Help! My Baby Hates Tummy Time
Practice makes perfect.
When your baby is a sleepy newborn—snoozing up to 18 hours a day for every 24—aside from feeding and changing them, you may wonder if there are any other activities you can do with someone so tiny. You bet there are! In fact, one of the first and most important exercises you can do with them is tummy time. Your OB/GYN or pediatrician will most likely recommend tummy time from the time your little one is born, or shortly thereafter, since there are numerous developmental benefits.
To learn about them all, plus what tummy time is, when to start tummy time, and how much tummy time your infant should have, read on. We’re also sharing what to do if your baby hates tummy time. (Hint: It can definitely be an acquired taste.)
What Is Tummy Time?
Tummy time refers to placing your infant belly-down periodically throughout the day while they’re awake—never when you put them to sleep and always when you can supervise them, for safety. Doing so is vital for their motor, sensory, and visual development in the following ways.
- Strength: Tummy time develops the muscles in their neck, shoulders, and back by helping them learn how to lift their head. This mini bodybuilding, in turn, creates the building blocks to eventually help them hit major milestones, like rolling, sitting, and crawling.
- Prevention: It may help prevent motor delays and conditions, such as a twisted neck (positional torticollis) and flat-head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly).
- Textures: Your infant can feel and learn different textures if you practice tummy time on various surfaces, such as a carpet, blanket, or tummy time mat.
- Hand-eye coordination: During tummy time, seeing their hands moving in front of them can help your baby learn how they move and what those itty-bitty digits are for.
- Body Awareness: By putting your baby down in different positions, the shift of their weight can teach them diverse sensations throughout their whole tiny body.
- Balance: Ditto with helping them to develop their balance and better, more controlled movement.
When To Start Tummy Time
Your infant is never too young for tummy time. You can start doing it with them from the day you bring them home or wait a couple weeks, then continue it throughout their first year. An easy way to remember to get some tummy time in is to put them down in position for a few minutes after you change their diaper or give them a bath to help make it part of your routine. One caveat, however, is that you’ll want to wait a while after feeding them to do tummy time. If it’s too soon after a meal, it might bother their belly and trap gas.
Infants are undoubtedly gassy, especially after they eat. And your little one sometimes needs help getting some relief. Keep Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops in our dye-free or original formula on hand. They work fast to break gas bubbles down to help your baby naturally release them. Safe for even the newest of newborns, you can give them at every feeding, if needed, up to 12 times a day. Plus, the active ingredient, simethicone, won’t ever be absorbed into their tiny system like some other gas relief remedies.
Mommy Pro Tip: To help promote healthy digestion and support your baby’s immune system, try Infants’ Mylicon Daily Probiotic Drops. Bonus: If your baby is colicky, they can reduce crying and fussiness by 50% or more over time. Learn more about the benefits of probiotics for babies.
How Much Tummy Time by Age
Like everything in your newborn’s life, tummy time is a brand new experience for them. Start small, for only a few minutes at a time, multiple times each day. Then, work your way up to an hour a day in total by the time they’re 3 months old. When they start crawling at about 7 to 9 months, they should be reaping most of the rewards of tummy time. Although it’s not quite as important as it was when they were younger, you should still put them on their tummy sometimes during playtime to maintain the benefits, like any healthy workout.
Below, get a more granular idea of how much tummy time your baby should be getting, as well as if they’re making progress based on their age.
0 to 4 weeks: We’ll be honest, there’s a pretty big chance your baby will not appreciate tummy time when they’re first born. Try not to feel like a monster if they cry and fuss—or if you can’t help but stifle a laugh (their bewilderment can be pretty funny). Just try your best to remember that tummy time is a crucial part of their development. You can start out by placing them on your tummy or chest, in your lap, or by carrying them like a football face-down for a few minutes. Eventually, you can place them on a clean floor or tummy time mat and get down eye-to-eye with them.
1 month: They may start turning their head during tummy time, or even using every ounce of their tiny might to lift their head, however briefly.
2 months: By the time they’re 2 months old, your infant should know the ropes, and be able to tolerate tummy time for at least a full minute. They may also start tilting their head side-to-side. You can do most of their tummy time on the floor to give them more independence.
Mommy Pro Tip: If they’re tilting their head and favoring one side, be sure to let your pediatrician know. It could be a sign of a crooked neck, or positional torticollis. To help prevent it, place them down on their back in their crib in different directions each night—to the right, left, top, or bottom—to encourage them to look in your direction when they wake and build up those neck muscles.
3 months: Your baby should be spending a total of an hour in tummy time by the end of each day, and you should be able to see some real progress. They might visually track objects or toys you move around in front of them. That wobbly noggin will be easier to control, and they may be able to lift it 45 to 90 degrees pretty steadily. And they might even start using their tiny arms as leverage, with their elbows behind them at 45-degree angles. You can help their progress even more by holding them firmly by the sides on top of an exercise ball, and rolling them to and away from you slowly, so they have to lift their head to see you.
4 months: Around 4 months, with regular tummy time, they should be able to lift their head a full 90 degrees and keep it centered, as well as turn towards faces, voices, and toys. (Psst: A mirror can be a fun way to engage them.) They’ll also be getting into position to do little baby pushups, with their elbows in front of them or at a 90-degree angle.
5 months: Their pushups will be better, and they’ll start straightening their elbows or reaching for nearby toys. You can help them along by placing your hands underneath them to give them gentle cues to push themself up in brief spurts.
6 months: Your baby is a tummy time pro by 6 months. They’ll be able to roll from their tummy to their back, pivot in a circle on their tummy, and grab different toys. Believe it or not, they actually may like tummy time now, since it enables them to move, explore, and play easier.
Remember, however, that these milestones are approximate. If you're ever concerned about your baby’s tummy time progress, always speak with your pediatrician.
Do I Need a Tummy Time Mat?
A tummy time mat isn’t necessary, but it isn’t a no-go either. It’s completely up to you if you’d prefer to use one. You can always go the au natural route, though, and use your tummy, chest, lap, hands, or the good ol’ floor or blanket.
My Baby Hates Tummy Time! What Should I Do?
Especially if you’re just starting tummy time with your infant, set your expectations, and assume it may be a challenge for them. If your baby hates tummy time, try some of the below tips in addition to asking your pediatrician for their advice.
- When we said to do tummy time for a few minutes after changing their diaper or bathing them, we had an ulterior motive. Babies thrive on routines, and having tummy time as part of thiers can get them used to expecting it. Be sure anyone else that cares for them does tummy time with them too.
- Try to avoid putting them in tummy time if they’re in a foul mood, and only practice it when their spirits are already up.
- Know that putting them in tummy time right after feeding them is bound to backfire.
- Make tummy time as fun as possible by singing songs, going eye-to-eye with them, and using mirrors or toys. You can also try an array of things to help calm them down.
- Never let your baby fall asleep in the tummy time position. If they do drift off, be sure to flip them over to their back.
- Don’t give up! Mommying is all about patience and persistence. Try and remind yourself that most babies don’t like tummy time at first, but they’ll get used to it—eventually. And, most of all, it’s of the utmost importance for their development. Every minute—or few seconds—your infant spends in tummy time is helping them.
Next: There are more beneficial activities you can do with your infant than you might realize at first. One of our faves: The Surprising Mind & Body Benefits of Baby Massage.