Tummy Time: When to Place the Newborn on the Tummy?

May 3, 2024

Tummy time is a type of gymnastics that allows the newborn to strengthen the back and neck muscles.

In this article, we discuss what tummy time is, when to start it, how to stimulate the baby during this activity, why to put the baby on his stomach, and for how long.

What does Tummy Time mean?

As anticipated, Tummy Time is a kind of “tummy gymnastics,” that is, a series of exercises done on the tummy that allow the newborn to strengthen his neck and back muscles.

But Tummy Time also allows him to acquire all those skills that will come in handy first when he is trying to learn to crawl, and then when he is taking his first steps.

In other words, gymnastics helps the strengthening of motor skills.

Excluding sleep time, it is of paramount importance for a baby to spend time on his stomach.

During bedtime, on the other hand, the baby should be on his or her stomach to avert the risk of crib death syndrome (SIDS).

When to start Tummy Time?

Tummy Time can be started soon after birth, of course, always keeping the baby’s needs in mind.

As the baby progresses through the first few weeks of life, tummy time exercise can be done as often as 2 or 3 times a day.

From the fourth month onward, the infant can spend as much as an hour a day in this position, perhaps trying to avoid times after feeding to avoid possible regurgitation.

tummy time

How to stimulate during Tummy Time

A baby’s curiosity is innate, which is why the baby tends to follow the parents’ voice and movements.

This means that to get his or her attention, it is enough to sing a ditty or simply talk to the infant.

When this happens, the baby will instinctively raise his head while on his stomach.

As the baby grows and the weeks pass, you can begin to intrigue him with sound and colorful games.

One recommendation in this regard: during Tummy Time the baby should never be left alone, but should be supervised.

For this reason, parents should not be away from each other.

How to stimulate Tummy Time?

Some exercises can safely be done at home.

Each of the following is preparatory for developing a specific body part:

For neck development

The one for neck development is the simplest Tummy Time exercise.

Parents should position the baby on its stomach in front of them, drawing its attention with their voice.

As explained earlier, instinctively the baby will try to raise its head.

Doing this movement will train the neck muscles.

To diversify the exercise, alternatively you can also use a nursing pillow.

In this case it will be necessary to place it on top of a mat, laying the baby on it so that the arms are resting on top of that cushion, and the little legs on top of the mat.

Again, the voice will serve to attract the infant’s attention and make him raise his head.

For back development

Tummy Time is also an excellent exercise for strengthening back muscles.

Positioning the infant on top of the pillow and mat will be the same as described in the previous exercise.

At this point, it will be necessary to place one hand under the infant’s chest and lift him a few inches off the floor.

The exercise will need to be performed at least 2 or 3 times.

Why put the baby on its stomach

Putting the baby on his stomach allows his neck and back muscles to develop, but it also prevents certain parts of the head from flattening out (plagiocephaly).

But actually, Tummy Time is not limited to this, because the strengthening work also benefits the leg muscles.

The baby in this case will develop motor skills such as rolling over.

In other words, the infant will learn to reach and then conquer his favorite toys around him by precisely leveraging his little legs.

The end result of this “practice” will be that the baby in this way will understand how to start crawling.

A clarification should be made, however: Tummy Time does not mean leaving the baby on his stomach in the bouncer for several hours thinking it is the best thing to do.

How long to leave the baby belly down?

Many babies don’t like being put on their stomachs initially, and in some cases, Tummy Time can even be the cause of crying.

For this very reason it is important not to force the baby, but on the contrary to increase the time allocated to the exercises gradually.

It will therefore be necessary to start with short sessions, placing the little one for very few minutes in the position once or twice a day.

By gently encouraging the baby, it will be possible over time to increase the time allocated to Tummy Time, up to the point where the first positive results on mood will begin to be seen, and the baby will be happy and “awake.”

By doing so, the new experience will not negatively affect the infant’s day, but on the contrary, will become a pleasant and playful time.

How to turn the baby belly down?

So how to turn the infant belly down?

First, the surface intended for the exercises should be flat and stable. Second, the first few times you can put a rolled-up towel placed under the baby’s chest, helping him to put his little hands on the floor.

This movement, especially the first few times, will have to be done as gently as possible.

In this way it will be possible to maintain a kind of constant training schedule, not perceived by the little one as being forced.

Whenever you have to turn your little one, pay extreme attention to the head, always hold the head.

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FAQ

  1. What is Tummy Time?

    Tummy Time is a tummy tuck exercise for infants that helps strengthen neck and back muscles, enhancing motor skills.

  2. When to start Tummy Time?

    Tummy Time can be started soon after birth and gradually increased over time.

  3. How to stimulate during Tummy Time?

    You can get the infant’s attention with voice, songs and colorful games. Exercises can be done to develop the infant’s neck and back.

  4. How to turn the baby on his stomach?

    It is important to do this gently, always keeping the baby’s head supported.

SOURCES

Hewitt L, Kerr E, Stanley RM, Okely AD. Tummy Time and Infant Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics. 2020 Jun;145(6):e20192168. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-2168. Epub 2020 May 5. PMID: 32371428.

About the Author

Claudia Denti

Claudia Denti is the founder of Genitore Informato and Parentalife.