Helping Your Baby Enjoy Tummy Time

Some babies love spending time on their bellies. Others hate it. Why is tummy time important for your baby's development? And how can you make tummy time more enjoyable for your little one?

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Episode Transcript

Natalie Gross 0:01
Tummy time. Some babies love it. Others hate it. But doctors say it's an important part of babyies' development. So what are some strategies you can do to help your baby get the most out of the time spent on their belly? And how can you make tummy time more fun for your little one? We're answering those questions and more on this episode of Newbies.

Natalie Gross 0:22
Welcome to Newbies. Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new mothers through their baby's first year. I'm Natalie Gross, mom to a four year old boy and a baby girl. We've got a great show today talking about tummy time. Now if you haven't already, be sure to visit our website, that's And subscribe to our weekly newsletter. That'll keep you updated on all of the episodes that we release each week. Another great way to stay updated is to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app wherever you're listening right now. And if you're looking for a way to get even more involved with our show, then you can check out our membership club called Mighty Moms. That's where we chat more about the topics discussed here on the show. And it's also an easy way to learn about our recordings in advance so that maybe you can join us live. So today on the podcast, I'll be joined by our featured expert Tiffany Lobano from The Mama Coach. But first up I have a panel of mamas here to share their experiences with tummy time. So let's kick it off with some introductions. So ladies, tell me a little bit about you and your family and your babies. And where you're located. Lauren Rose, do you want to start? Absolutely.

Lauren Rose Ousley 0:53
Hey, guys. So I have actually our little one August here with me. So if you hear any coos, that's him waking up from his nap. But August is just about to turn five months next week. He is our first my husband Evan is in the military. We're actually stationed down at Fort Benning, Georgia, not too far south of Atlanta. And yeah, we are learning day by day all the new baby new parents things so grateful to be here.

Natalie Gross 2:28
Thanks so much for being here. Rachel, what about you?

Rachael Brown 2:31
Hi, thanks for having me back. My name is Rachael. We have a 13 month old boy. His name is Luca. We are just outside of Washington DC in Springfield, Virginia, and excited to share what worked and what didn't with our tummy time experiences.

Natalie Gross 2:48
Perfect. Well, what were your experiences with tummy time? You know, from the beginning to now did your babies love it hate it?

Rachael Brown 2:55
Luca did not care at all that he was on his stomach. Most of the time. He has been a very go with the flow kind of baby and we would roll him over and be like, Oh, okay, I'm here now. And he would just kind of chill and look at things and he always really liked to kick. So even when he was laying on his tummy, he would do a lot of kicking. And our experience I think was pretty easy. I can't recall any time where he just absolutely freaked out.

Natalie Gross 3:24
Yeah, that's awesome. What about you, Lauren Rose. Same or different?

Lauren Rose Ousley 3:31
Um, August is an awesome baby in like every regard other than tummy time. He's gotten so much better now. But yeah, bringing it back to when he was a newborn. And you know, that first couple of months when they're like, Okay, at least a few minutes a day. I mean, he would just not be about it. He also struggled with reflux. So that was definitely a big part of it. Even being held. He didn't. Probably when he hit one month, he didn't like being held like face to face anymore. Like if he was upright. He didn't even want his belly on my chest. So we had to hold him like the opposite way where his back was to our chest and he was facing out. So it was a mix of him being really observant when I see everything we got that reflux was huge. And then anytime we tried to put him on his tummy on the mat, he just was not about it. He also has a 95th percentile head so little man it could have been could have been something to do with the big weight of his head, but it just was many things. So yeah, we really struggled with tummy time. We didn't get him on his stomach not fussy probably until about three and a half months.

Natalie Gross 4:37
I'm sure a lot of moms out there can relate. Did you guys get any guidance on tummy time for me are pediatricians like Lauren Rose when you were having those struggles? Did your pediatrician help at all or kind of tell you how long to do it or why you were supposed to do it? Things like that?

Lauren Rose Ousley 4:53
Definitely the why for sure. They just kept saying you keep trying and keep trying and he'll be fussy but it was more, it was less of a fussy cry more like, Mom, I'm in pain, I'm uncomfortable cry, and I just was like, I'm not gonna put her through that, if you're not ready for it, and developmentally, we were concerned that he was going to, you know, Miss little milestones or something or so when we talked to the pediatrician and she's just encouraged a little bit per day, and that he would do it when he was ready. So it was encouraging to that, like, you know, he was good work too far behind on anything, he was showing signs and like development for everything else other than that, like, rolling over arm push up on the belly. But I feel like you can never have too many resources, especially as a first time mom, like I just wanted all the answers of like, your baby's gonna be fine. I'm gonna be able to do all the things. So yeah, we didn't really have that. And then yeah, like I said, about three and a half, four months. Finally he was okay. We're like, Okay, hopefully we're good.

Natalie Gross 5:54
Yeah. Rachel, what about you? Did you get any guidance of sort of like strategies for tummy time? Or what to do? How to do it?

Rachael Brown 6:01
Yeah, so um, Luca was a preemie. He was really, really small when he was born. And I did a lot of tummy time on me for probably the first two months. And it was recommended by our pediatrician to try and do that. So a lot of the tummy time was on me for a while. And then we also did it on the floor, I would do it in his crib. I kind of tried to make it in various places, so that he wasn't bored with what he was seeing, or he had different experiences. And I think because he was just kind of so chill. He didn't roll, I think till he was like five or six months. So that's kind of been our experience with everything with him actually is he's so chill. He's just he's okay, doing whatever. Actually, we're having that experience with walking right now. Like, he can walk he chooses not to. But I think we also used some a lot of toys with tummy time. And then when he was on the floor, I spent a lot of time laying down and we would look at each other kind of face to face. And then I had this penguin that had like a bell in it, and we used it a lot when he was on his back, he would kick it incessantly. And then when I would turn him over for tummy time, I would rattle it in front of his face. And that really got him to like look up and look around and then he would reach for it. So we have like a couple of really specific toys that he enjoyed that helped kind of engage him and not just let him be super chill and be okay with what's going on.

Natalie Gross 7:41
Well, thank you both so much for sharing your experiences. We're going to take a quick break and then bring on our experts so stay tuned.

Natalie Gross 7:47
Today on Newbies, we are continuing our discussion on tummy time. Our expert today is Tiffany Lebano with The Mama Coach, which is a global team of registered nurses and nurse practitioners who provide coaching for parents across a range of areas. Tiffany has a nursing degree from Johns Hopkins University and previously worked as a pediatric nurse for five years. She has also been a doula and NICU nurse and pediatric research nurse. So lots of experience with tummy time. I'm sure Tiffany is also a mom of two girls and a boy. So Tiffany, thanks so much for being here today.

Tiffany Lebano 8:25
Thank you for having me. I'm so excited.

Natalie Gross 8:27
In your work with moms and parents, what are some common struggles with tummy time you hear about?

Tiffany Lebano 8:32
I think the biggest one is I always hear what do I do my baby hates tummy time. And there's so many different ways and alternatives to tummy time that can make things go a little bit smoother for you and your little one. So if one of the forms of tummy time you know your typical baby on the floor isn't working for you. Try a different position. You know when it comes to tummy time, we're going to try and work on gradually building up the time your baby has on their tummy. So remember, every second counts, and if your baby only likes to be in tummy time for a few seconds. That's great. Change the positions rearrange the schedule of when you try tummy time and just a few seconds, multiple times throughout the day, just so they can get stronger and work on that increase in time. Another one I hear is if babies are struggling with reflux, tummy time, chin can be a little bit more challenging, it can be harder for them. So I always suggest try tummy time positions that keep baby in a more upright position. And remember to save tummy time for 20 to 30 minutes after feeds. And then the last one and I know I struggled this with having three little ones and a dog is trying to find a safe place for tummy time. My typical tummy time on the floor location didn't always work when I had two older toddlers running around. So I just got creative I did different positions like I said, and making sure that you have a safe space maybe with a baby gate or in a pack and play for your for your baby to practice tummy time that is safe from other babies, toddlers or pets.

Natalie Gross 9:59
What are some of those positions?

Tiffany Lebano 10:01
Some of the other positions are on your chest. And it's really great for that very teeny tiny newborn stage because mom or dad or grandma, grandpa, somebody's face, being that close to your tiny baby is going to really entice them to lift their head up. And they're going to feel so supported, just having them on their on your chest. Another different position is trying to traditional tummy time on the floor, but with a rolled up towel or a blanket under their arms and chest for a little bit of support. Another position is the football tummy hole tummy time hold, which is exactly what it sounds like is kind of having baby lay on their belly, in your arms and having them practice holding up their head. And they can lay their head up and down into your the crease of your elbow for support when they get tired, lying baby across your lap if your baby hates tummy time, and then also a really creative one is having baby practice tummy time on an exercise ball. So those are just different positions that kind of keep things really creative. It can help you adjust the angle at which your baby's on tummy time to combat things like reflux, and keep baby engaged and in a more comfortable, soothing position for tummy time. And while accomplishing all of those other wonderful benefits of tummy time.

Natalie Gross 11:15
Yeah, I love that skin to skin counts as tummy time. That's so cool.

Tiffany Lebano 11:19
It surely does.

Natalie Gross 11:20
So why is tummy time good for babies? Why is this a recommendation we hear from pediatricians from day one, really.

Tiffany Lebano 11:26
It really has a lot of different benefits. And I'll try to touch on, you know as many as I can, I think number one is we're trying to increase the neck and shoulder muscle muscle strength. So your baby can do things like hold their head up, learn to sit up on their own crawl, walk, those are laying tummy time is laying the foundation of engaging those muscles and practicing those skills when they're on their tummy. You know, in the very beginning, they're practicing just simply kind of holding their head up and turning from side to side, as time goes on. And as your little one grows and gets stronger, they're practicing actually pushing up onto their elbows, and then finally onto their arms. From that position, they're going to be rocking back onto their knees, laying those gret back groundwork for those other major physical developmental milestones like crawling and walking and sitting. Remember, we also want them to hold their head up so they can learn to sit and start solids when they reach the appropriate age. All of those physical motor skills are starting with the foundation of tummy time. There are a couple of other benefits too. So it helps prevent that flat spot on the back of baby's head or on the side. If you have you know, as you know, newborns they sleep a lot. And if they're sleeping on their backs, as it is recommended, they're spending so much time on their backs. And that can lead to those flat spots on their head. So having ample time in different positions, not just traditional tummy time on the floor, but in mom's arms on their chest in different positions helps alleviate tight, too much time being spent on their their head and preventing that flat spot. And then the last one is sometimes babies are born with stiff muscles in their neck and their shoulders, just from position in utero. And tummy time encourages them to turn their head in different positions. Stretch out, you know, so they don't get stuck. I don't know if you guys are familiar with that term torticollis. But that's the stiffening of the neck muscles. So being in different positions, helps stretch that out. So they're they're working on turning in other directions and their their body may be used to.

Natalie Gross 13:32
How frequently and for how long at a time. Should babies be doing tummy time? And does this change as they get older?

Tiffany Lebano 13:38
Yes. So the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends tummy time for full term, otherwise healthy babies starting within the first week, as soon as you bring your baby home. And when their umbilical cord stump falls off. And when you have a brand new teeny tiny baby success is you know, a minute at a time, we're going to offer tummy time two to three sessions per day, you know, once they start crying, then it's time for a break. What we want to do is try to build up gradually build up the time that they're spending in that position. By two months old, we're aiming for about three, five minute daily sessions, three to four months old, we're at that point, your baby should be able to lift their head off the floor, lean on the elbows with their head, you know upright, they may be able to even lift their arms off the floor or arch their back. So after four months, we're looking at a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes of tummy time per day. And then once your baby is rolling over independently, you know from belly to back or back to belly or even scooting or kind of getting into different positions sitting positions. You know once that which can happen anytime between like six and nine months. Once that happens, you're likely going to find that designated tummy time is going to be a lot harder to achieve. It's still important to kind of practice those positions and have them spend plenty of time on the floor and exploring. But setting aside 30 minutes, you know, up to an hour or however many you know that designated tummy time is not as scheduled because they're kind of typically moving in and out of positions on their own and spending more time in that position. Pretty naturally.

Natalie Gross 15:20
Yeah, I was going to ask you, when does tummy time stop being important? And is there still value to doing it after a baby is more mobile, because, you know, my daughter, when she started rolling, I would put her down on her belly, and she would promptly rollover. So I'm like, I'm trying to do tummy time, but you're not letting me exactly.

Tiffany Lebano 15:37
So like I said, so once baby's mastered the rolling and begins crawling, you know, anytime between six and nine months, they will still be getting the developmental benefits of tummy time while moving in those different positions. So it's not totally essential to have them do dedicated tummy time, they're going to be moving in and out of positions and getting a lot of those same benefits anyways, but against because there's such a range of when that happens, you know, six to nine months, every baby develops on their own. If you're not finding that your baby's doing those things on their own, I would still completely make time to meet those tummy time goals on a daily basis.

Natalie Gross 16:11
Okay, so at what point should parents seek help if their baby really does not like tummy time, and is maybe just crying every time they'd put them on their belly?

Tiffany Lebano 16:19
Yeah. So like I mentioned before, one of the best benefits of tummy time is to help stringing those neck and back muscles. So if you've been working with your little one, and you're unable to see any improvement in how your baby's tolerating tummy time, it might be worth mentioning to your health care provider, so that they can assess for any muscle stiffness, that those tight neck muscles can make real tummy time really, really difficult and uncomfortable for babies. So signs that that might be happening, you know, having a stiff neck include only turning their head to one side, maybe a flattening to the side of their head. If they're they tend to prefer breastfeeding on one side more than the other. If they're crying when you're pulling close over their arms. These are just things that you could look out for that may be red flags to discuss with your health healthcare provider. Another thing is, typically your health care provider should be assessing your baby's the size and shape of their head on a regular basis. But if you've noticed a strangely shaped head or a flat spot that hasn't gone back to a typical shape, by about two months of age, I would definitely mention that to your to your provider. Again, if you notice that your baby has a strong preference for turning their head to one side, or if they have difficulty turning their head, one side to the other all things that could be worth mentioning to your health care provider to see if there's maybe something more going on that's preventing them from really enjoying tummy time and getting all of those benefits just not enjoying it enough to spend as much time as that they need in that position.

Natalie Gross 17:42
Tiffany, thanks so much for sharing this important information. We're gonna take another quick break and then bring back our moms Rachael and Lauren rose to the conversation. So stay tuned.

Natalie Gross 17:57
All right, welcome back. mamas. So I wanted to know, Rachael, Tiffany, and I talked about kind of how tummy time gradually goes away as your babies start, you know, becoming mobile. So what did that look like for you and Luca?

Rachael Brown 18:11
Yeah, so Luca didn't really roll till like I said, five or six months. And then he went from rolling to sitting on assisted within I'd say one or two months. And as soon as he started sitting on assisted we really stopped encouraging tummy time. He'll still play on his stomach and roll around. But since he started sitting on assisted we haven't actively encouraged it. He gets tummy time at night, though, because he sleeps on his tummy with his little butt up in the air. Little red spots on his knees? It's very cute.

Natalie Gross 18:43
Aww, well, Lauren Rose, you know, August is still five months, I think you've said So are you kind of noticing a gradual shift away towards tummy time are still still getting a lot out of it.

Lauren Rose Ousley 18:54
Still getting a good amount out of it for sure. Like you mentioned, we were chatting, it's also just a good way to put them down.And now that he does love it, he he can like live his best life like on his tummy. He's really pushing up now. And it's exciting to see how much he can push up at like now, you know, almost five months and like Rachael said, we have a couple of toys that he loves to like Ruby in front of he has his mirror that he loves. So he can be content there for a hot minute. And he can roll from belly to back fully unassisted. Like once, one over and then back to belly again because of his big head he like is almost there. He just has to like needs help with getting his head over. So that's what we're mainly working on is still having tummy time but focusing on the rolling and stuff like that and then he can sit up propped and he's almost there was sitting on assistive but I think we still have a little bit of time. So yeah, just with all of that I'm grateful for his willingness to participate now.

Natalie Gross 20:02
Yeah. So I know we've already started talking about this a little bit, but what are some tummy time activities that you've done to help make tummy time more fun for your little ones? Any recommendations?

Tiffany Lebano 20:13
Yeah, so first and foremost, I like to always recommend starting tummy time sessions. Make them short in the beginning kind of gradually increasing time as baby gets older, but I always like to recommend 20 to 30 minutes after a feed, and quickly from the transition from a diaper change. So after your baby has wakes from a nap does a quick diaper change, and then we kind of transition right to tummy time from there. Or if you guys do have feet first giving them 20 to 30 minutes. And I think setting the schedule up first where babies dry, happy, fed and just awake from a nap is a great time to start tummy time. From there just introducing different toys that are within baby's reach to help with your baby learn and interact with their surroundings. Newborn babies love high contrast. So black and white flashcards are a really great tool. Having your baby their eye level when you are when they're in the tummy time position, matching your eye level if you want to either lay on the floor or do that tummy time position on their chest. That's another really great one are asking someone to change those high contrast cards or different sounds like shaker toys or rattles just to kind of get their attention and moving those things in different directions. So instead of directly in front of them while they're in the tummy time position, kind of move things to the one side on the right to the left a little bit higher, even below them if it's laying directly on the floor. So just putting their toys or high contrast things or even someone's face in front of your baby during tummy time is going to really make them engaged and enjoy the process. And then something I didn't necessarily know when when baby when my babies were first really little was that chest to chest tummy time position counting as minutes towards our tummy time and goal. And that's a really great one because baby is able to see right across your you know, right up into your face that you're in their line of vision, where they are only able to see you know, within six to 12 inches and they see you they see mom, they see that it's a really engaging position for babies to be in skin to skin is another great thing that you can accomplish. And it's really easy to get in and out of that tummy time chest position, if you are, say breastfeeding, or if baby's napping in your arms, and they're kind of ready and primed to be in that position. It's also really nice for babies that have reflux because they tend to be in a much more upright position than say laying down completely on the floor. It is a really sweet position. It's one of the sweetest and most like memorable practices that you can have during those early days while you're bonding with your baby. It's really nice to for mom, if you're you know freshly postpartum, and you're having a hard time getting up and down off the floor during tummy time. This is a really great position for both mom and baby to to get a lot of minutes of tummy time in other positions that I mentioned that could be really fun for babies exercise ball, that gives them a little bit of motion while they're in that position. You know, babies love motion, so that's really nice. And then of course, making sure that the area that you're doing tummy time in is is cushioned, but of course no loose blankets were you know, that could get crumbled up under their faces. But there's a lot of things that you can do for baby you know, in combination with the right timing of tummy time in relation to their day and schedule that can make it a lot more enjoyable for for everybody in the tummy time process.

Natalie Gross 23:51
I love how you talked about getting down on the floor like I did that so much with my son with my poor daughter I'm like never on the floor with her I feel so bad but second child problems right?

Tiffany Lebano 24:01
I'm telling you when I it was something that we did we spent so much time and then when I got you know you get more and more pregnant and it becomes so much harder that you and then you're you're kind of recovering well everything goes back into its original place. And you're like, oh, getting up and down off the floor. Sounds so hard, right?

Natalie Gross 24:18
Yeah. So we have definitely utilized this skin to skin with her in the you know, the chest tummy time. So that's been really wonderful.

Lauren Rose Ousley 24:25
Yeah, that that like chest to chest. Like if the baby doesn't want to do tummy time or is too small, really just to have them on your chest. Not only is that so sweet, but it's helpful to know that you can kind of check the box for the day because it's funny how long three minutes feels at that season, right? Like yes, tummy time for three minutes a day and you're like not even three seconds.

Natalie Gross 24:49
So yeah, especially when they're crying.

Rachael Brown 24:51
Yeah, yeah, it's like the movie sequence for three minutes. It lasts for hours. Yeah. Two entire movies for three minutes.

Lauren Rose Ousley 24:59
Truly. He truly so for that, you know, definitely the chest to chest helped. Yeah the mirror and am me getting down on the ground laying with like being face to face with Him.

Rachael Brown 25:13
So like Lauren mentioned the mirror was great, he still is obsessed with himself in the mirror. It's like babies are so narcissistic. It's very cute, I think. Um, so like putting it in front of them and letting them like, Okay, I will put it in front of them in front of him, I would put it in for different distances, sometimes I would like put a toy in front of it. So you could like see different things. His favorite toys helped a lot. We did a lot of the black and white cards in the beginning to help him kind of straighten his neck up. Doing it on me was, I guess kind of always his favorite. We also had a crib mobile and he was obsessed with it. And you can move it up and down the slats in the crib. And I would move it down and you'd like place it in different parts of the crib and he would look at that a lot. He really liked the music and like headlights and stuff like that. So that helped a lot to I guess just using things in a way that you wouldn't think to use them also like keep an open mind.

Natalie Gross 26:14
Yeah. Well, thank you all so much Tiffany, Lauren Rose and Rachael for joining me today listeners. You can find out more about Tiffany and Also check out new mommy where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.

Natalie Gross 26:41
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggie Pals for expecting parents Parent Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, the Boob Group for moms who get breast milk to their babies, and Twin Talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies your go to source for new moms and new babies.

Unknown Speaker 27:06
This has been a New Mommy Media production. information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. We'll send you information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating healthcare problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

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