Front to Play: Introducing Tummy Time

Sleeping on their backs helps protect babies against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). While awake, however, babies need time each day to be on their tummies – always under careful supervision. Tummy time strengthens the muscles necessary for head control. The sooner babies achieve head control, the less likely they are to get flattened head syndrome (plagiocephaly).

Benefits of Tummy Time

  • Strengthens neck, shoulder, upper trunk and arm muscles, and increases coordination.
  • Improves fine motor skills (grasping, manipulating), which are important for writing later on.
  • Teaches babies to crawl, which is important for their healthy neurological development.
  • Gives babies confidence and a sense of accomplishment as they master new skills.
  • Provides new sensory experiences.
  • Offers a different viewpoint.
  • Enhances cognitive and social skills.
  • Provides wonderful opportunities for bonding.

When to Begin

  1. Start as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital. When your baby is awake and alert, put him on his tummy for a short time 2-3 times a day and watch him carefully.
  2. Hold him in your arms and let him play on the floor in a safe environment.
  3. You can also offer snuggle time by holding your baby against your shoulder. Encourage him to look at you. Remember to support his head.
  4. Provide your baby with plenty of time to move freely. Too much time spent in the same resting position in the crib, car seat, swing or bouncy chair may result in a flattening of the back or side of the head.

Work With Your Baby
Some babies do not enjoy tummy time at first. If your little one is one of them, try a slightly different approach: Lie down on your back and place her on her tummy on your chest instead of on the floor. Talk and play with her just as you would on the floor until she gets used to this position. Then, when her strength and confidence have grown, retry placing her on a blanket while you are on your tummy next to her.

Tips for Happy Tummy Times

  • Choose a time when baby is happy and ready to play.
  • Never attempt tummy time right after a feeding.
  • Place your baby on a clean, flat surface such as a blanket or play mat.
  • If your baby cries, try some extra padding. Roll up a small receiving blanket or towel and gently place it under her chest.
  • Get down on the floor in front of your baby and make eye contact.
  • Enjoy yourself entertaining your baby: Laugh, talk, coo, sing and make “silly” faces. Remember, your attention and love are the greatest gift you can give to your baby.
  • Show her a plastic mirror or some brightly colored toys.
  • Place favorite toys equally to both sides of your baby to encourage reaching with both hands.
  • Vary the toys and stuffed animals you place in front of your baby to give her a variety of different sensory experiences. Look for differences in color, shape, and texture (fuzzy, soft, wooden, etc).
  • As she grows stronger, place toys a little further away from her. Praise any efforts at crawling towards them.
  • Shake a rattle over baby’s head to make her look up.
  • Offer her a gentle massage while she is on her tummy.
  • Encourage family members and friends to join in.
  • Remember that learning new skills can be hard work for your baby. Keep it fun and try to do several mini-sessions throughout the day rather than one long one.
  • Take clues from your baby to see what catches her interest and keep varying the activities according to her temperament and developmental stage.
  • Remember, your baby still needs to sleep on her back, but when she is awake try to hold, carry and play with her in different positions as much as possible.

These wonderful moments you share with your baby will help her grow physically and emotionally and deepen her love for you.

American Academy of Pediatrics, Parenting Corner
American Academy of Pediatrics Brochure: Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play

1 Response to “Front to Play: Introducing Tummy Time”

  1. 1 plagiocephalyuk September 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    There is some really great advice about tummy time here, which is vital in both preventing and treating positional plagiocephaly. Another good point is that of carrying your baby in an over the shoulder sling; as well as having many practical positives, this reduces time spent in a stroller or car seat and so reduces flattening as it is effectively extra tummy time.

    For more info about all aspects of plagiocephaly, visit

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