“My baby hates tummy time!” I can remember telling the doctor this at our 3 month appointment with our first son. If your baby is resisting tummy time or you need some additional tummy time ideas or strategies, we asked experts and the Kids Activities Blog community for advice.

Activities for Babies Who Hate Tummy Time - Kids Activities Blog - baby on tummy looking at camera

My Baby Hates Tummy Time Experience

I would try to distract him with baby toys, I would try singing to him and rubbing his back, but nothing worked. And I knew that it was important, but I hated watching him cry. Experts agree that babies who don’t spend time on their tummy, face-down, often have some delays in their development of motor skills.  

“Play and interact with babies while they are awake and on their tummy 2 to 3 times each day for a short time (3–5 minutes), increasing the amount of tummy time as babies show they enjoy it. Work up to 15 to 30 minutes each day by 7 weeks…Start from the first day home from the hospital.”

American Academy of Pediatrics

As a first-time mom, my mind believed it, but my heart had a harder time with it. I’m sure most first-time moms are this way. Fast forward 15 months…

Our second son was born with hypertonicity (high muscle tone) and we started therapy right away. I soon saw the very important value in tummy time. Cry as he might (and believe me, he did),  I soon realized just how important tummy time was, even though he didn’t like it.

Related: 4 Months Baby Activities

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Strategies to Increase Baby Tummy Time

Strategies for Tummy Time - Kids Activities Blog - baby on stomach looking at the camera in white room
Let’s have some tummy time!

1. Baby Steps Toward Increased Tummy Time

Start small and go from there. Two minutes at a time, several times a day when you first start.

How Long Should a 3 Month Old Be Able to Be on Tummy?

Doctors agree that by about 3 months of age, babies should be on their tummy for at least 90 minutes a day, broken up into intervals.

“Take baby steps. 30 seconds to two minutes is fine for right now. Try it several  times a day. You have to start somewhere.”

-Kids Activities Blog community

–>According to the American Academy of Pediatrics a 3 Month should be able to tolerate 15-30 minutes of tummy time a day.

2. Supervise & Encourage Tummy Time

Be there to supervise and encourage your child. You need to watch your child, because when their necks are very weak, they cannot lift it off of the ground even to take a breath. Do not walk away during tummy time.  You have to be watching and help your baby if he needs it.

“A great time to do this is when babies finish a diaper change or wake up from a nap. Tummy time prepares babies for being able to slide on their belly and crawl. As babies grow older and stronger, they need more time on their tummy to build their own strength.”

-American Academy of Pediatrics

3. Tummy to Tummy Time

The best way to do tummy time when your baby hates tummy time is to place your baby on YOUR tummy. Lie flat on the ground, on your back and place your baby on your belly and chest. Talk to him and let him try to look up to find your face.

“Try skin to skin tummy time with your baby. It has been proven to have amazing benefits for your baby and amazing bonding benefits for both of you. Skin to skin (AKA: Kangaroo care) is so important when they are new babies.”

-Kids Activities Blog community

4. Delay Your Tummy Time Rescue Little by Little

When your baby cries, he is working his muscles even more.  This is the hard part for me, but let him cry and fuss for just a moment (maybe 15 seconds), while he uses all that he has to lift that little neck to find  you ~ waiting for you to come to his rescue. Try to use this time to coax him with toys or your sing-song words.

5. Tummy Time Towel Assist

Use a rolled up a hand towel to place under his chest as a little “helper” during tummy time.  

“We used a rolled up hand towel and put it behind his upper shoulders, while on his back in a bouncy seat,  so his head and neck wouldn’t rest on the bouncy seat. We then put a toy that he liked and hung it to the opposite side of where he favored laying his head.”  

~Tasha Patton

Just do this for a few moments, until it becomes uncomfortable for the child.

6. Face to Face Tummy Time

Lie down with your baby, face to face.

Tummy time water mat for babies - colorful water mat pictured with sea theme
Let’s try a water mat!

7. Try a Water Mat

This colorful water mat gives baby new things to see, touch and feel while working on stomach time. What a fun idea!

8. Reclined Tummy Time Counts

Do tummy time while you are reclined. Let your baby lie (on their tummy) on your tummy and chest, but when you are reclined in a chair and not lying flat on the ground. This will help your baby with tummy time by making it a tiny bit easier, but still encourage  him  to lift his necks and head to see you.

“I used to lay on my back with my feet flat on the floor and my knees bent with my son laying his tummy to my shins. I was able to adjust the angle of my legs to what he needed. He liked this version of tummy time because he could see my face and it felt like a game.”

~Caitlin Scheuplein

9. Use an Exercise Ball or BOSU Ball for Tummy Time Practice

Try tummy time on an exercise ball. Hold your baby in place, the entire time, with his  belly on an exercise ball or BOSU ball.   As your baby gets older, gently begin to roll the ball, just barely, back and forth.

10. Distract & Entertain During Tummy Time

Play with your baby! Don’t expect your baby to entertain himself on the floor. He may feel alone, so be there with him.

“My son also hated it but I set up a train on the floor around him and he LOVED it. Soon they are able to roll and it’s not all that big a deal.”

~Jessica Babler

11. Change Your Positions During Practice

Hold Upright

“Just hold him (upright) more. The point of tummy time is to strengthen their muscles in their necks and core. Holding him will straighten them, too. ”

~ Jessica Vergara

Hold in Burping Postition

Hold your baby up on your chest/shoulder like you are going to burp him. He is working on his neck and core strength. The higher that you hold him, the more he will be required to use his own strength and not ‘lean’ on you as much. (Keep a hand behind his neck for support if needed.)

Lay Baby Across Legs

Sit in a chair and let your baby lay across your legs, on his tummy, while you rub his back.

Super Baby Position

Lie on your back and lift baby above you (like you are lifting weights). Try singing “Super Baby” or “Airplane Baby” while you lift him.

12. Talk to Your Doctor if It Is NOT Going Well

“Talk with your doctor. My son did this and I mentioned it to the doctor.  He put him on his tummy and saw how my son flipped out.  He said this isn’t normal. We soon found out that  my son was lactose intolerant and had reflux issues. Once we figured that out,  it got better.”

~ Tiana Peterson

13. Easy Tummy Time Routine

A great tip that our doctor gave us was to do two minutes of tummy time after each diaper change.

14. Practice Patience with Tummy Time

In the long run, your baby will  learn not to hate tummy time. As my mom said, “You don’t cry when you are on your tummy NOW, do you? At some point, it just stops.”  

Parenting is Hard & You Are Not Alone

Most things are just phases that we must go through (like refusing a bottle…  I have been there, too!), but these little tips will hopefully help you to get through this phase a little faster… and onto the more fun ones, like crawling!

More Baby Advice from Real parents

Do you have any advice for increasing tummy time?

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