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Tummy time

3-minute read

'Tummy time' means giving your baby time on their stomach while they're awake and you're there with them. Tummy time is important for your baby's development. It helps them learn to crawl and walk.

Why tummy time is important

Experts recommend that babies sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). So babies spend a lot of time lying on their back.

Tummy time gives your baby the chance to try a new position and helps prevent them getting a flat spot on their head from lying on their back so much.

Tummy time builds your baby’s head, neck and upper body strength.

It also helps to develop the skills they’ll need to crawl, roll over, sit up and stand.

When should I start tummy time?

Tummy time should start soon after birth as part of a pleasurable daily routine. You might begin with 1 to 2 minutes a few times a day.

Over time, you can gradually build up to 10-15 minutes, several times a day. You might start by laying your baby across your lap on their tummy. As your baby grows stronger, you can put them on a rug on the floor to play.

Tips for tummy time

It’s best to choose a time when your baby has had their nappy changed and is happy, alert and interested in their surroundings. To make tummy time more fun, you can:

  • lie alongside your baby and chat to them, perhaps turning the pages of a picture book and talking about what you see
  • let your baby know they have company by singing, or by stroking their back or hands
  • hold a non-breakable mirror next to your baby so they can see their reflection
  • place safe toys near your baby, moving them from side to side to encourage your baby to move their head, focus their eyes and stay interested
  • do tummy time in different locations, including outdoors on a rug in warm weather

What if my baby hates tummy time?

If your baby becomes restless during tummy time, try changing the activity or the location. If your baby doesn’t like being on the floor, lie down and place them on your chest while you gently play with their hands and feet. Give them a gentle rock, sing songs or rub their back.

Some babies with reflux don’t like tummy time at first, but if you persevere, you will probably find they are able to tolerate it for longer periods as they grow older and stronger.

Keep an eye on how it’s going

If your baby becomes sleepy during tummy time, put them on their back to sleep in their crib. As your baby gains more control of their head and arms, give them a ball to play with, rolling it back and forth from you to them. As they start to move around more, clear away any objects that might be dangerous, and introduce new toys and games.

An adult should always be there during tummy time to make sure the baby is safe.

For more information

Visit the Red Nose website for more information and visit the Reflux Infants Support Association for tips on tummy time for babies with reflux.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019

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