When To Start Tummy Time

A smiling baby enjoying tummy time

Tummy time: something babies don’t always love and parents have questions about. During tummy time, babies are placed on their bellies for short periods of time, encouraging the development of their gross motor skills. There are lots of benefits of tummy time, but you may wonder when to start it. The answer may be surprising. The ideal tummy time age is as soon as possible.

Important of Tummy Time for Your Baby’s Development

While the idea of a newborn performing any type of exercise may sound preposterous, that is exactly what they are doing during tummy time. The simple act of putting your baby on their tummy for short amounts of time throughout each day helps them build muscles in their core, back, neck and arms. 

However, building muscle strength is just one of the many benefits of tummy time. When babies have the opportunity to experience their body and the world around them on their bellies, they begin to learn how to move their arms and legs, promoting body awareness and balance. Equally important is the opportunity for bonding that comes from interacting with your baby during tummy time.

Benefits of Starting Tummy Time Early

For many new parents it can come as a surprise that tummy time for a newborn is encouraged. Beginning as early as possible can be greatly beneficial to your child’s long-term development. Keep in mind that tummy time must always be supervised to ensure your baby’s safety.

Guidelines for Starting Tummy Time with Your Infant

Fortunately for new parents, tummy time is simple. All you’ll need to get started is a firm surface and a few minutes a few times each day. Consider the following tummy time tips to ensure your baby is getting all of the benefits.

1. The Ideal Age to Begin Tummy Time
You can begin tummy time as soon as you’re home from the hospital. You can start with your baby on your chest or using a football hold and then eventually place them on a firm, flat surface. If your baby really seems to hate tummy time, try propping them up on a nursing pillow or folded towel, so that their shoulders are higher than their hips. 

2. Signs Your Baby is Ready for Tummy Time
Pediatricians recommend tummy time for newborns as early as their first day home from the hospital so long as:

  • Babies are born at full term.
  • Babies have no health issues.
  • Both the parent and baby are awake and alert (or another adult is available to supervise).

3. How to Make Tummy Time Safe and Enjoyable
Here are some tummy time positions to try that will make it safe and enjoyable for you and your baby: 

  • Lay your baby on their belly on a firm, flat surface. 
  • Lie on your back and place your newborn on your own tummy or chest.
  • If your baby doesn’t like being on their tummy just yet, you can try putting them on their side. Place a rolled up towel against their back for support, or a small rolled up washcloth to support their head. Make sure their arms are out in front of them.

4. Tummy Time Activities to Promote Muscle Development
Some tummy time activities that can help your baby improve their muscle development include:

  • Singing songs.
  • Placing toys around them.
  • Laying on the floor beside them.
  • Using a sturdy baby mirror as a toy.

5. Progressing Tummy Time As Your Baby Grows
The length of tummy time depends on the age of the baby. Between the ages of zero to two months, babies should do tummy time two to three times each day for three to five minutes, eventually progressing toward at least twenty minutes per day. By two to four months your baby will be able to go longer stretches on their tummy and they will develop improved head control. Their vision will begin to improve and you’ll notice that they interact more while on their tummies.

By four to six months, babies have more core strength and may even begin to roll over on their own. They will begin playing more, enjoying toys and pushing up with their arms. At six months, your baby can work up to a full hour of tummy time per day until they begin to crawl.

Overcoming Challenges and Encouraging Consistency in Tummy Time

Some babies may not take to tummy time easily. If your baby is resistant to tummy time, try a tummy time schedule that includes shorter periods throughout the day. Your baby can slowly work their way up to a full hour a day over time. Start with just one minute, allowing them to get used to the position. Be sure to approach tummy time when your baby is likely to be in a good mood; post-nap and after changing often work best.

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