The Importance of Tummy Time

The Importance of Tummy Time

Many people have heard of the Back to Sleep program that educates parents on placing their infants on their back to sleep, to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The Back to Sleep campaign was started in 1994 and since then the incidence of SIDS has decreased significantly (source:  It is very important to follow the recommendations of Back to Sleep, but it is also important to remember another part of the saying: Tummy to Play.  With the Back to Sleep programs, studies are finding that babies are getting less tummy time and there is an increased incidence of developing flat spots or a preference to turning to one side.  “Tummy to Play,” as a recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, can decrease the incidence of flat spots as well as promote development of motor milestones in infants.

Tummy time should begin with all newborn infants.  Tummy time is important to:

  • Decrease the chance of flat spot on his/her head and asymmetrical development of the skull. 
  • Promote strengthening of the neck, back, and arms.
  • Promote the development of gross motor skills, such as head control, rolling, sitting, crawling, and pulling to stand. 

Tummy time should begin when the baby comes home from the hospital. It is best performed in small increments of 3-5 minutes at a time, at least 2-3 times per day.  Parents can increase the amount of waking time a baby spends on his/her tummy as he/she grow older and stronger.  With practice, babies will learn to enjoy tummy time as another position to explore and play in.  It is best to do supervised tummy time when baby is calm, and not right after feeding, if you are concerned about spit-up.  Some good times include following a diaper change or when baby is waking up from a nap.  Tummy time is also a great time to play and interact with your baby.  Tummy time doesn’t always mean placing your baby on the floor – you can place baby on your tummy when you are reclined or lying down, across your lap, or in a football hold position. has a great reference with pictures on different ways to position your baby for tummy time.  

You can find some great resources on the Internet about the importance of tummy time., a website by the American Acedemy of Pediatrician, has a great site that answers some questions about Back to Sleep. also has some good information including how to start incorporating tummy time with your newborn, tummy time FAQs, and even some resources on research that support tummy time.  If you have questions about your baby’s ability to participate in tummy time, the development of motor milestones, or the presence of flat spots on baby’s head, it is important to share your concerns with your pediatrician.  Our therapists at Beyond the Clinic also help answer questions, provide activity or positioning suggestions, and if necessary see your baby for an evaluation.  We provide house calls pediatric physical therapy services to the Portland metro area, including Lake Oswego, Tualatin, Tigard, Beaverton, and Gresham. You can reach our therapists at: (503) 496-0385. 

(Blog post courtesy of Crystal Bridges, DPT)