Help, My Baby Hates Tummy Time!

August 7, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

How well does your infant tolerate tummy time? In our “back to sleep” world, many parents are distressed because their infants are resistant to being positioned on the stomach for play.  Parents are torn between what they “should” do and what their baby seems to “want” to do.  The good new is that with time and some basic techniques, any infant can learn to tolerate and even enjoy tummy time!  Here are a few tips on how to introduce tummy time and increase an infant’s tolerance to the position.  [For more information on the importance and benefits of tummy time as well as the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, click here.]

  • Start tummy time early.  As soon as your pediatrician gives you the go ahead (which might even be while you are still in the hospital), start exposing your infant to small increments of tummy time. Even if you start for only 15 to 30 seconds each session, this will be helpful in strengthening baby’s neck and upper body muscles that are necessary to maintain the position. Gradually increase the time by 30 to 60 second increments and this will help your little one gain strength and motor control.
  • Get creative! You can position your infant tummy down on your chest, and this is a great way to sneak in a little tummy time while interacting with your baby because you are “face to face”. You can also carry your baby tummy down, and holding your infant in your lap stomach down is another nice position.
  • Be safe.  Tummy time that does not take place in your arms, in your lap or on your chest, should always be carried out on a firm, stable surface with no soft pillows or plush toys nearby for safety purposes.
  • Distraction is your friend.  Provide fun, developmentally appropriate activities such as musical toys, a child-safe mirror, singing, making silly faces, and any other entertaining options that will distract baby during tummy time. This will help you to gradually increase the amount of time each session so that your little one increases tolerance to the position.
  • Plan ahead. Only attempt tummy time when your baby is rested, comfortable, in good spirits and has not just eaten. Try to develop a regular schedule for tummy time, such as immediately after naps, diaper changes or bath time.

Most importantly, remember that tummy time should be a pleasant and positive experience. Hopefully with these suggestions, you and your little one will soon be having a great experience with tummy time; and the best part is, all the while, your infant will be gaining increased strength and muscle control which will provide a sturdy foundation for future motor skill development.

Photo credit: slowfoot from


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Category: Ages & Stages, Ages 0-4, Featured Articles

About the Author

Dr. Zachry is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 18 years experience providing quality OT to children, along with caregiver instruction and support. She has a PhD in Educational Psychology, with the research for her doctorate being related to tummy time and infant mobility. She is currently employed as a school therapist for Shelby County School System in Tennessee, working with students having issues ranging from mild motor skill problems to severe physical disabilities.

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  1. Helpful Parenting Articles | Dr. Anne Zachry | May 6, 2014
  1. anitaB says:

    GREAT article! I am also a pediatric OT, and have observed the negative impact of babies not spending the supervised tummy-time early on. We live in a hurried world, parents often don’t feel confident in being pro-active in this. This article needs to be passed out in pediatricians’ offices!!

  2. Anne Zachry says:

    Thanks so much Anita! It’s great to know that others are passionate about this topic. Let’s keep working to get the word out! 🙂

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