Does Your Baby Need Tummy Time?

Tummy time is a tricky subject to navigate as a parent. It sounds like an important part of your little one’s progress and development – but most babies hate it with the heat of a thousand burning suns.

 

So, do babies really need it?

In the early 90s, the Back-to-Sleep initiative was launched in order to get babies sleeping on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). All those perfectly round-headed people of the 70s were now placing their babies on their backs to sleep (rightfully so) and were finding that their babes didn’t have much time to practice lifting up their heads to develop strong neck muscles. At the same time, a lot of babies’ heads were getting flat (called positional plagiocephaly).

 

Here’s what could happen if you don’t do it

According to some people, babies who don’t have time to practice lifting up their necks and heads aren’t building upper body strength, which can lead to a delay in motor skills. So your kid could be slower to roll over, crawl and reach other milestones. It depends on who you talk to – some will say tummy time for infants is crucial. Others will tell you to let your baby do things when they’re ready.

In May of 2013, a study came out suggesting that tummy time may not be as necessary as we all thought. And guilt-ridden parents everywhere cheered! The study compared babies born between 1990 and 1992 (before the back to sleep campaign began) with babies born 20 years later, and concluded that “The introduction of the supine sleep position to reduce the prevalence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has not altered the timing or sequence of infant rolling abilities.”

 

So basically, babies will get moving when they damn well please.

Overall, tummy time is clearly not a bad idea and it never hurts to give your baby the chance to do it. Like most things in parenting milestones are, for the most part, an average base line of what to expect. Every baby will develop at their own pace. But if you’re at all concerned, you should definitely talk to your doctor to ease your mind.

 

And if you want to make tummy time less painful – you could try these.

Get down on the ground with your baby and face them to help distract them a little. You can also try giving them a mirror or a toy to look at, tummy time pillows or mats, or a rolled up receiving blanket tucked under their chest. Tummy time can even be considered any time you have your baby laying chest to chest with you or when you’re wearing your wee nugget in a recommended carrier or wrap.

Basically, even if you don’t find yourself following a strict tummy time schedule, or your baby seems to hate it, it’s always a good idea to understand the logic behind it.

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13 Comments

  • We felt the constant pressure for tummy time as well, but our son hated it – until he was ready on his own and almost to crawling point. He’s not developing any less than the other children his age. I’ve learned with this parenting biz, the children will do everything at their own pace no matter how much you try to force them. They will tell you when they’re ready for the next milestone. Today our 15-mo old is almost running! All that worrying and he’s just fine!

  • Thanks for the article, and also thank you for showing a great example of how to respond maturely, kindly and respectively to negative comments (which may not be as mature, kind or respective).

    I rarely did tummy time with my now 17 month old, bc he had bad reflux and would spit up when placed on his tummy. I looked into it and thought about it and decided that tummy time was not for us (until his reflux resolved) and everything would still be ok- and it was! I believe if you can’t do tummy time, but are ensuring that your baby is getting other ways of stimulating their physical/gross motor development, then it’s a good balance.

    I believe you made it very clear in your article that you were not advising people against tummy time. You were very clear that you are trying to offer some reassurance and encouragement to parents who feel guilty about not doing enough tummy time. Thanks again!

  • I’m very disappointed in this piece. As a pediatric occupational therapist in early intervention for over 15 years, I can assure you that this is false information. Please label this as an opinion piece rather than factual information as I do not see that you have any medical credentials to support your opinion. I can appreciate your perspective of reassuring moms that they are doing a good job but tummy time is essential to a child’s normal development.

    • I’m sorry you’re disappointed Julie. And I can definitely appreciate the expertise and experience you’re bringing to this. Although, I will admit I was a touch confused at which part you found false information. Because for the most part, I don’t take a harsh stance or hard line either way. And I definitely didn’t want to advise people not to do it (which I don’t think this article does). Instead, I wanted to offer up some info for parents and let them decide how to approach it. But if you can you leave any resources or info for readers who may want to know more about the importance of tummy time, that would be great!

  • Tummy time is extremely important. If you asked any pediatric PT or OT they would tell you that. Please use better sources.

    • Hey Jamie! Thanks for this. I really do appreciate all sides and opinions to a subject. I should have clarified in the article that I’m not a medical professional for sure. This was definitely more of a “from one parent to another” approach to the subject with some interesting info (like the research study) thrown in there. I did also throw this line in there to help clarify: “But if you’re at all concerned, you should definitely talk to your doctor to ease your mind”. If you had any sources you wanted to leave links to in order to help out any parents on the fence about this subject, that would be great!

      • I’m so impressed at your ability to be patient and balanced in your reply to this commenter! We started doing tummy time with our now 4-month old when she when we first brought her home from the hospital, but after researching it further (especially the RIE approach, which I love), we’ve stopped forcing her to spend time on her tummy. I believe that floor time is more important than tummy time, and she spends a great deal of time each day playing on the floor. (My personal belief is that time in baby containers (swings, bouncers, etc) contributes to the increased rates of plagiocephaly!)

        • Megan- I am a pediatric physical therapist. While I value people’s opinions my comment was based on several years of graduate studies on human development. I do agree that time spent in containers is a detriment to development, however tummy time is also very important.

  • I wish I’d seen this when my oldest was a baby! We HATED tummy time, but I was terrified that I would permanently damage her if I didn’t do it a minimum of 5 minutes a day. (Our pediatrician wanted us to do 15 minutes a day, but that would have been impossible.)

    By the time I had my 4th, my attitude was, “Eh, we’ll do tummy time when we can fit it in.” Again, our doc was always on me about it, but he learned how to hold his head up and walk and run and everything else toddlers are supposed to do, so I guess he did fine!

    • It actually is very important. You can do it in small time intervals but at the end of the day 15 minutes is not a lot. We did tummy time the first day we were home. My daughter was ahead in all of her motor milestones. I attribute it to that.

    • Nicole – I hear you! I think it’s natural to feel like you’re going to ruin your child if you don’t follow every rule. I’m glad you enjoyed this piece!

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