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    Importance of Tummy Time

    What is the hype about?

    Tummy time is very important to get babies off their backs and help them learn to push up, roll over, sit up, crawl and stand.  It offers building blocks for the future acquisition of motor milestones by strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles.

    It is important to know that babies should not be put to sleep on their tummies. In 1994, “The Back to Sleep” campaign was launched in an effort to reduce SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The campaign successfully reduced SIDS, however there has been a shift from tummy to back and now babies are more comfortable on their back and find tummy time more difficult.

    A baby’s skull is still soft, and constant pressure on the back of the head can have a flattening effect, called flat-head syndrome or plagiocephaly.  Since the back to sleep campaign, many infants spend almost all of their time on their back; either in bed, on the floor, in the car seat, or stroller.  It is therefore extremely important to vary your infant’s head position throughout the day.

    What can I do?

    Supervised tummy time during waking hours should begin when your baby arrives home from the hospital.  A total of 30 minutes of daily tummy time is recommended. Just remember that all children are different.  Don’t try and make your baby stay on their tummy for long periods of time; it can be split into shorter sessions throughout the day.

    Parents need to be patient and decide how much fussing they will tolerate before picking up the child and ending the tummy time play.  The last thing you want as a parent is to cause your child to have an aversion to tummy time.

    Helpful Exercise Recommendations

    • Join your baby on the floor or bed and make it fun for them
    • Encourage your baby by talking, shaking a rattle or favourite toy, making funny faces, or playing peekaboo
    • Have a sibling sit on the floor with your baby to encourage them to look up
    • Have your child lay on your tummy (tummy side down) facing you
      • Invest in a tummy time gym that has lights, mirrors, music and hanging toys 
    • If your child is fussing and uncomfortable and has difficulty lifting up her head, use a rolled towel or nursing pillow under her chest to help her lift her head.

    Tummy Time


    Graham JM Jr., 2006. Tummy time is important. Pediatrics. Vol. 45(2), pp.119-21.

    Jennings, J.T., Payne, N.S., Sarbaugh, B.G. 2005. Conveying the Message About Optimal Infant Positions.  Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics. Vol 25(3), pp.3-18.

    Robertson, R. 2011. Supine Infant Positioning-Yes, but There’s More to it.  The Journal of Family Practice. Vol. 60(10), pp.605-8


    About Tanya Barrett, PT, BSc PT.

    Tanya Barrett is a registered Physiotherapist and in good standing with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. Tanya graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto after pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at York University.