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“My Baby Hates Tummy Time!” Tips for Parents  

Feb 22nd, 2022 | by Karleigh Page, PT, DPT

Karleigh Page, PT, DPT

February 22nd, 2022

Does your little one get frustrated, cry, or scream every time you place them on their tummy? If so, have no fear! We have some awesome alternative positions, tummy time tips, and tricks to help tummy time become an enjoyable activity for both you and your baby.

Why Does My Baby Hate Tummy Time?

If your baby cries during tummy time, it is likely because lifting their head against gravity can be a huge challenge for infants. This is because they have not yet developed strength in their cervical extensors (the muscles in the back of the neck.)

Tummy Time Tips to Try With Baby

So, just like when we hit the gym for the first time in a while, it is important to think about starting with lighter weights. We need to lighten the load that your baby’s neck must lift! How do we decrease the weight of their head? Well, we can’t exactly do that, but what we can do is change the position of the baby to decrease the force of gravity that they are working against. To do this, we need to start practicing tummy time on an incline. Below are some ideas of different ways to do tummy time with an incline to help your baby.

What we can do is change the position of the baby to decrease the force of gravity that they are working against.

Practice Tummy Time on an Incline With These 4 Tips:

If your baby hates tummy time, it is likely because lifting their head against gravity can be a huge challenge for infants. Find tummy time tips in this blog!

1. Place Baby on Your Chest

Start by lying in a semi reclined, comfortable position. Then, place your baby on their belly over your chest facing you. This will encourage your baby to lift their head as they try to look up at you. It can be a great position for bonding with your new baby and sneaking in some snuggles while getting productive tummy time in.

2. Use a Therapy Ball

Grab a therapy ball and position yourself behind your baby with the therapy ball in front of you. Place your baby on their belly on top of the ball holding at either side of their pelvis or trunk. Then, if they are having a hard time lifting their head, gently roll them back towards you to place them at a slight incline. This position will make it easier for them to practice lifting their head. If your baby gets upset, you can rock them back and forth or side to side on the ball for a calming effect then continue with more tummy time practice!

3. Place a Towel or Pillow Under Baby’s Chest

Grab a soft bath towel or blanket and roll it up to place it under your baby’s chest. You can also prop your baby’s chest up on a small boppy pillow, or even on the side of your leg while you sit on the floor with them. This will automatically place them in an inclined position making lifting that heavy head of theirs a bit easier.

4. Try Pushing Down Over Their Bottom

Place some downwards pressure on the back of the pelvis. If your baby is still having trouble in these positions, you can try gently pushing down on the back of their pelvis (over their bottom) to displace more weight from their chest and encourage head lifting.

Use Motivators to Get Baby to Like Tummy Time With These Next 3 Tips:

7 tummy time tips to help and motivate your baby who hates tummy time!

Are you wondering how to get baby to like tummy time? Try these tummy time tips below to motivate your baby!

1. Visual Stimulation: High Contrast Toys, Mirrors

Your baby’s vision is developing and emerging in the months that tummy time is vital. Finding fun, engaging visual stimulation can help make tummy time easier while promoting visual development. Find some black and white toys, or toys with a lot of contrast to capture your baby’s attention. Another effective attention grabber is placing a mirror in front of your baby while they’re on their tummy. Find tummy time toys recommended by our pediatric therapists here.

2. Face to Face Interaction

Get on the floor and get face to face with your little one. Again, they will be motivated to engage with you, and you can even practice having them track different toys/objects while lying with them in this position to get some neck rotation in as a bonus!

3. Super Baby

Hold your baby in a prone position over your forearm with their legs on either side of your elbow and your hand supporting their chest. In this position, you can fly them around the house to look out windows, check themselves out in the mirror, or say hi to siblings. This is also a position where you can control the angle that you are holding your baby. If they are having a hard time keeping their head up, elevate your hand slightly higher than your elbow so they are at an incline and can lift more readily.

If Your Baby Doesn’t Like Tummy Time, You’re Not Alone

Remember, if your baby hates tummy time, you are not alone! This is not an uncommon occurrence but hopefully these tummy time tips and tricks will make things go a bit smoother during tummy time practice. It is also important to remember that you don’t need to feel obligated to do tummy time all at once. Begin with short bouts of a few minutes at a time until your baby’s endurance builds. Then you can slowly begin longer bouts of tummy play. If you are still having a hard time with tummy time and feel like you need some extra support, we recommend reaching out to a physical or occupational therapist for a consult to help get you and your baby a customized plan to promote motor development.

Find Additional Resources in the NAPA Blog:


About the Author

Karleigh enjoys play based pediatric therapy as it gives her to the opportunity to create both a positive and exciting experience for children. Karleigh works at NAPA Denver and enjoys volunteering for adaptive golf, swimming, and wheelchair/bike racing programs.

About NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals.

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