We all know that tummy time is important for our babies when it comes to building neck strength and working towards rolling, crawling, and even standing. But what about when it feels like your baby HATES it?
In this blog, I will answer the following questions:
Let’s jump right in!
What is it & how do we do it?
Tummy time (at least, in the most traditional way) is when we lay our babies on their bellies on a flat surface and play or interact with them during their wake windows. It’s like a mini workout for your baby…it helps them build up their neck and back muscles, which will allow them to eventually roll over, crawl, sit up, stand, etc.
Some babies don’t like tummy time at first. The good news is that there are plenty of tips and alternatives that should make it more enjoyable for them and that work out the same muscle groups. But more on that later!
Something many parents aren’t aware of is how beneficial tummy time can be for babies who are jerky or fidgety. The proprioceptive sense lives inside our body and is stimulated every time we move. Babies who find it difficult to sleep (because of so much jerking or fidgeting) often have a higher need for proprioceptive sensory input. When this need is met, babies can feel more calm and relaxed.
Click here to watch a video about how tummy time helps jerky babies on Instagram.
When can we start tummy time? How long should we be doing it?
You can start doing tummy time with your little one from the first day you are home from the hospital. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends doing tummy time 2 to 3 times each day, only for about 3-5 minutes at a time. The goal is to work up to about 15-30 minutes of tummy time per day by the time your baby hits 7 weeks.
Please remember that this is an awake activity only. When it comes to newborn sleep, back is best! With this in mind, the AAP recommends this belly-time after a diaper change or when your baby wakes up from a nap.
What are some good tummy time tips?
1. Try different tummy time positions
Remember that tummy time doesn’t always need to be on the floor. There are plenty of locations and positions you can do, so try them all and see which ones you and your baby like the best. Some positions might be more comfortable than others (for them AND you!). See different positions and alternatives below!
2. Give them something to push off of
Sometimes having something for their legs to push off of (like the wall or a pillow) during tummy time gives them more sensory input and is more enjoyable. Think of it like practicing squats but on their stomach!
3. Use a toy
Include a favorite toy or something new and exciting in your routine to give them something to focus on!
Click here for a demonstration of using a toy during floor time on Instagram.
4. Incorporate movement
Using the toy we talked about in tip #3, slowly move it so they turn their head and track it. Moving it up and over next to their ears will help strengthen the muscles they need to roll.
Click here to watch how to use toys to strengthen baby’s neck on Instagram.
5. Take advantage of the normal, moving parts of your home
This is where siblings and/or pets come in handy. One of the best things you can do for tummy time (especially for rolling practice) is to have your baby look at different things around the room from different angles. Having siblings or pets running around is so exciting to look at and PERFECT for making it more interesting for your little one.
Click here to watch how siblings can help with tummy time on Instagram.
Help! What if my baby hates tummy time?
The good news about tummy time is that there are plenty of alternatives to the classic belly-to-the-floor that still activate the same muscle groups for your baby. If your baby seems to absolutely hate traditional tummy time, here are five alternatives to try out:
1. Use a nursing pillow
Using a nursing pillow helps keep your baby from bobbing their head onto the floor, which is one of the reasons some babies hate tummy time so much!
Click here to watch a demonstration of tummy time with a nursing pillow on Instagram.
2. Sit them on your lap
Sitting with your baby supported on your lap is a great alternative once they develop more neck strength and head control. Just place them on your lap and keep one hand on their back and one hand on their tummy to support their upright position and keep them secure.
Click here to watch a demonstration of tummy time while sitting baby on your lap on TikTok.
3. The Superman position
This is one of my favorite positions for a LOT of reasons. All you need to do is sit down with your legs bent in front of you and have your baby lying on their belly facing away from you, with their legs tucked underneath them.
Aside from being a great alternative to tummy time, it also…
- Helps release tricky gas
- Gently builds their leg strength
- Is a fantastic position for baby massages
- Is great for babies with reflux
- Allows for contact time with Mama (and you can be more hands-free!)
Click here to watch a demonstration of the Superman tummy time alternative on Instagram.
4. Use their favorite toy
This one isn’t necessarily an alternative, but can definitely make a difference for babies who typically hate traditional tummy time. Using their favorite toy gives their eyes something to follow to make it feel more like a game.
Click here to watch a video of using a toy during tummy time on Instagram.
For this one, all you need to do is lay yourself down and set your baby directly on top, chest-to-chest. Great for working out those back and neck muscles as well as getting in good contact time!
Click here to watch chest-to-chest tummy time on TikTok.
Recap on Tummy Time
Don’t let tummy time be something to stress about! As we went over, there are plenty of ways to help your baby gently exercise their neck and back muscles.
If you want any support in troubleshooting or have any questions related to your specific baby’s needs, book a consultation! I have a team of incredible certified sleep consultants who can help you decipher the nuances of YOUR baby’s sleep and help the whole family get better sleep.