Children's Health

Your Guide to Tummy Time for Newborns

Baby boy laying on his stomach at home

Tummy time involves placing your child on his or her stomach for a short period of time each day while he or she is awake. It’s an important developmental step for your baby. Think of it as your child’s daily workout—just as adults need regular exercise, so do babies. Tummy time is important for:

  • Building strong neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Improving motor skills needed to roll, sit, crawl and walk.   
  • Preventing flat spots on a baby’s head that occur from too much time spent lying on the back.

So, how do you start? Here are five steps to follow for having successful tummy time with your newborn:

1. Begin Now

The younger babies are when exposed to tummy time, the more likely they will feel comfortable in the position. You can practice tummy time with a newborn while still in the hospital after birth. While awake, place your baby against your chest and stomach and enjoy a few moments of bonding tummy-to-tummy.  

Newborns who are 1–3 months old can begin supervised tummy time on your chest or lap. Your baby will naturally practice lifting his or her head and trying to see your face.

2. Work Up to It

Start small with two or three tummy time sessions every day for three to five minutes. As your newborn learns to enjoy the position, you can slowly work up to one hour of tummy time daily by the time he or she is 3 months old.

3. Create a Safe Space

Never leave your newborn alone during tummy time. Tummy time should be a supervised activity for babies who are awake. The American Academy of Pediatrics termed the phrase “Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play” to remind parents of safe sleep practices. Babies should sleep on their backs to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and play on their tummies.

4. Keep It Entertaining

Motivate your baby to stay interested in the activity. Try singing songs, holding out toys, or having your partner or other family members get involved.

5. Move to the Floor

Starting tummy time young sets your baby up for success when they grow older. Older babies can have tummy time on a clean floor, nap mat or secured blanket. This helps your baby gain additional strength and flexibility to begin exploring surroundings.

6. My Child Hates Tummy Time. Now What?

Many babies don’t enjoy tummy time at first. Try naturally incorporating it into daily activities, such as burping, diaper changing, or toweling after bath time. Side lying with support can also help a baby who doesn’t tolerate tummy time.

Wondering if your child is reaching important developmental milestones? Find a pediatrician who can help.

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.