Do babies really need tummy time? And what do you do if your baby hates tummy time? Should you just let your baby cry during tummy time?
The answer is yes, tummy time is extremely important, and I’ll walk you through the best tummy time activities that even babies who hate tummy time will tolerate!
My first baby, Theo, hated tummy time. He would scream every time we attempted tummy time, and honestly, because of that, we didn’t do it nearly as often as we should have.
*Post contains affiliate links.
Start Small With Tummy Time
Pediatricians recommend 30-minutes of tummy time per day. This can sound daunting, especially if you have a baby who hates tummy time. When Theo screamed and cried during tummy time, it was awful.
As a first-time mom, it made me feel so guilty and I did it as little as I possibly could.
Listen, tummy time is crucial, so don’t feel guilt like I did if your baby cries during it! But also… remember that you don’t have to start at 30 minutes. Start small with 3-5 minutes each time your baby is awake.
As they begin to tolerate 3-5 minutes, switch to 5-8 minutes, then after a few days, 8-12 minutes. I suggest actually setting a timer so you know how much time is actually going by.
After doing tummy time consistently, you will be amazed to see your baby start to lift their head and look around.
Struggling with newborn sleep? This post may help –> How to Establish Good Sleep Habits Straight From Birth
Start Tummy Time Early
If you’re already at the point that your baby hates tummy time, it probably does no good to suggest starting tummy time early as you’re likely past that point.
However, it is too important to skip over, so here it is: START TUMMY TIME EARLY. Like as soon as you get home from the hospital early. If you wait too long, your baby is going to be so unfamiliar with that position that they’re not going to like it at all.
Change How You Think About Tummy Time
It might sound strange to think about starting tummy time as soon as you get home from the hospital. After all, a brand new baby isn’t going to be playing on their tummy.
That’s why I encourage you to change the way you think about tummy time.
Tummy time does NOT have to be just setting your baby down on a play mat with some toys. There are so many other ways you can do tummy time.
Remember: the point of tummy time is to get baby OFF of their back in order to avoid a flat head and work on developing strong neck and shoulder muscles.
Here are all of the ways you can do tummy time that aren’t the traditional ways you might think of doing tummy time.
Related –> 35 of Our Absolute Favorite Toys for Babies
1. Chest to Chest Tummy Time
This is my husband’s favorite! He gets to “do tummy time” with the baby and it turns into them napping together. It may not seem like tummy time, but having your baby lie chest to chest with you counts as tummy time because your baby is off of their back and using different muscles to support themselves. It is also getting them comfortable in a position on their belly.
My older 3 kids loved doing this when we brought our 4th baby, Beckham, home from the hospital. We obviously supervised verrryyy closely and they didn’t last for very long, but it was really adorable and he seemed to enjoy looking at his older siblings.
2. Walking While Holding Baby
Hold your baby so that they’re face down lying across your arm. Try going for a slow walk around the house and give them different things to look at. This is a fantastic option for babies who really hate tummy time because the moving motion usually calms them down.
Bonus, it will work our arm muscles, haha! Just make sure to switch arms 😉
3. Play Airplane
This is another tummy time activity that is wonderful for a baby who’s having a fussy day. Hold your baby with their belly over your forearm and “soar” them around the room like an airplane. This is another tummy time activity that dads love to do.
4. Read to Them
Some babies love when you read to them from a young age while others could care less. My first, Theo, loved when we read to him. My twins, Josie and Margo, didn’t like it as babies. Beckham doesn’t really like looking at books but he loves when we show him these high-contrast cards.
Here are some suggestions for books for tummy time:
5. Sing a Song
Lie down on the ground in front of your baby and sing some lullabies or nursery rhymes.
Entertaining my babies when they were on their tummies was something that never failed to keep them happy for at least a few minutes. A few minutes every time they’re awake is better than nothing and as I mentioned above, it’s perfectly fine to start small!
6. Play Peekaboo
Playing peekaboo is another way to entertain your babies during tummy time, although this works best for babies who aren’t quite newborns but aren’t crawling yet, so around 3-6 months.
I like to use a colorful scarf instead of my hands (former music teacher here) but a receiving blanket or even dish towel will work as well.
7. Tummy Time Prop
You can also use a pillow such as a boppy for tummy time when they’re old enough (about 3 months old).
Having them propped up on the boppy makes it easier for them to keep their head up and look around. It also prevents them from rolling over! Theo learned how to roll over pretty early and would REFUSE to stay on his tummy! The boppy helped him stay on his tummy.
8. The Best Toys for Tummy Time
Below are all of my favorite toys for tummy time! Blog post coming soon with even more of our favorite tummy time toys and how we use them all!
Hopefully this helps you get a head start on tummy time with your baby and make some great memories at the same time! Some of my favorite pictures I have of my babies are when they’re doing their tummy time activities.