Tummy Time

Tummy time is an important part of an infant's routine. In fact, recent research found that tummy time was positively linked to gross motor development, total development, plus the ability to move while prone or supine (which includes crawling and rolling). Regular tummy time also helps your little one strengthen build up her muscles and become better at moving...which helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death. 

Establish Safe Sleeping Habits Before Starting Tummy Time

Routinely putting a baby to sleep on the stomach raises her risk of SIDS about four times. But SIDS risk jumps even higher (eight to 37 times!) when young babies (under 4 months) are put to sleep on the back…but accidentally roll to the stomach.

Of course, sooner or later, your baby will roll onto her stomach during sleep. So what should you do to protect her?

For at least the first 4 months, always put your baby to sleep on the back snugly swaddled with white noise playing nearby. The sound will keep her calmer (less likely to fidget and roll), and the swaddling will make it harder for her to flip over. (FYI, Happiest Baby's SNOO Smart Sleeper is the only baby bed that prevents accidental rolling, via its clip-in swaddle. It also keeps your baby calm, by intelligently providing the right level of white noise and womb-like motion to soothe fussing.)


When to Start Tummy Time

While you can begin tummy time as early as the first day you bring your baby home, by the time your baby reaches one month, it's time to begin daily exercises to help her strengthen her neck and back. That will help her develop the ability to move her face out of a blanket or mattress in case she accidentally rolls to the stomach.

The key to starting tummy time is making sure that both you and your newborn are awake and alert and you’re constantly supervising.

How to Do Tummy Time Exercises

Once or twice a day, hold your baby upright in your arms with her head resting on your shoulder and her belly against your upper chest. Allow her to practice lifting her head, as you gently support her neck and head with your hand.

Place your baby with her tummy and face down on a sheet to give her practice moving her head and getting her nose and mouth free. (Supervise her closely, and never leave her alone on her stomach.) The first few times, you may need to help by lifting her head a tiny bit and showing her how to swing her face to the side.

When your infant is 2-3 months old, place your hand under her chest during the tummy exercise to lift her a tiny bit and help her start learning how to use her arms to push up.

These exercises will teach her how to free her face by arching her back and lifting her head, in case she accidentally flips over in sleep.

How Long Should You Do Tummy Time For?

Start by doing tummy time once or twice per day for 3 to 5 minutes. As your baby gets older (and stronger!), you can ramp up the number of tummy time sessions and duration. Pretty soon your baby will be able to roll over on her own!

Final Thoughts on Tummy Time

Don’t stress if your baby hates tummy time. If you’re finding it challenging to keep your baby engaged, then take a break from tummy time exercises for a couple of days or even a week. Shortening tummy time sessions and spacing the exercises throughout the day will make it more bearable for your little one. Remember, some tummy time is better than no tummy time.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.