Milestones & More: Tummy Time

Nora Hedgecock, OTR/L - April 22, 2020

Tummy time refers to any moment where baby is awake and lying on their belly. Many parents have heard that tummy time is important, but WHY is tummy time important?

  • Develops core strength of the back, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Important for meeting milestones such as rolling, sitting, crawling, and walking
  • Supports sensory development as baby feels different textures on the ground and learns how their body moves and stays balanced 

When should tummy time start? Tummy time can begin the day your baby comes home from the hospital and continue through the first year and beyond (it’s even a strengthening position for older kids and adults!). Introducing tummy time young, and practicing everyday, will help your baby get used to being in this position. 

How much tummy time?

  • Birth to 3 months: Aim for a few minutes at a time, several times a day. This consistency will help make it a part of baby’s routine. Tummy to chest and the football hold (below) are great ways to get tummy time at this age!
  • 3 months and older: The gold standard is one hour a day of tummy time. Don’t worry – not all at once! Break it into shorter periods that your baby can tolerate. Even if you don’t hit this number, the more you practice, the stronger and more comfortable your baby will be. Tips below for how to make this time more engaging for baby!

You know that tummy time is important, but sometimes babies need a little convincing. Tummy time takes some getting used to for many babies – don’t get discouraged! If your baby becomes fussy when you place them on their belly, practice tummy time in very short periods to start and slowly increase the time as they get more comfortable. If 30 seconds is all they can tolerate at first, that’s ok - take a break for some loving and kisses and try again later! 

Some tips to make tummy time more fun for your baby (and you)!

  • Timing is everything – choose a time when baby is rested and well fed (but has burped!) to make things a little easier
  • Build it into existing routines – practice after baths or diaper changes to make it a habit
  • Place your baby tummy-to-chest on your body so that you will be face to face – make silly faces, fun noises, and sing songs to support their social skills! This is a great option for younger babies
  • Use a “football hold” by carrying baby belly down with one arm under their chest and tummy and between their legs.
  • Give them a boost using a pillow or a rolled up blanket to prop their chest up. This is often more comfortable for babies with reflux, too!
  • Use toys! Place motivating, colorful toys around to entice baby to touch, reach, and explore in this position. Baby mirrors are great too!
  • Feel it out! Try fabrics, mats, or blankets with different textures and let baby explore wearing just their diaper or a short onesie to increase tactile input.
  • Get the whole family in on the fun! Get down on your belly with your baby – siblings and grandparents too! Looking at your smiling face is often more motivating than any toy :)

For more tummy time tips and activities to support your baby’s development, join us for one of our virtual parent-and-me classes! We offer classes for all developmental levels:

We hope to “see” you soon!


Christa Pumerantz, OTR/L and Anne Zachry, PhD, OTR. Establishing Tummy Time Routines to Enhance Your Baby's Development. Establishing Tummy Time Routines to Enhance Your Baby's Development,

“Importance of Tummy Time: When to Start and How To Do It: Pathways.”, Pathways,