The Importance of Tummy Time

You have been waiting for months to meet your precious new baby. In those months, you’ve thought about what clothes to buy, whether to use cloth or disposable diapers, what kind of car seat will work best for your family, the crib or bassinet your baby will sleep in, and maybe even which toys, books and activities you will use to encourage good brain development.           

In the midst of all this preparation, it can be hard to keep up with all the information available. In addition, everyone is ready to advise you on how to be the “best parent” or raise your child the “right” way. Often, in the flurry of all that noise, activity and marketing, an important message is lost: Time with your new baby is the best gift you can give him or her, and tummy time is the perfect time to share and grow together.  

So, what is tummy time? It’s simple: place your baby on his or her stomach, in a safe area, while he or she is awake and supervised. You can start tummy time the day you return home from the hospital. Just put the baby on your chest for three to five minutes, two or three times a day. As your baby grows and tummy time becomes more fun, you can move baby to a blanket on the floor and increase the minutes and number of times the baby is on his or her stomach.

Regular tummy time can:

  • Prevent flat spots from developing on the back of your baby’s head from too much time in the crib, car seat or swing.
  • Strengthen neck, shoulder and back muscles to help with motor development.
  • Reduce risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
  • Give your baby a different view of the world.
  • Allow your baby to learn how his or her own body moves.
  • Aid spatial orientation and gravity perception.
  • Encourage social engagement.

Some tips for a successful tummy time experience:

  • Start tummy time with your newborn on your chest. While reclining on the couch or your bed, you can place the baby skin to skin on you for an even greater developmental and bonding impact.
  •  As your baby gets a little older, you can start using a blanket for tummy time. Add a few toys around the baby to improve motor development.
  • Get down on the floor with your baby and talk to him or her. Babies who hear more words have better language, reading, and math skills as they grow.
  • If for any reason you can’t participate, ask someone you trust to sit and engage with your baby during tummy time.
  • Keep in mind: tummy time is never alone time and you should never place a baby on his or her stomach to sleep.

The Childbirth Education program staff at Northern Arizona Healthcare thinks tummy time is not only fun, but a foundation of your baby’s healthy development. We are adding a tummy time class to our schedule at Flagstaff Medical Center.

To learn more, email Autumn Argent at [email protected] or visit our website at We want to help you get the most out of your tummy time experience!

Article was written by Autumn Argent, M.S., R.N.C.-O.B., C.C.E., childbirth education coordinator with Northern Arizona Healthcare. Autumn has a master’s in nursing education and is an inpatient obstetrics certified registered nurse, certified childbirth educator and a doctoral nursing student at Arizona State University.