7 Top Tips for Tummy Time for Babies

Baby Lola 5Tummy time is important for achieving a baby’s development milestones. When babies are on their tummies they start lifting their head up to look at what is in front of them. As they start to look around they push themselves up on their hands and this develops strong arm muscles too.

The next stage in development sees them push themselves up to their knees as they prepare to crawl. If they cannot get to this stage they may skip the crawling stage altogether which may not be helpful from a development perspective.

Many parents notice that their baby likes to roll from their back to their tummy. If your baby likes doing this then encourage it as it helps co-ordination too. If your baby rolls from tummy to back then this can also be useful as long as it doesn’t limit tummy time.

Top Tips for Tummy Time

  1. Start early – even newborns can spend some time on their tummy. Start with a few seconds and build up to a minute or so a couple of times a day. Lying face down on your chest is a good way to do it at first.
  2. Bounce older babies gently on your lap whilst they are lying face down.
  3. Get down on the floor with with them with a toy.
  4. Place them on a bean bag on their tummy. It can be more comfortable to get used to tummy time this way.
  5. If you have hard floor rather than carpeted ones, get a thick rug or an exercise mat to start tummy time.
  6. Gradually build – as your baby gets older gradually increase tummy time by a few minutes each week. Do lots of short sessions rather than one big one. Aim to reach a total of 80 minutes a day by 16 weeks old. For some babies this may be too much – so go with what they can cope with and gradually increase it as they get used to it.
  7. Make it fun for you both. If it becomes a chore then you won’t do it enough

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Note:- It is important to supervise babies when they are on their tummies, especially when they are very young.

Does Tummy Time for Babies Help Development Milestones?

Baby tummy time
Baby tummy time

Tummy time for babies will help them meet their developmental milestones but many parents are confused about the advice.  Since sleeping advice changed with the “Back to Sleep” campaigns to avoid babies sleeping on their tummy, babies are getting less and less tummy time.

Tummy time can also help with flat head distortions, sometimes called plagiocephaly. It seems that lying a baby prone can offer some protection from a flat head.

Baby tummy time will also help develop the normal S curves of the spine and strong neck and back muscles so from a chiropractors perspective – we love it. Strong spinal muscles will help protect against the bangs and knocks that babies and toddlers often experience. Babies have very flexible necks so damaging the neck joints is likely to be difficult. But not impossible. Babies that we see here at Sundial often have jammed neck joints and this may cause aches and pains that they cannot tell us about. It has also been linked with skull distortions like plagiocephaly.

Properly functioning neck and back muscles are important for balance so exercising them is important. Tummy time may also help eye co-ordination. The neck muscles are linked with the eye muscles and balance senses through a series of reflexes. This helps us track a moving object so our neck and eye muscles can work together without us thinking about it. It’s automatic. Stimulating neck muscles with tummy time may help improve eye co-ordination and balance.

Recently some theories have emerged about how humans developed such large brains compared with other animals. It is thought that as we started to stand up from all fours the muscle development required to do it stimulated brain development. So the evolution onto two feet rather than four allowed our frontal cortex to grow. The frontal cortex is where much of our human thought occurs. If this is true then the it was the act of standing upright that drove brain development rather than the other way round.

One of the greatest sources of brain stimulation comes from the nerve endings (proprioceptors) in and around our muscles. These nerve endings are especially plentiful in the neck and back muscles.We know that brain cells love stimulation. They grow and make new connections with other brain cells when they are stimulated. So the more stimulation the better. That may be one of the reasons tummy time works so well to improve development and help babies hit their developmental milestones.

In the next article we see Top Tips for Tummy Time.

Note:- It is important to supervise babies when they are on their tummies, especially when they are very young.


Parental Information and Behaviors and Provider Practices Related to Tummy Time and Back to Sleep
Ainat Koren, PhD, RN, , Susan M. Reece, DNSc, PNP, BC, Linda Kahn-D’angelo, PT, ScD, Dorothy Medeiros, RN, Journal of Pediatric Health Care
Volume 24, Issue 4, July–August 2010, pages 222–230.

Neurobehavioral Disorders of Childhood, An Evolutionary Perspective. R Meililo and G Leisman. 2004 Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers pages 18-32

Effect of Pediatric Physical Therapy on Deformational Plagiocephaly in Children With Positional Preference, A Randomized Controlled Trial.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med/ Vol 162, no. 8, Aug 2008.  Leo A. van Vlimmeren, PhD, PT; Yolanda van der Graaf, MD, PhD; Magda M. Boere-Boonekamp, MD, PhD; Monique P. L’Hoir, PhD; Paul J. M. Helders, PhD, PT; Raoul H. H. Engelbert, PhD, PT

Manual Therapy in Children, Heiner Biedermann PhD, Churchill Livingstone 2004

Serial developmental assessments in infants with deformational plagiocephaly. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 48: 274–278. Hutchison, B. L., Stewart, A. W., de Chalain, T. and Mitchell, E. A. (2012).