Friday, September 21, 2012

Reader question: Help! My baby hates tummy time!

Over the years, we have mentioned the importance of “Tummy Time” several times (for a few examples, click here and here).  Tummy time is when your baby is put down on his or her stomach, while awake, and is important for muscle development (for information about tummy time from the AAP, click here).

Recently, we got an email from a reader with this question:

I need help! I know my baby needs to spend time on his tummy when he is awake, but he HATES it! Every time I put him down, he fusses and gets upset. What should I do?

As I have mentioned before, my youngest daughter Charlotte did not like tummy time much when she was little (to read more, click here). To answer this reader’s question, I put together this list of tips I learned with Charlotte:
  • Start slow. Limit tummy time to just a few minutes at a time to start. Even this short time is helpful for muscle development and you can increase the time gradually once your gets comfortable.
  • Get down to your baby’s level.  It is good to get down there and make sure there isn’t anything making the baby uncomfortable, like a scratchy rug or blanket, the sun shining in through the window, or a draft from the air conditioner.
  • Provide entertainment. The best entertainment for a young baby during tummy time is your face. As we mentioned in our post Mothers and Babies: Face to Face and Heart to Heart, your baby loves to look at your face, so get down there with him and let him look at you. You will be able to distract him from his new position and help him feel safe and secure with your nearby.  Siblings can be great entertainment too and older babies like to look at toys and even begin trying to reach for things as they get older!
  • Consider the timing. Before putting baby down, consider what has happened just before or what might happen soon. Did your baby just eat? Having a full tummy might be more uncomfortable. If he is tired or has been playing for a while, he might get frustrated faster.
  • Keep it calm and quiet.  Consider what is going on around him. Is there a lot of noise or movement nearby? It may be unsettling to sense things going on above when he is facing down.  Keeping it calm and quiet may make him a little more comfortable.
  • Be patient. Even if your baby doesn’t like it the first few times, keep with it. It is important for muscle development and it will come in handy when he learns to roll over (click here to read about how babies learn to roll over). By starting with short sessions several times a day, you will be able to respond to him quickly if he gets upset. He will get used to it over time and be rolling over before you know it!

We hope these tips help and we’d love to hear from readers whose babies seemed to dislike tummy time too! Send us your comments. 


  1. I've been told (by my pediatrician and other moms) that supported sitting time and tummy on mommy's chest and other activities that increase neck and back strength count toward tummy time too.

    My 2nd daughter despised tummy time. We almost never did it. But we did many other positions to help gain strength. She still met all her physical milestones on time or early.

  2. Tummy time on your lap, or on your belly while you're lying on your back, can keep kids happy even if they hate tummy time on the boring old floor.

  3. So did mine, and half of the other babies I know. They all learned to crawl and walk. In my opinion, tummy time is one of those things that we parents obsess over a little too much. A pediatrician I know made the comment, "If he hates tummy time, don't make him do it. He will still develop motor skills. Think about it: do you know anyone who DOESN'T have motor skills?" Good point.

  4. I have to agree with the previous posters, and I did see your newer post clarifying some misconceptions about "tummy time". My daughter didn't just dislike it, she would vomit, so I stopped doing it altogether for a while. It worried me that she was getting this prescribed "tummy time" until I was told that she would learn to crawl and walk whether I did anything special to help her or not. I also realized on my own that she would work her neck and other muscles while lying on me. When I decided to try putting her face down after that dry spell, lo and behold, she was able to lift her head as though she had been practicing tummy time the whole time, and perhaps coincidentally, she didn't dislike it quite so much!

  5. I only put my bub down on the floor for tummy time when she is in an alert calm state (which I have learned this evening you refer to as an engaged state). She makes grizzly sounds and grunts but I have learned over the last 4 weeks that these are her concentrating and wont head toward being upset for several minutes. initially we rarely got through a whole minute on the floor.

    I lie down on the floor with her, usually behind her head to encourage her to turn and talk to her. I stop as soon as she shows any signs of being over it.