Tummy time — placing a baby on his or her stomach only while awake and supervised — can help your baby develop strong neck and shoulder muscles and promote motor skills. Tummy time can also prevent the back of your baby's head from developing flat spots (positional plagiocephaly).
If a baby's head is left in the same position for long periods of time, the skull bone plates might move in a way that creates a flat spot. While it's recommended that you place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), tummy time gives a baby the chance to experience a different position. This can help reduce the risk of flat spots.
Tummy time can also help your baby build strength needed for sitting up, rolling over, crawling and walking.
Start tummy time by spreading out a blanket in a clear area. After a diaper change or nap, place your baby on his or her stomach on the blanket for three to five minutes. Try doing this two to three times a day. As your baby gets used to tummy time, place your baby on his or her stomach more frequently or for longer periods of time. You might arrange age-appropriate toys within his or her reach.
Remember, however, that both you and your baby should be awake during this time. Never leave your baby unattended during tummy time.
Aug. 18, 2020
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- Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138:e20162938.
- Laughlin J, et al. Prevention and management of positional skull deformities in infants. Pediatrics. 2011;128:1236.
- Babies need tummy time. National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/about/pages/tummytime.aspx. Accessed Aug. 2, 2017.