3 Benefits of Tummy Time for Newborns + How to Do It Safely
Tummy time helps babies develop motor skill and strengthens muscles that allow them to lift their head up, roll and, eventually crawl.
Babies spend a lot of time on their backs looking up at the ceiling — in their crib, in their car seat and in your arms. Flipping them over onto their tummies sometimes not only gives them a different perspective, but it also plays an important role in their development.
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Think of “tummy time” as baby’s first exercise. It has three main benefits:
When should tummy time start? The American Academy of Pediatrics says you can start right away when baby is home from the hospital.
Begin with short sessions where you lay them on their belly on a firm surface (avoid beds or other furniture they could fall off of) for a just a few minutes at a time, a few times each day.
“Babies, at that point, probably won’t enjoy doing it,” Dr. Ye Mon says. You may only be able to get in a few minutes before they start fussing.
But as baby begins to get stronger more aware of what’s around them, they’ll tolerate longer stretches of tummy time — and actually come to enjoy it. At that point, you can work up to a full hour of tummy time each day, until they start crawling.
If your newborn resists being on their belly, Dr. Ye Mon suggests choosing a time of day when you know their fuss level is typically low — like early morning or after a diaper change.
You can also roll up a thin blanket or towel, or put a nursing pillow on the floor, to use as a bolster for baby’s upper body. “This sometimes makes it a little more tolerable for them,” Dr. Ye Mon says.
But if they’re still not having it, don’t try to push through.
“You don’t want this to be a negative experience for them,” Dr. Ye Mon says. “If they’re really fussing and crying, given them a minute or two and then pick up them and try again later.”
Dr. Ye Mon offers these additional pointers:
Remember: Though tummy time is great for development and exploration, babies should always sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.