Advice Column, Baby

When to Start Tummy Time

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  • Category Advice Column, Baby

Start slow, mix it up, and more ways to get your baby to love tummy time.

Thanks to the “Back to Sleep” campaign, which urges parents to place babies on their back for naps and nighttime, rates of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) have declined significantly. But this practice has also led to an increase in plagiocephaly, when there are flat areas on an baby’s head due to lying on her back for too long.

The fix: tummy time, which gives your baby a chance to develop her neck and arm muscles and view the world from a new perspective. “This activity takes pressure off the back of the head and allows babies to look from side to side so they can maintain full range of neck motion,” explains Andy Bernstein, MD, a pediatrician in Evanston, IL. It also lets them work on their arm strength which they’ll need when they’re ready to roll over and crawl.

Of course, since she’s not used to this position, your baby may end up red-faced and grunting at first. Here’s how to make tummy time more fun for both of you:

Choose the right time for tummy time

That usually means she’s in a good mood, has been fed, and is well-rested. Many parents have found their babies to be most receptive after a diaper change, bath or nap. Wait about an hour after the last feeding so she doesn’t spit up from the pressure on her belly.

Start slow

There’s no need to put babies on their bellies until they can’t stand it anymore, reminds Bernstein. Start slowly by putting her in this position for just a few minutes at 1 or 2 months of age, when babies are beginning to hold their heads up. As your baby’s neck and upper body control improves, gradually increase the amount of time spent on her belly.

Make her comfy

A baby’s head is larger in proportionate size to her body, so you’ll notice it can be hard to hold her noggin up for very long. Because tummy time can be awkward, you might try adding a bit of padding for her comfort. Alanna Levine, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics who practices in New York and New Jersey recommends starting babies in a ‘superman’ position over a pillow. “This helps infants to gradually develop the strength to hold their heads up,” she adds. You can also try a rolled-up baby blanket under your child’s chest, increasing the size of the roll as she grows and gets stronger. This bit of padding also frees up her hands to reach out and hold toys.

Keep tummy time fun

Make tummy time more enjoyable by having a few playthings on hand. You might also try getting down to your baby’s level so the two of you are eye to eye. “Make it as interactive as you can by showing your baby how it feels to roll over and stretch for nearby toys,” suggests Bernstein. Sing, smile or talk to keep your baby’s attention and place rattles, teethers or a baby-safe mirror within her reach in order to lengthen the play time. And don’t forget to share your tot’s excitement and praise her efforts when she actually grabs hold of a toy.

Mix it up

Tummy time doesn’t always have to occur on the floor. Change up the scenario by lying on your back and putting your baby tummy-side down on your stomach or chest. Meet her gaze and encourage her to look up. You can also give her neck muscles more of a workout by moving a toy in front of her, starting at eye level and then slowly raising it upward and side to side. “Engage in this activity as much as you can,” says Levine. A couple of sessions every day should do the trick.


A great product to help promote tummy time is the Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym

With a third play setting and more than 10 toys & activities, the Fisher-Price® Rainforest™ Music & Lights Deluxe Gym keeps baby busy as a bee, at home or on the go! The rainforest comes to life with music, lights and nature sounds that respond to baby’s movement. 

During lay & play time, hanging activity toys & motion-activated music encourage teeny-tiny ones to reach, bat & play…hello, toucan! Lower the toys or move them to the soft deluxe mat to encourage baby to push up for tummy time fun! Sweet details, including a soft, satiny mat border and large crinkle leaf, offer sensory development as your little one plays. And, for extra on-the-go fun, remove the take-along toucan, which features up to 20 minutes of music in the long-play setting as well as cool, color-changing lights! Go wild, baby!

  • Deluxe newborn gym with 10+ toys and activities and a removable, take-along toucan with music and dancing lights
  • Three ways to play: Lay & play, tummy time and take-along
  • Responds to baby’s movement with music and lights in short-play setting
  • Up to 20 minutes of music in long-play setting!
  • Removable, take-along toucan – press its wing or give it a gentle shake to activate tunes & lights
  • Link toys to mat or giraffe to encourage baby to push up on tummy
  • Repositionable toys: Soft monkey, mirror, soft jingle lion, rollerball snail, clacker zebra and more!
  • Satiny butterflies dangling overhead move at baby’s touch
  • Baby’s kicks and motion activate fun sound effects and musical ditties
  • Interactive toys, sounds, colors and textures help give baby’s sensory development a boost
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