EXPERT Q&A

What is the importance of tummy time?

While many new parents have heard of tummy time, they may not be aware of the benefits it brings new babies. Learn about the importance of tummy time from child development expert Crystal Morgan.

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Question

We’re having a new baby soon and taking this time to learn everything we need to know about babies. I’ve heard a lot about tummy time, but am not quite sure what it is? How does tummy time benefit babies? And as a new parent, what should I be doing to promote more tummy time?

Answer

This is such a great question. And you’re right to ask because many parents have heard of tummy time but are not aware of the benefits or the full concept of the practice.

The Concept of Tummy Time

The concept is fairly simple and is defined as just that—time a baby spends on their belly. It was first introduced in response to the Back to Sleep Campaign in the early 1990s, which was implemented in an effort to decrease the number of infant deaths related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Although the campaign was successful in decreasing deaths, there was an increase in cases of plagiocephaly, or flat spots on a baby’s head, as well as other motor and cognitive delays. This was evidence that while babies were sleeping on their backs, they were spending too much time on their backs and missing out on hours of being on their bellies.

The Benefits of Tummy Time

Tummy time is important because it increases muscle strength in the neck, shoulders, arms, and other parts of the upper body that can promote motor skills. It also helps babies build the strength needed for sitting, crawling, rolling over, and waking.

Other benefits of tummy time are listed below:

  • Encourages interaction with parents by increasing a social-emotional relationship
  • Encourages a smooth transition to breastfeeding by increasing use of baby’s upper body and increasing strength of neck muscles
  • Decreases time on back and encourages optimal head shape
  • Improves posture and balance
  • Reduces colic like symptoms and reflux by stimulating healthy gut function 
  • Promotes the use of natural and first reflexes

Tips for Tummy Time

Tummy time should be done while your baby is awake and under direct supervision and can be implemented as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital. To get the optimal benefits of tummy time, place your baby on their belly for 3 to 5 minutes several times per day totaling up to 30 minutes each day. During the first 2 to 3 weeks of life, tummy time can be done while doing skin-to-skin with either parent or any adult. As your baby gets older, you can get more creative by adding in age-appropriate toys or songs. It’s important to note that if the baby starts to cry, it is time for a break. It also takes practice and time for a baby to get used to tummy time, so be sure to focus on the quality of time spent on the tummy instead of quantity. In other words, 3 minutes of tummy time will be more beneficial than 5 minutes when the last 2-3 minutes are spent crying.

We hope this is helpful as you begin exploring tummy time with your new baby. And see the recommended activity below for more information on tummy time!

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Meet The Expert


Crystal Morgan

Crystal is a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Family Nurse Practitioner with more than 18 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in Labor and Delivery, Postpartum, and Newborn Nursery. She is passionate about all things related to women’s health and maternal child including breastfeeding education and support, and health and wellness promotion. Learn more and contact her at: toughtittylactation.com