Cranial Technologies

Tummy Time with Your Baby

Tummy time is a routine activity where babies are placed on their stomachs for a few minutes at a time while awake. It helps them learn about the movement of their bodies and develop the core physical skills required for rolling over, sitting, and crawling.

It also strengthens the neck muscles and reduces the amount of time the baby spends in restrictive devices like sleepers or car seats. This provides the added benefit of alleviating other conditions like plagiocephaly and torticollis — more on that later.

Download Resource: The Importance of Tummy Time

First, let's dive into the best practices when it comes to the right age for starting tummy time, and how long it should be done per day.

Baby boy in a doc band with his mother

When to start tummy time

Tummy time is an important activity for reaching developmental milestones and should be part of your baby's daily routine. In fact, tummy time can be started as early as a few days after they're born.

However, keep in mind that tummy time should be done in brief intervals of 2-3 minutes at a time, working up to 3-5 minutes as they get older.

Naturally, younger babies will need to start slower and may even require shorter intervals than recommended — and that's OK! The important thing is that you help your baby progress overtime into longer intervals, further developing their motor skills.

baby lying on tummy playing with a toy

What to know before you start

Not every baby is going to enjoy tummy time. This is why it's stressed that the activity is something you work to build tolerance toward overtime. On the other hand, some babies may thrive with the activity!

Regardless of your struggles (or lack thereof) with tummy time, these tips will be helpful to every unique situation.

  • Tummy time activities should always be supervised by the parent or another adult/guardian.
  • Practice in short intervals of 2-3 minutes in the beginning, up to 15 minutes per day. After your baby becomes more comfortable, gradually work up to 1 hour of total tummy time per day.
  • Use visually-engaging toys and talk to your baby in more engaging tones of voice to help encourage activity.
  • If your baby is having trouble lifting their head on their own, try placing a rolled towel underneath their chest to help shift their weight.
  • Never hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.

How to do tummy time with your baby

Parent holding baby against their chest

Newborn to 2 months


  • Place your baby on their stomach. This encourages your baby to begin lifting their head, strengthening the neck muscles.
  • If your baby cannot lift their head, place your hand on their bottom to shift the weight from the upper body.
  • If your baby is still unable to lift its head, put a rolled towel under the chest or place the baby over your leg.
  • Another option is to lay the baby on your chest, offering a secure, cuddly feeling while encouraging a head lift.


Your baby will develop better head control and upper body strength while learning to lift the head and neck.

Baby playing with a toy during tummy time

3 to 5 months old


  • By this age, your baby has gained more strength in their neck and back.
  • When you place your baby on their stomach, they should now be able to prop themselves up on their forearms.
  • Similar to an earlier age, if additional support is needed, a rolled towel can be helpful.
  • Enjoy floor time your baby — use toys or mirrors to encourage weight shifting and reaching as your baby is now able to interact with the environment at eye level.


As your baby gets stronger, he or she will push up onto extended arms to reach and play. This prepares the baby for sitting and crawling.

Father playing airplane with his daughter

6 to 9 months old


  • Your baby has now become stronger in both the upper and lower back, allowing for much more mobility than before.
  • Play games such as "airplane" by lifting your baby up with support only on the hips and/or waist. Another variation is to rest the baby on your bent legs and gently move your legs up and down, similar to the movement from a bouncy chair.


Your baby develops full body strength which enables them to crawl and explore his or her surroundings!

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More benefits of tummy time

As mentioned earlier, tummy time is helpful for developing important motor skills, but it also provides benefit for babies in other ways.

  • Visual stimulation is another benefit of the tummy position. When a baby is on their back they can only see the ceiling and objects on either side. A baby placed on their tummy will lift their head and view the world at eye-level.

  • Plagiocephaly prevention, otherwise known as flat spots, or "flat head syndrome". When a baby spends extended periods of time on their backs, they are at a greater risk of developing a flat spot due to the natural forces on their head. Tummy time helps babies develop the strength required to reposition their heads during sleep and other routine activities.

More on plagiocephaly and torticollis prevention

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published recommendations to put healthy babies to sleep on their backs. This resulted in a reduction of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but also led to an increased risk of flat spots.

Baby joanna in a decorated doc band

Tummy time helps alleviate pressure to the head and encourages more independence in head positioning. In instances of mild cases of plagiocephaly, the benefits can often prevent or treat flat spots entirely.

Note: If an infant's head shape is considered moderate to severe and does not improve with tummy time, a cranial band will likely be the recommended course of treatment.

Parent FAQs

Should I still put my baby to sleep on their back?

Yes, putting babies sleep on their backs saves lives!

According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, the move to back sleeping, known as the Back to Sleep campaign, has reduced SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by more than 50%.

With consistent tummy time, your baby will strengthen the muscles necessary to reposition themselves during sleep, reducing the risk of plagiocephaly.

Can I prevent flat spots in other ways?

Repositioning techniques are also helpful in reducing the risk of flat spots. Baby's can often favor a particular side when lying on their backs. Adjusting the position of your baby's head in these positions is helpful in reducing the amount of prolonged pressure to one side of the head.

Limiting the amount of time spent in restrictive devices like car seats, sleepers, and more is also an effective way to reduce risk.