When To Start Tummy Time

Understanding when to start tummy time with your newborn baby

If you’re wondering when to start tummy time with your infant or what age do you start tummy time, you first may be curious what tummy time even is! Tummy time is when you place your baby face down on a low, semi-hard surface and you encourage her to push herself up to develop her neck, head and shoulder muscles. Tummy time is important because it helps baby build up strength needed for rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and eventually walking.

Some experts say to start this as early as the day you bring her home from the hospital – with little intervals of tummy time exercises to build up her strength. By the time your baby is between 2-4 months, the benefits of doing tummy time should be evident. That’s when she’ll be a little bit stronger with control of her head and neck muscles. Of course, always supervise your baby during tummy time.

The full push up typically happens at around 6 months old, especially if she’s been practicing several times a day. Remember, every baby is different so don’t be concerned if your little athlete achieves this goal sooner or later than what is considered typical. Keep reading for some more FAQs about when to start tummy time with your newborn.

When do you start tummy time with a newborn?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents can start tummy time as early as their first day home from the hospital, but many parents may find this idea daunting. It’s great to give baby some time on her tummy 2-3 times a day for about 3-5 minutes each time, and gradually increase tummy time as baby gets stronger and more comfortable. By the time your baby is between 2-4 months, she’ll already have better control of her head and neck and will likely be able to roll over soon!

While the majority of tummy time should be done on the floor, it will still count if it’s done on your lap or chest - baby may want to try to push up from there. 

How long should tummy time be?

3-5 minutes of tummy time every day is encouraged.  Some experts recommend that babies work up to about 1 hour of tummy time a day by the time they're 3 months old. Tummy time also means putting baby in a position other than her back. Of course, she should sleep on her back for all sleep (naps and nighttime) until she can roll over on her own (roughly at around 6 months) but the roll over is more likely to happen once she’s mastered the art of tummy time.

Can I start tummy time at 3 months?

For baby’s overall development, it’s better to start tummy time as a newborn, even for just a few minutes, a few times a day. That way, by the time your baby is 3 months, she will have built up to an hour of tummy time every day. Of course, this can be broken up into smaller segments.

Can you do tummy time after eating?

Just like jumping in the pool, it’s best to wait around 30 minutes after mealtime before doing tummy exercises. This way, baby will feel more comfortable before being put on her stomach.

Does a baby sleeping on your chest count as tummy time?

There’s no better feeling than having your infant snuggled up safe and sound on your chest while she catches some zzz’s, and yes, this counts as tummy time! However, it’s resistance against a firm surface that helps with her muscle development which is why it’s important to have her do tummy time the “traditional” way.

Why is tummy time important?

In addition to building head, neck and shoulder muscles, tummy time is important for your baby’s cognitive and sensory development. It is what helps baby build up the strength she’ll need for rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and eventually walking.

According to the National Health Institute of Child Health, tummy time is important because it:

  • Helps prevent flat spots on the back of your baby's head
  • Makes neck and shoulder muscles stronger so your baby can start to sit up, crawl, and walk
  • Improves your baby's motor skills (using muscles to move and complete an action)

How do you do tummy time with a newborn?

Experts suggest starting your newborn on belly down on your chest two to three times a day for just a few minutes each time. While your baby is on her belly, even just lifting her head the slightest bit helps to strengthen her neck and shoulders. For additional tummy time, consider putting baby on her tummy after a diaper change – just to get her used to the position.

What are some tips to start tummy time?

According to HealthyChildren.org, the following tips are recommended for tummy time:

  • Spread out a blanket in a clear area of the floor for tummy time.
  • Try short tummy time sessions after a diaper change or after your baby wakes from a nap.
  • Put a toy or toys within your baby's reach during tummy time to help your baby learn to play and interact with his or her surroundings.
  • Ask someone you trust to sit in front of your baby during tummy time to encourage interaction and bonding.
  • As your baby gets older, your tummy time sessions can last longer, and you can have them more often throughout the day.

By the time baby begins crawling at around 7-9 months, they will be getting the developmental benefits of Tummy Time while moving – how exciting is that?  

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