Let me just tell you; I’m so overwhelmed by the many questions I’ve been receiving regarding tummy time! I love when my articles spark healthy conversations and invite you to ask whenever you have a question.
I’ve been covering a lot of ground on tummy time lately, and I’m happy to see that you’re all engaging with it. Of course, so many of you have excellent questions about it, so I thought I’d compile them here to give you what you’re looking for!
Tummy Time FAQs
While I’m not changing this blog to ‘Ask Leslie’ just yet, you can always count on me to answer any of your questions about tummy time or anything else I ever cover here. As always, though, if you have any additional concerns, you should bring them to the attention of your child’s pediatrician.
Why doesn’t my baby use her arms during tummy time?
When the baby doesn’t use her arms during tummy time, you may just need to show her how it’s done. After all, she’s new to this outside-the-womb world. Simply put her on her belly and gently bend her arms to bear her weight on her forearms. You can prop a towel underneath her so she’ll start putting weight onto those little arms.
Why does my baby put his arms behind him? Is this OK?
When a baby puts her arms behind him during tummy time, there are several reasons this could happen. It may indicate cerebral palsy, which impedes normal movements, or torticollis, a far rarer condition. Most likely, tight muscles may be to blame, but there’s no diagnosing this on your own. If you notice your baby puts his arms behind him while in tummy time and during other times, you should take him to the pediatrician to rule out something serious.
Why doesn’t a baby lift her head during tummy time?
Usually, when your baby doesn’t lift her head during tummy time, she’s not feeling stimulated. You may need to motivate her to lift it. Babies are naturally curious, so use those activity mats with engaging baby toys to spark that motivation. You can also get down on the floor, so you’re at eye level with her and make silly faces and sounds.
Is it normal for babies to grunt during tummy time?
Yes, babies are natural grunters! You can expect the baby to grunt a little bit as she exerts herself during tummy time. This is especially true as she gets closer to crawling. Keep encouraging her to go for it!
Relative: Why does your baby grunt while breastfeeding?
With newborns, grunting can also indicate digestion. Gas or pressure in those tiny tummies may make it uncomfortable, but tummy time also seems to help digestion. As always, keep tummy time to short sessions initially and gradually increase the time.
Why does my baby scream and cry during tummy time?
If the baby screams during tummy time, I want you to know that this is normal too. The key is not to push too much in the beginning. As a newborn, your baby should do tummy time about 3 times a day in very short sessions. Start after that belly button stump falls off and work your way up to one minute, then two, and so on.
As your baby builds that muscle strength, she’ll be less likely to scream and cry during tummy time. Additionally, getting toys that encourage tummy time will pique her curiosity and distract her from being upset with tummy time.
She may even just want you right there, even closer. Never leave a baby by themselves during tummy time. An adult should always supervise this activity, but even if you’re sitting several feet away, that might not be comfortable enough for the baby. If that’s the case, come a little closer and get down to her level.
You can also read my article about when a baby hates tummy time, as I have tons of tips on what to do when your baby screams and cries during this exercise.
Does tummy time help with reflux and colic?
Tummy time is a great way to help babies with reflux and colic. If your baby spits up during tummy time, she may have reflux. And if your baby frequently spits up after feeding, even without tummy time, they may feel better during tummy time. The key is to keep them upright for about 30 minutes after feeding. This will cut down on spit-up spectacles.
As for colicky babies, they generally find it calming to be on their bellies. If the floor is too much for them during these moments, consider the alternative tummy time positions I wrote about previously (you’ll find them here). One that seems to soothe quite well is laying the baby on her tummy across your lap.
Add an extra layer of comfort by rubbing her little back. This will soothe those cries and help that gas move along. As you do this, your baby will build those key muscles and feel great relief from tummy time.
Can I do tummy time when my baby has hiccups?
Baby hiccups have to be one of the cutest things ever. My husband and I always marvel over the videos of our girls when they were each baby. We caught our eldest hiccupping when we were in a taxi riding through Shanghai. It was absolutely precious!
Anyway, when you have hiccups, do you worry? Of course not! So don’t worry that your baby has hiccups. If she seems to get them often, you can try to slow down your letdown when feeding by sitting in a position that slightly restricts the flow for better control (see my breastfeeding positions article here).
But tummy time is an excellent idea for hiccups. In fact, it may even halt those hiccups!
How long should I wait to put the baby down after feeding?
Even if your baby doesn’t have reflux or colic issues, you shouldn’t go from feeding to tummy time. After the baby, nurses give her about 30 minutes. My youngest spit up a bit more than my eldest, so I’d wear her around the house to keep her upright and then put her in tummy time. This prevented having to scrub spit-up off the activity mat.
Is it OK to do tummy time at night?
There is no evidence to suggest that it’s bad to do tummy time at night. However, you may want to do it earlier in the evening to start building that bedtime routine.
Babies do not know what time, night, day means, or anything like that. In the newborn phase, you are their boob slave, diaper slave, and general slave. That doesn’t mean you can’t start setting habits that will form your routine as she gets big enough to go with it.
For example, a baby that’s just 2 weeks old won’t know night from day, but in a few more weeks, they will recognize subtle cues from you. You’ll dim the lights, have a bath, and tell stories. Your baby will be comforted by these things because she’ll think, “Wow, here’s that nice Mommy person with that book thing again!”
Since tummy time is an activity and we want the baby to wind down at night, try to keep it as early as possible to avoid overstimulating her before bedtime.
When is the best time to do tummy time?
I’d say 1 pm.
No, I’m just kidding! There is no actual time on the clock that you need to watch, though if you do a session in the morning, early afternoon, and then late afternoon/early evening, it should be fine.
Should tummy time be done only on the bed?
No, I don’t advise you only to do tummy time on the bed. While you can certainly do so for certain tummy time sessions, don’t always put the baby for tummy time on the bed.
For one, there will come a time when she can roll over. You do NOT want her to roll off the bed. If you are doing tummy time with a newborn, put her in the center of the bed and stay with her. Do not leave the room or turn your back for any duration.
For another, tummy time on the bed is softer. Your baby needs the resistance of a harder surface to get those muscles strengthened. So, yes, to the bed for tummy time sometimes, but you should put her on soft, clean, carpeted surfaces most of the time. If you have all tile or hardwood, get those tummy time mats which will create a softer, more protected surface for your little one to do this.
Does tummy time help with gas and constipation?
Yes, it does! And you may even have to stop yourself from blatantly laughing when your baby lets a big one rip. Doctors encourage putting babies on their bellies (supervised, of course!) when tummy troubles arise.
If that doesn’t help, you can put her on her belly and pump her legs in a bicycle motion. That should help her release any trapped gas and feel much better.
Can you do tummy time on your lap?
Absolutely, especially if you’re out and about when you need to squeeze in a session. However, please remember that it’s not the ideal place to do it for every tummy time, like your bed.
If your baby is particularly colicky or agitated, doing tummy time on your lap or even on top of your belly while lying down can be very soothing. Line her up with your face, and she’ll lift her head to look into your eyes.
What if the baby falls asleep during tummy time?
If the baby falls asleep during tummy time, don’t wake her up. The AAP says you should make sure to put her on her back. Any time that your baby is sleeping, back sleep is the safest.
So if you’re sitting there with the baby and she dozes off during tummy time, scoop her up gently and move her to her bassinet or crib so she can finish that snooze safely. This is why experts say never leave your child alone in tummy time. Many fall asleep, and since they can’t roll over yet, they can be prone to SIDS or suffocate on blankets and soft activity mats.
One last thing…
I’ve tried to cover all your burning questions about tummy time, and I hope I’ve been able to give you the necessary information and reassurance you need. I’m always here for you if you have any questions about babies, parenting, and all that, so please ask away!
However, you know your baby best. If something seems off, have your pediatrician check it out. Don’t play Dr. Google most of the time; it’s not something to worry about. A doctor can help you if something is wrong so your baby can have the best start.
For now, try not to worry and keep up that tummy time!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.