Both my two kids didn’t really enjoy tummy time, at least to begin with. My son would barely lift his head off the ground and would make tiny little grunts in the process. However, tummy time is a great way for your baby to build up their neck, arm and shoulder muscles. But many babies dislike it, as it takes time for these muscles to get stronger and develop. One of the main reasons is that it’s hard for newborn babies to lift their head up as it requires a lot of effort on their part.
If you’re experiencing issues with your newborn baby doing tummy time, don’t worry as it’s very common. In this article, let’s look at why many infants dislike tummy time, what you can do about it and whether there are some alternatives you can try.
Why do some babies hate tummy time?
Most babies don’t like tummy time because it’s hard and uncomfortable for them to lift their head and push up with their arms. It’s also a strange position for many of them to be in. Babies usually spend more time on their backs when they’re sleeping and when they’re lying face up on a playmat. So from your baby’s point of view, tummy time feels odd and requires a lot of effort as they lack any real upper body strength.
What can you do if your baby cries during tummy time?
It takes babies a while to get used to tummy time, so the best thing to do is start slow. Put them on their stomach for just a few seconds to start with, several times a day, and then build up from there. Also, think carefully when you do this activity with your infant. There’s no point doing it if they’re hungry or overtired as they will just get even more cranky and distressed. Instead, make sure you do tummy time when they’re in a good mood, usually after a nap.
How can you get your baby to like it?
Make it fun! Give your baby a toy when they’re doing tummy time, which can distract them for a while. This could be a musical toy, a mirror or something bright and colourful to look at. Also, you could always lie on your stomach next to your baby (or face-to-face) and just talk to them. This can be a great way to bond with your infant and have fun in the process. If you don’t fancy undertaking this activity you can always ask an older brother or sister to have a go.
Do babies really need tummy time? What’s the purpose of it?
Tummy time really is one of the best ways to build up the core muscles in the upper body. Starting your newborn early with this leads onto other milestones they will reach in their first year, such as sitting up, rolling over and crawling. It can also promote gross motor skills and prevent flat head syndrome.
Are there any alternatives?
If you are really struggling with getting your baby to engage with tummy time, here are a few alternatives to consider:
- Place your baby face down on your chest while you’re lying flat on your back. This can be a fun activity to try and you can make funny faces and silly sounds when you talk to your baby.
- Don’t always carry your baby on the same side of your body. Mix it up a bit, as this encourages your baby to turn their head position and use different muscles.
- After a bath, dry your baby on their stomach rather than lying them down on their back. You don’t need to do this every time, rather mix it up, alternating between the two positions each day.
- Place your baby in their crib at a different end each time, facing a different direction. Again you can alternate every other sleep with this. When they wake up and look around they’ll be using different parts of the body and therefore different muscles.
- When you carry your baby, have them facing away from you, ensuring you support their neck and head. This engages different muscle groups in your infant’s upper body.
Can a lack of tummy time lead to developmental delays?
There have been some studies which have found a link between a lack of tummy time for babies and a delay in their physical development. For example, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) conducted a survey of 400 therapists who observed an increase in motor delays in infants who spend too much time on their backs during the day. This is a fairly small sample size in the grand scheme of things but it certainly highlights the importance of tummy time and getting babies to lie on their stomachs more.
When can you start tummy time?
Providing your baby is healthy and born full-term, you can start tummy time straight away. See how your baby reacts to it at first. You may be able to do 2 or 3 sessions of around a couple of minutes each, working your way up to 3-5 minute sets. Eventually your baby might be able to do 20-30 minutes a day in total.
When you can stop doing tummy time?
You can usually stop tummy time once your child starts rolling over by themselves, which is around 6 months of age.
How often should you do tummy time with your baby? Can you overdo it?
2-3 times a day should be enough. Start with a small amount of time and build it up gradually over the course of a few weeks. You may find your newborn can manage a few minutes at a time, or only a few seconds. It doesn’t matter. Just get started and help your child build up those shoulder, head and neck muscles. You may be able to increase the frequency of your baby’s tummy time sessions as they get older.
Is sitting up as good as tummy time?
Both these activities are important but you shouldn’t think of doing only one of them. Rather tummy time helps your child develop their neck muscles so they are able to sit up properly. You should never put your baby in a seated position too early as it can interfere with their development.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.