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The Importance of Tummy Time

By Alexis Sawyer, M.D.

​​Tummy time is a baby's first workout. Tummy time takes place when a child is awake; the baby lies on his stomach while a parent or caregiver supervises him. It is important for a child to have tummy time because it allows him to use neck and upper body muscles and stabilize his head when he sits upright. Tummy time is necessary because a newborn needs time to counteract the long periods of lying on his back when sleeping and it helps prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

When Do I Start Tummy Time?

Parents should start tummy time as soon as possible. It is an easy and beneficial practice for the child. At first, tummy time may be one or two minutes for a couple of times a day, moving up to five to 10 minutes. Some babies are happier being on their tummies than others. If your child does not like staying on his stomach, there are a number of ways to make it more pleasant for your newborn. Interacting and getting down to the baby's level is a great way to entertain him and spend some time together.

Benefits of Tummy Time

  • The child gets a different view of the world and becomes more interactive
  • Your baby learns how to support his head by himself
  • Reduces the baby's risk of SIDS
  • Encourages the baby to develop more muscles

Issues of Not Having Tummy Time

  • The baby might lack upper body strength
  • Lack of head stability can lead to lack of coordination for the child in the future
  • Torticollis: the tightening of muscles on one side of the neck, which can cause strain on other neck muscles
  • Flat head: when the child's head becomes flat on the back or side of the head instead of round

Ways to Make Tummy Time Fun

  • Get on the floor with your baby
  • Have your baby look up by talking to him
  • Put your baby near a mirror or something that plays music
  • Place the child's upper body and arms on top of nursing pillow for elevation and a new view
  • If the baby gets fussy, distract him with noises or ways to make him smile or laugh
  • Give incentives such as toys

Each child has different preferences, so it is important to be patient with tummy time. Try to make it a fun part of their daily routine. If your baby is having a lot of issues with tummy time, talk to your baby's pediatrician.