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tips when baby hates tummy time

Mommy question:

My 3-month-old cries immediately whenever I put her on her tummy for the required “tummy time” of 20 minutes each day. She 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 him 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)

Baby Helpline:

Tips For Baby That Hates Tummy Time

First of all, don’t force the tummy time, it obviously makes both your baby and 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.

There are no “required” number of tummy time minutes, just soft recommendations to help the baby develop. 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 problem. Babies still learn to old their head up, push up on arms, crawl, sit, walk, climb and everything else no matter what we do with their tummy time. 🙂

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:


  • 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 so 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 new window.) A mirror might also be fun.
  • Another tip is to visit a play group, where she can watch other babies and kids crawling around. Many young babies find that interesting enough to endure some tummy time.
  • If your baby enjoys bathing, you can also consider a baby swim class. You baby will obviously be more or less belly down, neck up without even knowing.
  • 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.

Good luck!

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


Add your comments below.


Apr 04, 2014

Lap time instead of tummy time

by: Anonymous

My daughter was like this and the health nurse suggested that we do some ‘lap time‘ instead. Just lay him on his tummy on your lap so his head is just over the edge of your leg. If he chooses to leave his head down it should still be supported.

However, 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.

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? He will get it eventually whether you push tummy time or not. If it upsets both of you then give it a couple of days, even a week off. He will be crawling before you even know it and you will miss these times.

Oh, also my baby always did better tummy time when there was other babies or children around. We went to a group in our area for new mothers and she did her best pushing up there.

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