Guide to Tummy Time for Babies

Babies grow and develop so quickly in the first few months of life. They go from sleeping most of the day, just waking up to eat every two hours, to being able to crawl or even walk within the first year. You may be asking yourself what you can do as a parent to help your baby through all of this development. The answer is tummy time and here I’ll give you a complete guide on tummy time for babies.

What is Tummy Time?

So what exactly is tummy time? It’s exactly what it sounds like; time your baby spends on their tummy. It should be done while your baby is awake and alert so they can move around and use all their muscles.

Lay your baby on their tummy on a firm, flat surface. You can also use a wedge that has toys attached to help prop your baby up and give them something to entertain them. You should always make sure your baby is supervised during tummy time but to make it even more productive lay down on the floor with them and interact with toys or by talking to them to get their attention and keep them engaged in the activity.

Young babies may get frustrated quickly while they’re on their tummy, so let your baby dictate how long this activity lasts. Similarly, if your baby starts to fall asleep tummy time is over.

When Should Tummy Time Start?

You may be wondering when your baby will be ready to try out tummy time. As long as your baby isn’t born premature, you can get started right away. The earlier you start, the earlier your baby will start strengthening their muscles. It will also help prevent your newborn from developing a flat spot on the back of their head form laying down too much.

If your baby is born premature or has medical issues at birth, talk to your pediatrician to determine the best time to start.

How Much Time Should Your Baby Spend On Their Tummy?

Tummy time can be a daily activity. When your baby is still at the point where they aren’t spending much time awake, you may only be spending a couple minutes a day on this. As they get older and closer to crawling, they will want to spend more and more time in this position. Eventually you will be spending 30 minutes or more on tummy time every day.

What Milestones Should You Expect?

With all this time on their tummy, what should you’re baby be doing?

  • Month 1: In the first month your baby will spend most of tummy time with their arms and legs tucked in and their cheek down. With enough effort, they may be able to turn their head from one side to the other and you may notice that they have a cheek that they prefer to lay on. As you near the end of the first month your baby may start kicking their legs in a crawling motion. This is the time when it’s important to keep your baby awake because they will naturally want to spend most of their time sleeping.
  • Month 2: By month 2, tummy time will be a little more eventful. You can expect your baby to start lifting their head and turning from cheek to cheek more easily. They will also start to stretch out their legs and move their arms farther from their body. This is a great time to start using a wedge to lift them up a bit and make interaction easier.
  • Month 3: When you get to the third month of your baby’s life, you should be noticing more head control. They will be lifting their head higher and looking from side to side with their head up. It’s possible for them to accidently roll onto their side while turning their head. You will also notice that they will start to position their elbows under or in front of their shoulders so they can push up on their forearms. You can find some great interactive tummy time mats that your baby can use around this time.
  • Month 4: Around 4 months old your baby will have full control of their head and will start lifting their chest using their forearms. They will also start looking down while their chest is up, making it even easier for them to play with that tummy time mat you bought around month 3. Your baby will also start to fly like superman, lifting their arms and legs and the same time, when there is a toy in front of them.
  • Month 5: Your baby has made some big strides in the first 4 months, but they’re not slowing down yet. By the time you get to 5 months, your baby should be able to press up on their hands to lift their chest and may start rolling onto their side intentionally. Their hands may still be in fists while they push up though. They will also become more active with their toys during tummy time and will start reaching for them.
  • Month 6 or 7: At this point your baby will be more comfortable with their hands flat on the floor when they push up. With the extra strength they now have in their arms, they will also be able to reach with one hand, rotate themselves in a circle, and lift their tummy off the floor. At this point you are about finished with tummy time, because your baby should be able to roll from their tummy to their back about now.

What’s Next?

Once your baby can roll over on their own, they won’t need designated tummy time anymore and it won’t be long before your baby is crawling. They may belly scoot before they crawl for real but either way, they are now mobile and you should consider starting to baby-proof if you haven’t already. This is also usually the time when it becomes ok to allow your baby to fall asleep on their stomach, but check with your doctor first to make sure your baby is ready.

If you have any questions about tummy time or to share your baby’s milestones, comment below.

4 thoughts on “Guide to Tummy Time for Babies”

  1. Great article! And your little one is so adorable!! 🙂
    My children hated tummy time. It is very important, but it makes them work hard, so they complained a lot 😀
    What I was doing to make them complain less, and also some workout for myself – I was lying on my back, feet up, my knees are bent at 90 degrees and the baby is lying on his tummy on my calves. I hold him by the hands so he will not fall by mistake. And I talk to him and play with him. Come up to him with the body and give him a kiss (sit-ups for me). Or swinging the legs slightly (not too much).
    Thank god, this period is already behind me!! LOL XD

    1. That sounds like such a fun thing for the baby. I will definitely have to try that. My son has good days and bad days with tummy time so I have to just catch him when he’s in the mood to do it. Usually first thing in the morning when he’s nice and rested but hasn’t had his morning bottle yet so his tummy isn’t full. If we try to do it on a full tummy we usually end up with spit up everywhere because of his reflux.

  2. This article brought back memories of when my sons were just babies, now they are full-grown men. The funniest experience was with my oldest child with autism, he learned to crawl backwards before ever being able to crawl forward.

    I was wondering if you happen to know why this was so, I don’t know if this is common with babies with autism what do you think?

    1. It’s common for some babies to crawl backward first because they try to find the method thats easiest for them. It’s generally not a sign of Autism, so in your son’s case it was most likely just coincidence. 

      I have a friend who’s son scoots instead of crawling with one foot on the ground while he’s in a sitting position. They all just find their own way to move around.

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