Baby Hints & Tips

Baby Hates Tummy Time: Expert Paediatric Physio Advice

If you have a baby you’ve undoubtedly heard people talking about tummy time! You might however be feeling confused if your baby hates tummy time just what you should do?

It’s so important but its also common that many babies seem to dislike it. Read on for why you must persist with tummy time – and how to encourage your baby to enjoy it!

Hates tummy time

Why is tummy time important?

Tummy time is an important part of a baby’s play and development time. It strengthens muscles, develops life-long skills and protects their skull with some relief time.

Tummy time is important as it:

  • Develops shoulder control
  • Develops neck and head control
  • Develops back extensors (muscles)
  • Develops balance reactions and the ability to shift weight from one side of the body to the other
  • Tummy time can also help your baby build strength needed for sitting up, rolling over, crawling and walking.
  • Leads to commando crawling and pivoting on tummy
  • Enables baby to pull knees in under tummy (with increasing abdominal control) and then start reciprocal crawling
  • While it’s recommended that you place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), tummy time gives a baby the chance to experience a different position. This can help reduce the risk of flat spots. As such, tummy time the head to have pressure-free time.

How do you encourage tummy time when a baby dislikes it?

Some babies find tummy time difficult to tolerate. This may be the result of reflux or low muscle tone. Other babies may seem unenthused at first by the novel position but will quickly become accustomed to it, especially if family members interact with them.

Here are some tummy time tips:

  • Put baby down on the floor frequently. Lie them on back or side and roll them over onto tummy
  • Start with short bursts, e.g. 30 seconds, and gradually increase the time
  • Place a towel under their chest to help elevate the head and shoulders
  • Put them on your tummy so they feel close to you
  • Give them lots of praise and encouragement, pat them gently and talk to them so they are reassured. Get down on the floor with them so they can see you.
  • For babies with reflux, do tummy time before a feed
  • Further for reflux babies, lie them on a slope so their head is above their tummy.

If you are concerned about your baby’s ability to lie on their tummy, consult a paediatric physiotherapist for more advice. Please do not be deterred in continuing this very important skill for your baby!

How much tummy time does a baby need by age?

Healthline suggests the following:

Age of babyDaily tummy time recommendations
0 months1–5 minutes at a time, 2–3 times per day
1 monthup to 10 minutes at a time, 2–3 times per day
2 monthsup to 20 minutes per day, can be split up into multiple sessions
3 monthsup to 30 minutes per day, can be split into multiple sessions
4 monthsup to 40 minutes per day, can be split into multiple sessions
5–6 monthsup to 1 hour at a time, as long as baby isn’t fussy

hates tummy time

Red Nose Australia talks tummy time

Red Nose Australia also believes tummy time is a crucial part of baby’s development – here’s a video on the topic for more information:


Red Nose also remind us of this very important warning: “REMEMBER: Parents and carers are often very tired and can fall asleep easily during the day. Make sure baby is in a safe place before baby or caregiver falls asleep. Never leave baby alone or unsupervised on the tummy, as it is dangerous if baby falls asleep or their airways become covered.” 

So, whether your baby hates tummy time or not try and persevere. It’s not always easy but small chunks and lots of play should make it a little more enjoyable for everyone!

*This article was published in 2019 and updated in 2020 for accuracy and links.

More tips on tummy time

About the Author:

Emma Armstrong is physiotherapist with 12 years’ experience in paediatrics. She is clinician and manager at Therapy and Learning Centre (TLC)Therapy and Learning Centre (TLC) (02 9476 0766) a specialist paediatrics Physio/OT practice with centres in Hornsby and Bella Vista in Sydney, NSW.For the past 8 years Emma has trained under a podiatrist who specialises in biomechanics, which has developed her passion and understanding of lower limb alignment and development. Emma is a mother to two small children and enjoys cycling when she can make the time!

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