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Tummy Time – Practical Tips from a Mom and Physiotherapist

Tummy Time

It’s easier said than done, isn’t it? The nurse or doctor tells you how important it is to do tummy time and gives you a few pointers. You get home and try it out with your little bundle of joy. Within seconds, she’s screaming and clearly not loving the experience. Well, maybe you have one of those babies that just won’t do tummy time. Right….? You gave it a good shot.

As a mom, I know this experience all too well. As a physiotherapist, I was determined to find ways to make it work. Here are some real tips that will work for real babies!

Tip 1 – Floors are for dance parties and cool rugs

Tummy time in arms - Vida Health & Wellness - Physiotherapy in Calgary

So many newborns cry when they’re put on the floor, even if there’s a soft blanket. They can’t lift their heads and they remind us of the poor little monkey baby that’s separated from its mother in that nature documentary. (Aside: don’t watch nature documentaries while pregnant. Scenes like this will make you cry uncontrollably.)

Other options for getting baby on his tummy include putting him on your thighs or along your forearm. This is much more comfortable, warmer, and more familiar.


Tip 2 – Mind the clock

While it may seem like a short time to us, a few minutes of tummy time can be very long and exhausting for a newborn. I like to do 1 minute for each week of life. So if you have a 5 week old, do 5 minutes at a time. This will prevent your baby from getting too worked up.

Tip 3 – Try it in the morning

Tummy time with dad - Vida Health & Wellness - Physiotherapy in Calgary

Or whenever your baby is happiest during the day. Most infants get fussy in the evening, so this is not a good time to be doing a workout. Choose a time when you and your baby are already calm and you will have fewer tears.

Try doing tummy time after the first nap of the day when your baby is most likely to be alert.


Tip 4 – Use a carrier

What a minute. Aren’t we talking about tummy time? Believe it or not, you can put your baby in a carrier and it counts! This is because we’re interested in putting baby in a position that will not flatten the head and that will engage the neck muscles. Babywearing moms are doing a little fist pump right now. I’ll admit that this is what I typically did with my daughter. It’s just so much easier.

Bonus: You can nurse in many carriers, too. Hands-free nursing and no need to watch a baby scream face down on the floor? YES!

This method works well for babies who spit up a lot, are gassy, or have reflux. They prefer to be upright and it helps to keep their food down. Some popular infant carriers include the Ergobaby, ring sling, and mei tai.

Tip 5 – Keep trying

Tummy time baby grip - Vida Health & Wellness - Physiotherapy in Calgary

Parenting is hard work. These babies of ours keep us on our toes and just when we think we’re beat, they crack a smile or say “mama” for the first time and melt our hearts. If you’re struggling with tummy time, first know that your baby isn’t in pain and you’re not doing any harm. Then, phone a friend or your own mom for help and ideas. Next, contact a physiotherapist in your area who can come up with tricks that will work for your child’s specific personality, likes, and dislikes. It takes a village.

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