What to Do If Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

Tummy Time

Tummy time is an essential daily activity for infants. With some time lying down on their stomachs, babies slowly start to develop stronger muscles in their neck and shoulders. They also begin to build the strength to roll over, sit, crawl, and walk.

As important as it is to have tummy time, though, not all babies will enjoy it. Some infants will kick up a fuss until you take them off their stomachs! Does this Tweet sound familiar:

Been there! Thankfully, there are some ways to make this activity more enjoyable.

How to Properly Set Up Tummy Time

Make sure you’ve correctly set your baby up for tummy time before making any changes. One of the best times to have your baby do tummy time is after a diaper change or after they’ve woken up from a nap.

Your baby should always be awake during tummy time since sleeping on their stomach can be dangerous! You should also not go into tummy time right after eating, as a full belly can make the face-down position more uncomfortable.

The proper tummy time set up should be:

  • On a clear area of the floor
  • Resting on a clean towel or a playmat
  • With a parent nearby to watch

Start your baby out with shorter tummy time sessions, and work them up to longer ones. For babies that have just come from the hospital, start with tummy time sessions lasting three to five minutes long. You can have two to three tummy time sessions a day.

What to Do If Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

Even with the proper tummy time set up, your baby might not enjoy being on their stomach whatsoever. Here are some tips to try. Every baby is different, so try the various options and see which ones work best for your little one!

Lie With Your Baby

Your baby might just need a welcome distraction from being on their stomach—and what better entertainment than their mama? You can either lie face to face or side by side, then talk to your baby or play with a toy. Five minutes can fly by with a little fun.

Prop Them Up for Support

Since tummy time helps build muscle, you can encourage your baby to start using their upper body muscles. Roll up a towel and tuck it under your baby’s chest and elbows. Even if they don’t entirely enjoy the process, this trick can help them start to push up to build muscle.

Use Yourself Instead of the Floor for Tummy Time

For some babies, resting on the floor is the problem because it’s not very comfortable. However, if the surface is too soft, they may not be able to push themselves upright. However, your own body can make an excellent substitute for the floor.

Lay on your back, then let your baby rest on your stomach, tummy to tummy. Your familiar presence will be more comforting and relaxing, but there’s still plenty of room for your baby to practice lifting their head and work on those muscles!

This is one of my absolute favorite ways to ease your little one into tummy time. Sometimes they just get so distracted looking into your eyes, that they forget they are in tummy time in the first place! This video shows a few additional positions that can be helpful:

Use Burping Time

All babies need to burp, so use that time to get some tummy time in as well. You can rest your baby on their belly in your lap, then use that position to burp them. Even shorter moments of tummy time like this help build up muscle.

Build It Up Over Time

Your baby doesn’t need to instantly be able to rest for five minutes at a time the moment they get home. Yes, the sooner you start tummy time, the better, but don’t sweat about doing it perfectly. Any bit of time with your baby on their belly helps.

Start with one to two-minute sessions, then build up how long your little one is on their stomach over time. The more consistently your baby goes into tummy time, the faster they’ll be able to get used to how it feels.

Set Up a Mirror

Another potential distraction you can set up for your baby during tummy time is a mirror. While your little one won’t understand that they’re looking at their reflection, seeing something else that moves can catch their attention. This option can work better for babies that have some neck strength to look up already.

Don’t Automatically Pick Your Baby Up When They Cry

This tip can be hard to follow. After all, as moms, we’re hard-wired to tend to our babies when they start crying. However, if you instantly sweep up your kid after they begin to cry, you’re only making their instincts confirm that lying on their stomach isn’t a fun place.

When your baby starts to cry, try to do something to convince them to stay on their belly a bit longer, even if it’s just for a short time. Remember, all the tummy time minutes throughout the time add up, and it’s okay to have several short sessions.

If your baby doesn’t calm down after some coaxing, you can pick them up and try again at different points in the day.

Hold Your Baby Upright More

Tummy time isn’t the only way for babies to strengthen their neck and shoulder muscles! Any position that puts them somewhat upright will help. Whether you switch from a cradle hold to an upright hold or let them rest on you while you’ve reclined slightly back, the angle will give your baby just as much opportunity to practice.

Lay Out Toys or a Board Book

While you want the floor to be clean when you lay your baby down, that doesn’t mean they can’t have something nearby to entertain them or catch their attention. Favorite toys and board books can make for sound choices, plus they give your little one something to try to lift their head to look at!

Pick Different Places for Tummy Time

Different locations for tummy time can help catch your little one’s interest and make it more enjoyable. Maybe do one session in your bedroom, then have another in the living room. Keep in mind that letting your baby face a different direction in the same place can give them a whole new perspective.

Play Airplane

The airplane game starts your baby on their stomach, after which you lift them into the air. So long as you move slowly and carefully, this can make a fun time for your little one—especially if you add fun sounds for good measure.

To keep the best hold on your baby, keep one hand under their stomach and another under their chest as you lift them.

Roll In, Roll Out

Instead of just placing your baby directly onto their stomach to start tummy time, consider rolling them from their back to their belly instead. The motion can provide a distraction and a simple transition—plus, your baby will likely find it fun to roll around a bit.

For babies that don’t have a very long tolerance for how long they’re face down, you can gently roll them to their back for a short break, then back again onto their stomach. Still, every little bit of tummy time counts!

Tickle Time

When your baby’s new to tummy time, they won’t be able to see much. Since little ones don’t have the idea of object permanence yet, you being out of sight can make your baby think you’ve disappeared if you’re out of sight!

Physical touch can help out with this. Gentle tickling is one option to catch your baby’s attention, but other forms of touch work, too. Gently stroke their hands or even try out a baby massage. Your familiar touch can help reassure your little one.

See What Your Baby Reacts to

While many babies can dislike tummy time, each baby will have their own hang-up with the process. Sometimes, solutions are simple. Does your baby want a different blanket to lie down on? Do they prefer tummy time when they’re naked as opposed to when they’re dressed? Change up little things and pay attention to how your baby reacts.

That said, some babies may never like tummy time—but that doesn’t mean they can’t work on their muscles. Finding an alternative to tummy time can be an excellent option to help your baby grow as best they can!

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