6 Tips for a Happier Tummy Time

Play is how infants understand the world around them, and Tummy Time is the best way to build the strength and coordination needed to roll over, crawl, and reach. Since it is advised that babies lay on their backs to sleep and spend so much time in this position, parents are encouraged to work Tummy Time into their baby’s routine to help develop the neck and back muscles.

“As soon as the baby is born, you can begin Tummy Time in the hospital,” says Anne Zachry, PhD, OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that Tummy Time start at birth to avoid flat head syndrome. Tummy Time works the core, shoulders, back, and neck, which are all critical to playing and learning for babies.”

The American Occupational Therapy Association offers tips for successful tummy time sessions:

  1. Start Slow. Start gradually with short 2- to 3-minute intervals a few times each day and work up to 40-50 minutes on their tummies per day.
  2. Make Tummy Time Part of Your Daily Routine. Incorporate Tummy Time into activities you already do with your baby, such as reading, drying off after a bath, changing a diaper, burping, or applying lotion. “If you work Tummy Time into your daily routine, your child will come to expect it,” says Zachry.
  3. Promote motor skill development. Arrange toys in a circle around your baby to encourage side-to-side movement and reaching in different directions. Get down on the baby’s level to encourage eye contact and head-lifting which develop neck muscles. Talk to your baby and hold a toy to promote head lifting, smiling, cooing, and reaching.
  4. Get Comfortable. Roll a towel or blanket and place it under your baby’s chest and arms to provide extra support during Tummy Time. Be sure your baby’s weight is distributed evenly to equally strengthen tummy muscles. (Always supervise your baby during Tummy Time, especially when using a bolster.)
  5. Engage the Senses. Place a mirror in front of your baby. Their own reflection offers engagement. Vary the textures that your baby lays on (terry-cloth or fleece, for example) to offer different touching sensations.
  6. Consider Alternatives. Tummy Time does not always have to take place on the floor. Use your chest, lap, or arms as places for your baby to lay. Comforting your baby while encouraging Tummy Time will help hesitant children feel more secure with new positions. A side-lying positioning works well if a transition to stomach-lying is needed.

“If they resist tummy time, don’t give up hope,” says Zachry. “Don’t lay them on their tummy and expect them to stay happy. Keep them entertained and keep it brief. If they start to fuss, remove them from the situation so they do not associate Tummy Time with a negative feeling.”

For more tips on a successful Tummy Time session, download the full tip sheet here.

Pediatric occupational therapy practitioners promote participation of all children and their families in everyday activities or occupations, including tummy time, to facilitate development. For more information about how occupational therapy practitioners work with children in their homes, schools, private practice, hospitals, or community locations, visit

To schedule an interview with a pediatric occupational therapist, call AOTA Media Relations Manager Katie Riley, 301-652-6611, ext. 2963 or e-mail

Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to