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  • #A Parents Guide
  • #Activities
  • #Baby Development
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Tummy Time: The Complete Parents' Guide

Updated on June 13, 2024
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If you’re expecting or have recently given birth, you’re undoubtedly interested in learning all of the best practices for keeping your baby safe and healthy. Everything from the healthiest breastfeeding diet to the best way to change a diaper is of great interest to moms-to-be.

Giving your baby daily tummy time is one of the latest pieces of advice from healthcare professionals. You might not be familiar with tummy time yet—but not to worry! The baby experts at Mustela have written The Complete Parents’ Guide To Tummy Time.

happy baby enjoying tummy time

What’s Tummy Time?

As the name suggests, tummy time is simply the time that you allow your little one to spend on their stomach. Your baby should always be awake and alert for tummy time because stomach-sleeping is not safe for children under 1 year of age. And, as always, you should never leave your baby unattended, especially during tummy time.

While some parents naturally let their infants hang out on their tummy from time to time, not all do. But every baby needs tummy time! It’s crucial to give your child several of these stomach-laying sessions every day. If you’re wondering why it’s so important, keep reading! We’ll explain all the benefits in the following section.

happy baby lying on tummy on a bed

Why Is Tummy Time Important For My Baby?

Tummy time is important for your baby because it allows their muscles and motor skills to develop normally. Research has shown that babies who spend plenty of time on their tummies are quicker to reach physical achievements like rolling over, crawling, pulling themselves up, and, eventually, walking.

The long answer to why tummy time is important requires a bit of background information about newborn sleeping habits. As we mentioned above, babies under 12 months should only be put to sleep on their backs. This is true because infants who sleep on their stomachs have a much higher risk of succumbing to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

This startling fact was discovered and made public in 1992. Then, in 1994, the American Association of Pediatrics started a campaign called Safe To Sleep to raise public awareness about the dangers of allowing babies to sleep on their stomachs. The campaign was very successful and helped to decrease the number of SIDS deaths by 53% from 1992 to 2001. The number of infants taken by SIDS fell an additional 24% between 2008 and 2013.

This is obviously fantastic news but the campaign had a few undesired consequences too. Specifically, many parents thought that babies were not allowed to spend any time on their stomachs. This led to a decrease in tummy time, which, in some cases, caused developmental problems. For example, babies have soft, delicate skulls and their heads can develop abnormally if they spend too much time on their backs. This condition, officially called plagiocephaly, had an increase in occurrences when the Safe To Sleep campaign began.

The solution to these potential developmental problems is tummy time! While your baby should always sleep on their back, they should also spend plenty of quality play time on their tummy. This prevents disorders like plagiocephaly and promotes healthy neck, back, and arm muscle development.

giggling baby lying on bed

When Should I Start Giving My Baby Tummy Time?

Medical professionals recommend starting tummy time as soon as your baby gets home from the hospital. In the beginning, you should make tummy time sessions short. A single session should only last about three to five minutes. Three or four of these short stints per day is ideal.

At first, tummy time sessions don’t need to be on the floor—they can take place on your lap or even on your belly! You can let your little one lay belly-down on your lap while you sit in a comfy chair. Or, you can lay down on your back and get some tummy-to-tummy time with your precious little one. It’s a great way to bond!

As your little bundle of joy becomes more comfortable on their stomach, you can try extending tummy time up to ten minutes per session. By the time your baby is 3 months old, you can aim for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. And when your baby reaches the six-month milestone, 20 to 30 minutes of tummy time will seem like a breeze.

For these longer tummy time periods, you’ll want to put your baby on the floor. Place a towel, blanket, or even a yoga mat on the floor where you’ll want to lay your little one. This will help them to be more comfortable and protect their delicate skin from things like carpet burn and scratches.

baby sleeping on tummy

What Should I Do If My Baby Doesn’t Enjoy Tummy Time?

There are, of course, some babies that just don’t like tummy time. It might seem like no matter what techniques you try, your baby just doesn’t enjoy being on their belly. First, understand that this isn’t anything to stress about! It’s perfectly common for babies to feel uncomfortable on their stomachs.

For starters, their muscles have not yet had the time to fully develop, so tummy time is essentially a workout. Imagine doing a new exercise at the gym or going for a long run for the first time in a few weeks. It’s not easy and it can be physically painful!

On top of that, babies can be fussy in general. Experiencing new things can be uncomfortable and unpleasant for babies—and just about every experience is new. Even something as ordinary as exposure to the air outside the mother’s womb can cause dry skin. Luckily, Mustela’s Dry Skin line can help fix that in no time.

Of course, tummy time is no exception. If your baby doesn’t like spending time on their belly, don’t worry. Just be patient and persistent! Eventually, your baby will get used to tummy time and will even begin to enjoy it. In the next section, we’ll give you five ways to make sure your baby is having a good time on their tummy.

5 Tips For Tummy Time

If you’re looking for a few ways to spice up tummy time, we’ve got some terrific tips to help you make the most of your baby’s belly bouts!

1) Choose The Right Time For Tummy Time

Tummy time always goes a little smoother when your baby is awake, alert, and in a calm mood. This is normally right after waking up from a nap. If your little one seems a bit squirmy or on edge, it might be a good idea to save tummy time for later.

2) Lay Face To Face With Your Baby

It may feel a bit silly at first, but laying down on the floor with your baby can help them enjoy tummy time! Lay down so that you and your baby are facing one another. This will give your loved one something to focus on (you!) and help them forget that they’re in a potentially uncomfortable position.

3) Turn Tummy Time Into Play Time

Nothing will help your baby love tummy time more than making it fun! Head to your baby’s room and grab a few of your baby’s favorite stuffed animals and toys. Then set the toys just within your baby’s reach. Your baby will enjoy playing with their toys while also getting the exercise they need for their neck, back, and arms.

4) Speak, Read, Or Sing

Speaking, reading, or singing to your baby during tummy time is a great way to make the time pass quickly. The sound of your voice will distract them from any discomfort they may be feeling. There’s nothing that makes a baby feel better than listening to the soothing sound of a parent’s voice!

5) Go With The Flow

We can’t emphasize this tip enough: when it comes to tummy time, just be relaxed and go with the flow! Staying calm will help your baby do the same. Plus, if your baby isn’t in the mood for tummy time, it’s no big deal! Just pick them up and try again later.

If it seems like your little one is never in the mood for tummy time, just be patient and give them time to adjust to it. They’ll come around soon enough!

Baby wearing a cloth diaper

Taking care of a newborn is a difficult task. It probably seems like there are always a million different things to remember but now that you’ve learned about tummy time, you’re one step closer to parenting perfection!

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