[Note: Ensure tummy time is only practiced under supervision and when baby is awake. Babies should never be placed on their tummy to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).]
Tummy time is the time your baby spends on their tummy while awake. It’s a wonderful, fun activity to get your baby moving and a great way to build your relationship with them. Tummy time also brings lots of exciting and proud moments, as you watch your baby become stronger and reach developmental milestones while in this position.
Currently the Australian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years encourage parents and caregivers to help their babies reach a total of 30 minutes of tummy time a day. However, this can be broken up into smaller chunks (even just a couple of minutes at a time) throughout your day.
The benefits of tummy time include:
- Building muscle strength in the head, neck and arms which will help baby move through developmental milestones
- Learning to use these muscles together to support activities such as rolling and crawling
- Reduces the risk of flat spots forming on your baby’s head (known as cranial asymmetry) by reducing the time spent on their back
- Increased development of social and problem-solving skills
When you first start putting your baby on their tummy, they may fuss or start crying. This is completely normal and will stop happening once your baby has had some practice to get used to this new activity.
Being on their tummy can be uncomfortable for babies at first as they still lack the strength to support their head.
While it may be discouraging at the start, you can help your baby become more relaxed and happier in this position over time.
Remember, any time spent on their tummy is good. Start by setting small goals and slowly build it up to 1- 2 minutes after they become more comfortable. The aim is to reach 30 minutes in total, which can be spread out across the day.
Here are a few suggestions to help increase tummy time, but you know your baby best! Use anything that will grab their attention to help distract or calm them down.
Strategies to increase the duration of tummy time:
- Start when baby is in a good mood, not tired or hungry.
- Maintain a safe and calm environment.
- Place baby on the floor supporting them with a rolled towel under their chest and arms.
- Distract them – you can do this by showing them a book or favourite toy, or with different sounds like a rattle or a box filled with rice, or talk or sing to them.
- Get siblings involved and make it a family activity.
[Tip: while baby is watching you, try moving to the opposite side, watch as they try to move their head to follow you]
However, if you have tried everything and find that baby is still uncomfortable or unsettled you can try:
- Laying them on your chest for skin-to-skin tummy time or across your legs while sitting down.
- Talking to baby to get them to lift their head up.
- You can also comfort baby by rubbing their back.
Changing up tummy time
Once your baby is comfortable using their arms for support and able to lift their head during tummy time, we recommend adding in some variation.
Here are a few activities to keep it fun and challenging for them until they start crawling:
- Place their toys in front of them but slightly out of their reach to challenge them to use their arms to grab the toy
- Move tummy time outside on a blanket
- Try pretending to ‘fly’ baby
- while you are sitting on the floor
- bend your knees at 90 degrees and put baby tummy down on your shins
- you can support them by holding their shoulders or hips
- rock on to your back, with your shoulders and back rested on the floor
- move your legs up and down with baby
For more recommendations and tips about tummy time:
- Visit https://www.infantprogram.org/ for more information on joining INFANT session in your local area or how to download the My Baby Now app
- Visit https://raisingchildren.net.au/ for tummy time information in pictures or in different languages