Did you know that tummy time can benefit your baby’s brain as well as his motor skills? Here’s how to make the most of it.

The Importance of Tummy Time

Learn how time spent on his belly helps your baby develop cognitive and motor skills.

Because babies spend so much time on their backs during sleep, experts advise that daytime play should include some tummy time. It’s easy: Simply place your baby on his stomach for brief periods so he can explore the world and interact with you in ways necessary for his development.

What’s so special about this position? Tummy time benefits both your baby’s motor development and cognitive skills.

The Tummy Time–Motor Connection

A baby’s growing body needs to wriggle and move. Tummy time strengthens the muscles of the neck and shoulders. This sets the stage for your baby to eventually be able to push up, roll, sit up, and crawl. Changing positions also helps prevent flattening of the skull.

Unfortunately, many babies spend too long in the same position—in car seats or portable infant carriers that move from car to stroller.

The Tummy Time–Cognitive Connection

Moving around in different positions also appears to promote important brain connections. When babies can move their heads to look around at things from new perspectives, they improve visual skills like eye tracking.

Tummy-Time Tips

  • Try to make time for tummy-positioned play every day. Aim for tummy time right after every nap, diaper change, and feeding—when your baby is awake and alert.
  • Place your baby on a solid surface. And, of course, be sure he’s safely supervised.
  • Add new stimulation—when he’s ready. When your baby is old enough to lift his neck while on his belly, try holding a toy in his line of vision and slowly moving it so he can track it with his eyes. Or place toys where he can look around for them. This benefits the brain as well as the neck muscles.
  • Keep trying even if your baby fusses about being placed on his belly. Research shows that parents avoid tummy time when they perceive their baby doesn’t like it, without realizing the brain and body bonuses it provides. As your baby gets stronger and more used to this position, he will fuss less.
  • Set up an interesting landscape. To lessen your baby’s unhappiness when you place him on his belly, offer stimulating things for him to look at. Research shows that mirrors and toys that make sounds or have movement help capture interest and motivate a baby to stay on his tummy longer.
  • Continue the play session as long as your baby seems to enjoy it. At first, just a minute or two can help. By 3 to 4 months old, aim for at least 20 minutes a day.