Not only do they make it comfortable, but most of them have built in toys and things to make it more fun.
  • Distract them even more. As soon as they start to protest, blow raspberries on their tummy, make funny faces, flip them on their tummies and make the same noises on their backs.
  • Give them a pillow. Place it under their head and arms. This raises their eyes up, giving them a better view of their surroundings, and making it much less of a scary new experience.
  • Encourage them to look up. Sing just above their heads, and talk to them the same way. They’ll be encouraged to try to look up at you.
  • Just keep trying. They might just hate it at first, but as their neck and back muscles get stronger over time, they’ll start to enjoy it more!

Another thing you can do to get in some tummy time is to hold them on your chest. While not the ideal way to do it, you’re getting the pressure off the back of the head, which is the main goal with tummy time. Eventually, you’ll want to get them on the floor, but this works in a pinch.

MomTricks Picks: The Best Tummy Time Mat

Baby Care Tummy Time matTummy time play mats are a great way to let your little guy get that much-needed tummy time. While a rolled up towel can usually work, why not get a nicely padded mat?

Some of them even have toys to make it more fun and entertaining. Baby Care makes a cute and really nice series of tummy time mats that are super well-designed and high-quality (click here to see them in all 6 designs!) This was the one I got for my son, and I’m glad I did.

This thing is big, well-padded and solidly made. I really like the size, because even when your child starts to move around, it will keep them on a padded surface.

It’s big enough to put other toys on it, like jumparoos or exersaucers, too. After my son started getting up on his own, we started using it as a play mat. It’s big enough that you can put it virtually anywhere, so it’s great for that purpose.

It’s also very shock-absorbent, which I think is critical in a good baby mat. When my son hit his head on the ground (and it will happen to you) the extra padding was a godsend.

The material is way better than you’ll find in most play mats. Being as heavy as it is (almost 19 pounds!) it’s not moving anywhere. It stays where you put it! When you get it in the packaging, it’s rolled up, so it’s easy to carry, even for a mommy like me.

They made it easy to clean, too. Accidents can and will happen, and being able to wipe it up easily is a great feature. The outside is made with a waterproof material, so no worries there.

Coming in 6 different flavors, you’ll probably find one that you like. This is absolutely my favorite tummy time mat! Thumbs up. :)

Other Resources

Do you have any questions about tummy time? Any suggestions for fellow parents? Please let us know in the comments section!

(photo credit: dryfish, reneeanddolan & scottsm)

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  • Avatar
    Christie Kiley
    May 2, 2015

    Great tips! One of my favorite tricks for helping babies love tummy time is to get them tummy-down on an exercise ball, which allows you to adjust how “flat” they are and then make it easier or harder. I’ve written about how to use an exercise ball for tummy time here (if anyone’s curious about how to do it): Pretty much every parent who has learned about this tricked has loved it and has said it has made a HUGE difference in their baby’s play time and their ability to tolerate tummy time while also getting stronger. Hope it helps!

    -Christie from

    • MomTricks Jen
      MomTricks Jen
      May 4, 2015

      Ooh, that’s really awesome advice! Thanks for sharing it!

      Mine are too old to try this out now, but I bet my readers will love it. :)


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