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Many health professionals will mention tummy time when asking about your baby’s development. Tummy time involves placing your baby on their stomach when they are awake. This is very important to help strengthen your baby’s muscles and protect the shape of their head.
It is normal for young babies to be unhappy on their tummy as their heads are heavy and tummy time is hard for them. Even though babies may feel uncomfortable initially, it is important to keep trying.
Placing your baby on their tummy helps them in a number of ways, including:
Tummy time can be safely started from birth. It has been found that babies who start regular tummy time early like this position more and can manage it for longer periods of time.
Try to do tummy time regularly throughout the day and make it a part of your baby’s regular activity. Start with short periods of tummy time (one to two minutes) and slowly increase the time as your baby becomes stronger (aiming for 10 to 15 minutes at least three times a day, by around four months of age). Babies with big heads or those who were born early often find tummy time more difficult and may need more time to improve at it.
There are a number of different ways to do tummy time with your baby. Do not leave your baby alone or unsupervised during any tummy time positions.
These positions may be helpful if your baby does not like being directly on their tummy or has colic or reflux. Please see our Kids Health Info fact sheets on
Reflux (GOR) and GORD and
Crying and unsettled babies - colic for more information.
Please note: remember to put your baby on their back for sleep safety - never sleep your baby on their tummy or side.
Remember that it is normal for your baby to find tummy time difficult to begin with. If you remain concerned or are worried about any of the following, please seek medical advice from your GP, Maternal and Child Health nurse, paediatrician or a paediatric physiotherapist:
At what age is it no longer necessary to put my baby on their tummy?
We recommend you continue with tummy time until your baby starts to crawl or can get onto and off their tummy themselves. Once your baby is doing this, they will be doing their own tummy time. Remember, it is safe to start tummy time from birth.
If my baby has reflux/vomits a lot, should I put them on their tummy?
If your baby has reflux, you can and should continue with tummy time. Try the positions where your baby is more upright such as on your chest, over your legs or on a gym ball. Remember to leave 20 to 30 minutes after a feed before placing your baby on their tummy to reduce vomiting and discomfort.
What do I do if my baby dislikes tummy time?
It is very normal for young babies to be unhappy on their tummy as their heads are heavy and tummy time is hard for them. Babies need to be motivated when on their tummy and can be motivated through play. Examples of play include getting down on the floor with your baby, using toys such as rattles and mirrors and singing and talking to them.
Use some of the tips listed on this page to make tummy time more enjoyable and a little easier for them. The more upright your baby is when they are on their tummy, the easier it will be for them. Remember, every little bit helps and your baby should slowly improve and start to enjoy being on their tummy. If they continue to have difficulties, please talk to your GP, Maternal and Child Health nurse, paediatrician or a paediatric physiotherapist
What do I do if my baby is developing a flat head or unusual head shape?
Baby’s heads are very soft and, if they are in one position more than others, they can develop a flat spot. This is called Plagiocephaly. Please read our
Kids Health Info fact sheet on Plagiocephaly – misshapen head if you are concerned about this.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Physiotherapy Department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Developed December 2020
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.