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Why Your Baby Hates Tummy Time and 4 Tips to Help

My baby hates tummy time - now what? If you are in the middle of 3-month-old tummy time and at your wit’s end, you aren’t the only one. It’s typical for babies to not enjoy tummy time, especially early on. 

Tummy time is an essential component of baby playtime starting the day they come home. Knowing just how important it is can make it even more frustrating when it doesn’t go right. We’re here to break down some of our tips and tricks for successful tummy time. 

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What Is Tummy Time

Tummy time is dedicated time when your baby is awake and supervised while lying on their stomach. With tummy time, the baby is working hard to hold up their head, which is quite heavy compared to the rest of their body. This position actively strengthens their neck, shoulders, back, and arms.

Tummy time can take place on the floor with playtime accessories like mats or props, or even on your chest or in your arms. Experts recommend starting tummy time right away at the newborn stage and continuing up until your baby is crawling around on their own. 

Even if you have tried more than one position for tummy time, it’s still possible that you’ll experience fussing and crying during tummy time here and there. It’s important to note that this is very common for parents and caregivers. With some of our top tips and positions for tummy time, both you and your baby will enjoy it more.

Why Tummy Time Is Important

There are plenty of reasons why tummy time is so important for babies at all stages of development. Strengthening those upper body muscles helps them get closer to achieving key milestones like rolling over, sitting up, and crawling. Aside from playing a critical role in improving those motor skills, tummy time promotes visual and sensory development.

While on their tummy, your baby is becoming more aware of their body and the environment around them, testing their vision and their hand-eye coordination. As an added perk, more time on the tummy means less chance of flat spots developing on the baby’s head. 

Learn about more baby milestones you’ll experience as your child grows.

Why Baby Hates Tummy Time

The simple answer to why a baby doesn’t like tummy time is that it can be hard! Keeping the head up requires effort and may feel uncomfortable at first because they are not used to the position. If your baby cries during tummy time, it could be for any of the below reasons, like doing tummy time after feeding. Knowing the why can help you make informed decisions like trying a gradual introduction or adding in extra support during tummy time.

  • Discomfort and Inexperience: Tummy time can feel unnatural at first and babies may find discomfort in the limited mobility they have.
  • Lack of Head Control: Especially in the early newborn stages, your baby lacks head control and neck strength, so being on the tummy can feel especially frustrating.
  • Reflux Issues: You may notice a difference in tummy time before or after feeding, especially if your baby suffers from reflux issue.
  • Preferences For Other Positions: It’s completely normal for your baby to prefer other positions over tummy time because they are more comfortable, like on their back or in the fetal position.

    4 Tips For Tummy Time

    If you have felt frustrated watching other babies tolerate tummy time and have considered giving up, you are not alone. It can be a trying time, but with some helpful tips, you can get your baby feeling content and even happy during tummy time. If you’ve said, “My baby doesn’t like tummy time”, have you tried introducing it gradually or trying a variety of tummy time positions?

    Your baby may simply not be used to this new position, especially if they are in the newborn or 2-month-old stage. They’ve so far spent so much time in the fetal position and on their back, that tummy time is using new muscles and giving them a totally new view of the world around them. Stay engaged with your baby and be sure to praise them on this huge new adjustment and accomplishment. 

    Baby doing tummy time with yellow towel covering them and resting on their head, clear from their face.

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    Start Slow

    Gradually easing into tummy time can often be the key to success. When thinking about how to do tummy time, newborns especially will need a slow introduction. Start with short, small bursts. Even a few minutes of tummy time throughout the day can have an impact on getting your baby used to the experience and can be more successful than trying to get your baby to do it all at once. 

    Be Present and Make Eye Contact

    Since you will be spending lots of time doing tummy time with your baby, use it as a bonding opportunity! Be present by putting away your phone and other distractions and just focus on your baby. Maintain eye contact and keep your baby engaged by making silly faces or talking to build connection. 

    Use Toys and Tummy Time Props

    Another great option for how to get baby to like tummy time is to keep them occupied. By using baby-safe toys, you can keep your baby engaged and happy for longer stretches of time on their tummy. Tummy time props provide additional support for your baby, making them more comfortable with the new position. Better yet, combine the toys and the tummy time prop with our tummy time prop and patented SlideLine system

    Try Different Positions

    The final tip we’ll cover is to try different positions for tummy time. By changing the position for tummy time, you can increase or decrease gravity and thus the difficulty for the baby in keeping their head up. Your baby may also just find one position especially easier or more tolerable. We’ll cover three of our top tummy time positions in the next section.

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    3 Positions to Try For Tummy Time

    How to position a baby for tummy time will look different for every baby. One position for tummy time might not work at all, while the next position for tummy time might be a huge success. We encourage you to give the following options a try if your baby is crying during tummy time and nothing seems to help.

    Do not get discouraged if you do not succeed on the first tries. Come back to them a second and third time, and you may have more luck. Always supervise your baby and remember that tummy time should not be used for sleeping.

    Tummy to Tummy or Chest to Chest

    One of our favorite options is tummy-to-tummy or chest-to-chest because it allows for a special bonding moment with you and your baby. You can try this position either on the floor or couch, lying completely flat or slightly propped up. Place the baby on your chest so that the baby's belly is against your body and their arms are tucked under their body for support. Make it fun and engaging by praising your baby or making silly faces.

    mom laying with baby on the bed doing tummy time

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    Tummy Down Carry or Football Hold

    The tummy down carry position works best while standing up. Imagine you are holding a football with one arm only. Put your baby's tummy down against your hand and forearm with its head in your elbow crease area. Your other hand can support as well, meeting your hand near the baby’s upper thigh area.

    Try rocking back and forth, walking around, and playing with the placement of your hands. The nice part about this position is it gives your baby more to look at from a different viewpoint. 

    Lap Soothe

    For the lap soothe tummy time position, take a seat on a couch or comfortable chair, laying your baby's tummy down across your lap. Here you can play with increasing the height of one leg to provide more support for your baby. You could also try putting your hand on the baby's bottom and applying light pressure, which will make it easier for them to hold up their head and neck. 

    When to Seek Help

    If you’ve tried all the tips and tricks and just aren’t having success, it might be time to consult with your pediatrician, especially if you are noticing that your baby continues to struggle with lifting their head.

    What happens if you don’t do tummy time? While it’s okay to take a brief pause if tummy time is causing too much distress for you and your baby, stopping entirely can pose too much of a risk to your baby’s development. Reach out to your pediatrician for professional guidance to ensure your baby is growing and developing at a healthy rate. 

    Keep Tummy Time Fun and Comfortable with Boppy’s Tummy Time Prop and Play Mat 

    Tummy time is a critical component of your baby’s development, allowing them to develop their core and upper body muscles which in turn will help with key milestones like sitting up and crawling. It’s entirely normal for your baby to hate tummy time, especially at first when they haven’t yet adjusted to this new position. If you start gradually introducing tummy time, fully engage with the baby, and support them with props like our tummy time pillow, it will get easier every time.

    Plus, by experimenting with different tummy time positions, you can learn which your baby likes best and allow them to look at their surroundings from a new angle. Try tummy time outside on the grass when it’s nice out, or use a play mat on the floor to add some cushion and texture. 

    With Boppy, you can rest assured that our products are safe, functional, and designed with you and your baby in mind. Whether you are looking for safe products to help with tummy timecomfortable baby carriers so you can multitask with ease, or activities to do with your 4-month-old, we’re here for you. 

    Check out our blog for more baby advice at every stage.


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