10 tips for making tummy time a good experience

Tummy time can sometimes be a challenge with a baby that refuses to be placed on her stomach. In this post I’ve gathered the 10 tips that made tummy time work for us and helped make it into a fun experience.

10 tips to make tummy time fun and enjoyable

I think every new parent has been preoccupied with”tummy time” at some point during their baby’s first year – and I was no exception. Tummy time is really just a fun way of saying time that your baby spend on their stomach while awake, but nonetheless it’s important for your child’s development according to all the experts. So of course I fussed about it, when I had a baby that did not want to be placed on her tummy. But after a few tries we found different ways to make tummy time both comfortable for my little one and a fun experience for both me and her.

How often and for how long should my baby do tummy time?

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I came across a few different recommendations for when to start tummy time, for how long and how often to do it. I have to admit, that even though I did I read them, I soon forgot all about them. Instead I went with my instincts, both with my firstborn and her littlebrother – and went with a simple guide line to only put them on their tummies when they had been well-rested and in a good mood – and after a few trial and errors – never after just having been fed.

But from what I’ve come across, the official recommendations from different countries seem to be, the sooner you start the better. In the beginning just for short stretches of time (we’re talking 10/20 seconds to a few minutes) and several times a day, slowly increasing the time to about an hour a day in total. This is recommended until your little one can sit himself up. If you want to read more about the official recommendations for the us read here.

If you have a baby that refuses tummy time – like my oldest did – you might be inspired by the 10 tips below that helped us make tummy time work for both my children.

10 tips for making tummy time a succes

Tummy time can be a challenge sometimes. Just because it’s important doesn’t mean your little one will necessarily love it, but that doesn’t mean that it should be feared. Tummy time can both be fun and enjoyable for everyone in the family even though they might not seem happy about it at first. That’s why I’ve gathered the 10 tips that made tummy time work for me and my little ones and helped make tummy time a good experience for everyone in the family.

1. Make eye contact, smile, talk and sing to your little one.

Getting down on your baby’s level while talking and smiling can often be the difference between a frustrated baby and a happy baby. Toys, stuffies and books can not compare to the full attention from you or another loved one – especially in the first months.

2. Roll baby from back to stomach.

Some babies refuse to be placed directly on their stomach and will get quite upset whenever you try just that. If that’s the case with your little one, try placing them on the back instead and then help them roll around. I don’t know why it works, but it really did the trick with my oldest.

I would gently grab her legs when she was lying on her back, and then slowly turn her around- or if already on her side I would gently puff her buttom to help her with the last bit.  And later I would simply get her to turn around by showing her a toy over her head and then place it in head height, just out of reach making in necessary for her to roll on her own, if she wanted the toy.

3. Make tummy time diaper free time.

Diaper free time is great to treat diaper rashes and yeast infections, but best of all, it gives your little one an opportunity to move more freely. I found my son would spend more time on his stomach when he was completely naked, so I often combined diaper changes with tummy time straight after.

If you already practice diaper free time, then combining it with tummy time will give you the added bonus of pee not travelling (too) far. Boys have a suprisingly long pee-range, so keeping them on the stomach will minimize the risk of having to wash curtains later on.

4. Give them a small, helping boost.

Place your baby on a small, soft ball, a nursing pillow, a folded mini towel or old fashined diaper to help them up a bit. This is most helpful in the beginning, especially if you have a baby who gets frustrated and refuses to lay down on his tummy and try and lift his head. This brings them up in a position where they can better see the toys etc. you’ve laid out. I sometimes gently placed my daughter’s arms under her chest, so she could more easily lift her head.

Boosting my oldest made tummy time a whole lot more pleasent for her in the beginning – and after little while she didn’t need it anymore.

5. Have to put your baby down for a second? Make it tummy time!

If your baby doesn’t mind being on his stomach, but you simply just forget to get it done during the day, then this might be a useful tip for you.

Whenever you have to put your little one down for a short period, put him on his tummy. Whenever I had to clean up after a diaper change I’d put both my kids down on their tummies. Having to get a glass of water? Baby down on the floor with a plastic cup. Helping big sister getting a shirt off? Baby down on the floor next to us on a different textured carpet. There are of course exceptions, so please don’t put your baby down on the pavement while finding the keys for your car. And of course don’t leave your newborn unattanded on the stomach. Use common sense!

6. Set up a simple activity or two

Getting tummy time for work for your little one can also mean getting them engaged in (or distracted by) simple activities that make them forget that they are in fact doing tummy time. if you need inspiration I’ve gathered 20+ ideas for tummy time activities and positions that will help your little one explore the world around them while on their stomachs.

7. Timing can make a big difference.

In my experience placing a tired, hungry, bloated or just fed baby on her stomach will equal a very unhappy baby. Instead try to time tummy time, so your baby is well-rested and happy – and if you know she gets fuzzy at certain times of the day, try to work around it.

8. Siblings are awesome coaches for tummy time.

Siblings are amazing for encouraging staying on the stomach. While my daugther refused to be placed on the tummy, her baby brother seemed to love it from the get go – and one of the big differences was him having a 2-year old coach that would almost automatically start engaging with him, either by talking and singing, trying to play with him or just sitting close to him and while playing.

baby and sibling playing together

9. Carry and wear them.

I know carrying them doesn’t sound like the traditional tummy time suggestion, but according to the health professionals I’ve come across, it can be counted as a part of tummy time, though it shouldn’t stand alone. Both my little ones have loved being carried on their stomach across me or my husbands forearm when they we’re still tiny. It’s helped them calm down when they were fuzzy – and as it turns out it still got them working out those back muscles.

I’ve also spend countless hours walking around the city with both my children in either our wrap or our ergonomical Manduca baby carrier, and as it turns out, many believe it can be counted as part of tummy time. This because wearing your baby will let her exercise the same neck and core muscles that she would during regular tummy time – if awake of course. So if you have a child that refuses tummy time or feel like you always forget it, try carrying them around in a wrap, sling or baby carrier instead of in a pram or stroller as part of your daily routine and the more traditional tummy time.

10. Don’t fret it.

In my non-professional opnion you shouldn’t stress too much about tummy time. A little is better than nothing at all, so if you have a baby that needs to take it slow, I would take it slow.

Some babies in parts of the world spend most of their time wrapped in slings or craddles – and still end up reaching those milestones within the normal range. And unless you actively hinder them (fx by never placing them in different positions and keeping them strapped in fx bouncy seats or car seats), it’s my personal believe that most children will develop the way they’re suppose to – both motorically and physically. I know my daugther did not like being placed on her tummy for the longest time, and she grew up to crawl, walk and run just fine. And her head shape is just fine.

If nothing works and you’re feeling nervous, consider having a professional look at your baby.

If your little one consistently refuses to spend time on her stomach, or seem to struggle with turning her head fx during breast feeding, then you might benefit from having a physical therapist or similar look at her. My oldest benefited tremendously from this – and as an added bonus, breast feeding became much easier after her first session.

If you have any other suggestions that have made tummy time work for you, please share!

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