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baby hates tummy time

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’s holding 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, 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’s some facts about tummy time and how is required, as well as ideas on how to make the situation more endurable, and even 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 baby who is very full 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, in a good mood, and neither 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.

It is true that 20 minutes is such a recommendation, but remember, it doesn’t have to be 20 min all at once. And let’s be honest here, how many teenagers do you know that can’t lift their head 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 back, 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, walk, climb, and everything else no matter what we do with their tummy time. :-)

Handy Tips to Make the Tummy Time Enjoyable

If you do 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, so that her face is automatically lifted off the ground. That position is not as hard for the 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. (Link to Amazon, opens in a new window.)

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

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 if I did this periodically throughout the day, especially when there were other people around or other interesting things going on, my baby would lift her head up to see what was going on.

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 when a baby hates tummy time is to visit a playgroup, where she 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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