Tummy time—giving babies a chance to play on their tummies—is recommended for every baby, every day. But what makes it so important, and how do you do it? Here’s what you need to know.
# 1. Start early.
Tummy time can start as soon as you bring baby home from the hospital! Good news: You don’t need much to begin—just a clean, firm surface (like a blanket on the floor). But it’s important to always supervise carefully. If baby falls asleep, be sure to roll her onto her back (remember: back to sleep, tummy to play).
# 2. Tummy time is a workout for babies!
Tummy time builds babies’ arm, shoulder, stomach, and back strength. It also prepares babies for rolling and crawling—and helps them develop a nice round head. Tummy time also gives babies a new perspective on the world, which builds their thinking skills. And when babies reach for toys in tummy time, they are developing arm, hand, and finger skills, and hand-eye coordination.
# 3. Remember: 30 for tummy time.
Shoot for about 30 minutes of tummy time a day. But your baby doesn’t have to do 30 minutes all at once! You can put your baby in tummy time for short periods across the day. In fact, young babies may only tolerate a minute or two on their tummies at first, and then build up to longer periods as they develop the strength to hold themselves up. When babies get fussy, roll them over or pick them up, and try another activity.
# 4. There are options for tummy time haters.
Try these positions if your baby really hates tummy time (we’ve all been there).
* Use your own chest as a surface for tummy time. Lie on your back and place baby on your chest. Once your baby gets comfortable with this, try moving him to the tummy time position on a blanket on the floor next to you.
* Place baby tummy-down across your thighs while you sit and sing or talk to her.
* Place a bolster, or rolled towel, under your baby’s chest, extending out under his arms and shoulders. A bolster can make it easier for your baby to lift and turn her head.
# 5. Roll with it.
Once your baby can roll over on his own, he will be able to move himself between tummy time and other positions. This often occurs around 6 to 7 months of age. If your baby isn’t rolling independently yet, keep up the tummy time to help him get there. If he isn’t rolling over by about 9 months, ask his health care provider for guidance.