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“My baby hates tummy time!”

This common situation can make both the baby and the parent quite miserable. But how much tummy time is really needed? And why? And what can we do to make tummy time more enjoyable? Let’s take a look at these questions and some tips to make the tummy time much more endurable – even fun!

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Mommy question:

My 3-month-old baby hates tummy time! She cries immediately whenever I put her on her tummy for the required “tummy time” of 20 minutes each day. She really hates it!

She holds her head up when I carry her, but when I put her on her belly, she just plants her face straight down and shakes her head back and forth. Once in a while, she gets mad enough to push up on her forearms, but that’s about it.

I let this go on for about 5 minutes, and then I pick her up, at which point she is so miserable it takes forever to calm her down.

I’ve tried getting on the floor with her, giving her toys, rubbing her back, and putting her on the bed so she’s more level with me, but to no avail. What to do?

Thanks in advance,
Jane (Michigan)

Easy Baby Life:

Helpful Tips When Baby Hates Tummy Time

Tummy time is hard work!

First of all, don’t force the tummy time; it obviously makes both of you miserable. Babies learn to hold their heads one way or the other. Maybe your girl will sit early and crawl late, but that doesn’t really matter. Or, in a few weeks, she has gained enough strength to start enjoying some tummy time.

Here are some facts about tummy time and how often it is required, as well as how to make the situation more endurable and enjoyable, even though a baby hates tummy time!

Why A Baby Hates Tummy Time

It is very common that a young baby hates tummy time!

In addition to being really hard work for them before they have built up enough muscle strength, the tummy time can be challenging for other reasons, too.

For example, a baby who is tired or hungry will not be happy if put belly down to exercise, no matter how “fun” you make the situation. Also, a full baby will not be comfortable on their tummy either.

So, in addition to generally being hard work, the timing really is essential. Your baby should be alert and in a good mood, not hungry, too full, or sleepy, and, of course, not ill or in pain.

How Much Tummy Time is Required?

There is no “required” number of tummy time minutes, just soft recommendations to help the baby develop.

20 minutes is indeed such a soft recommendation, but remember, it doesn’t have to be 20 minutes all at once. And let’s be honest here: How many teenagers do you know who can’t lift their heads up off the floor?

It is a matter of fact that since science figured out that the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can be reduced sharply by having babies sleeping on their backs, the timing of babies’ neck and back muscle development has been delayed slightly.

Sleeping on their back, it takes a little bit more time for babies to gain enough strength to be comfortable when put belly down on the floor. But it is not like it is a problem. Babies still learn to hold their heads up, push up on arms, crawl, sit up, walk, climb, and everything else, no matter what we do with their tummy time. :-)

All this said, there is research supporting the benefit of tummy time. A study published in 2020 concluded a number of benefits, including:

There was also an indication of a positive association between tummy time and social and cognitive development, plagiocephaly, walking, standing, and sitting.

The study found no correlation between tummy time, fine motor development, and communication.

So, while tummy time is not necessary for your baby’s development, it does help!

Handy Tips to Make the Tummy Time Enjoyable

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If you want to do some tummy time training with your daughter, you’ll find some tips to make tummy time more endurable/enjoyable for your baby:

1. Put your baby on a pillow

Put your baby belly down on a relatively firm pillow with her feet on the floor to automatically lift her face off the ground. That position is not as hard for young babies, and with MOM in front of her singing or making funny faces, she might just endure some of her hated tummy time.

Either use a pillow you already have at home or consider buying a special tummy time pillow like this one.

2. Make sure the tummy time is interesting

In addition to you making faces and singing, things to reach for, something that shines or blinks, water, a mirror, or anything that catches your baby’s attention are excellent distractions for a baby that hates tummy time.

3. Do lap time or ON YOU time

Try putting your baby on her tummy on your lap so her head is just over the edge of your leg. If she chooses to leave her head down, it should still be supported.

When I tried this, I found that if I did this periodically throughout the day, especially when other people were around or other interesting things were happening, my baby would lift her head up to see what was happening.

You can also put your baby on your belly while lying on your back. Talk to your baby, make eye contact, and smile. Few babies will resist contact with mom or dad this way!

4. A tummy walk

Some babies will also find it fun to be carried around belly down to watch interesting things around the house or garden or to watch their siblings or pets.

Touching leaves or flowers while carried belly down in your arms can also be fascinating enough to help when a baby hates tummy time.

5. Visit a playgroup

Another tip for babies who hate tummy time is to visit a playgroup, where they can watch other babies and kids crawling around. Many young babies find that interesting enough to endure some tummy time.

6. Try a baby swim class

If your baby enjoys bathing, you can also consider a baby swim class. Your baby will obviously be more or less belly down, neck up without even knowing.

7. Put the baby in a carrier

Finally, putting her in a baby carrier, facing the world instead of your chest, will force her to use her neck muscles. And it can be quite exciting, too, for a curious little baby.

Read more about 3-month-old baby milestones and games to play here.

You can find additional tummy time tips in the video here below.

The Ultimate Tummy Time Guide

Good luck!


Hey, all other moms – can you add other tips on making tummy time fun?

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