Baby Hates Tummy Time? Try These Alternatives Instead!

Adorable baby boy playing with a colorful ball and toy car during a tummy time.

  • Since babies often sleep on their backs, flipping onto their stomachs during the day is likely uncomfortable for many babies.
  • Tummy time helps babies become aware of their surroundings while strengthening motor skills, cognitive skills, and spatial awareness.
  • Without an adequate amount of tummy time during the day, babies are at risk for developmental delays.

So your baby hates tummy time? You’re not alone. In fact, all four of my babies did too. 

Providing your baby with an adequate amount of tummy time seems like a simple task. Laying our babies down on a mat to play requires little effort on our part. However, this pediatrician recommended activity is often difficult for both the baby and the parent. 

Though I know the benefits of tummy time outweigh the pain of hearing my baby cry, it’s been difficult for me with each child. As soon as I laid my baby on their mat, they’d begin to lift their head, arch their backs, and cry until I picked them up.

If this sounds like your baby, you’re in the right place. There are several alternatives to tummy time that really work! I’ve had great success using these in place of traditional tummy time on a mat. 

If your baby hates tummy time, give these alternatives a try! 

Why Is Tummy Time Important for Babies?

I cannot tell you how many times I asked myself this question. Your natural instinct is to keep your baby happy. So why would you want to do something that makes them cry?

Are there really benefits to tummy time? Despite what your baby might tell you—yes, there are.

In fact in a 2020 systematic review published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, conducted by Lyndel Hewitt, PhD, Erin Kerr, Rebecca M. Stanley, Ph.D., and Anthony D. Okely, EdD, and titled Tummy Time and Infant Health Outcomes found that tummy time was associated with developmental gains in gross motor skills and total development as well as, “a reduction in the BMI-z score, prevention of brachycephaly, and the ability to move while prone, supine, crawling, and rolling.”

It seems there are several benefits that only tummy time provides. Tummy time is known to:

  • Strengthen the baby’s eyesight.
  • Develop skills for crawling (perfect for parents wondering how to encourage crawling).
  • Prepare the baby’s hips and legs for walking. 
  • Help prevent positional plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome.
  • Strengthen the baby’s core, neck, back, arms, and shoulders. 
  • Help the baby become aware of their surroundings while strengthening cognitive skills and spatial awareness.
Cute little asian baby lying and crawling on floor

Reasons Why Some Babies Hate Tummy Time

Before the Back to Sleep campaign, now Safe Sleep, which reduces the risk of SIDS, parents often laid their babies down on their tummies. You might even have a parent or grandparent who swears that a baby sleeping face down is a happy baby. We now know the dangers of tummy sleep, but it leaves us wondering why babies don’t enjoy tummy time.

Though it’s hard to know the exact reason your baby hates tummy time, it might be one of the following: 

Boredom

It’s possible that your baby hates tummy time because they’re bored. When you lay your baby tummy down on the floor, they might not be able to lift themselves up and turn their head. This movement takes quite a bit of strength in your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles.

When your little baby lays down for tummy time practice, they often get frustrated since they can’t see the world around them. Lying face down for long periods wouldn’t be very fun for us either. It could be that your baby is crying for a different perspective and a change of scenery. 

Acid Reflux

If your baby has acid reflux, extra pressure on their tummy can make them very uncomfortable. If your baby cries and vomits when on their stomach for tummy time, this might be the issue. It could also mean that your baby needs to burp.  

Unfamiliar Position  

Since babies sleep on their backs, flipping onto their stomachs during the day is new and likely uncomfortable for many babies. It will take time for them to adjust to lying tummy down on the floor. Your baby might hate tummy time simply because it’s new and different. 

Does Lack of Tummy Time Cause Developmental Delays?

We know that tummy time provides many benefits, but what will happen if you skip it? Will it really cause your child to develop more slowly? Or will they catch up on developmental skills in other ways? 

Despite how babies feel about tummy time, it really is that crucial. Without an adequate amount of tummy time during the day, babies are at risk for developmental delays. 

What Will Happen if a Baby Doesn’t Do Tummy Time?

If your baby doesn’t do tummy time, they might experience: 

  • Digestive issues (Tummy time is one way to get rid of baby gas fast.)
  • Poor eye coordination
  • A tightening of the neck muscles, or torticollis
  • Crawling and walking later than normal
  • Slower development of coordination and balance
  • Flat head syndrome from spending too much time on their back
  • Slower development of core, neck, shoulders, arms, and back muscles
Cute adorable newborn baby playing on colorful toy in a tummy time.

What You Can Do to Help Your Baby Like Tummy Time

If your baby hates tummy time despite what you’ve tried, there’s hope. Here are a few ways to encourage tummy time and make it more enjoyable:

  • Adding support, like a rolled towel, under your baby’s chest might make tummy time more comfortable. A common suggestion for how to use a boppy pillow is as a support for tummy time.   
  • Add a few toys for your baby to look at. You can even lay next to your baby and hold the toys in their view until they can push up on their arms and turn their heads. 
  • Invest in a soft blanket or play mat so that your baby is comfortable on the floor.
  • Start with just two to three sessions a day, after your baby has had a diaper change. Three to five minutes for each session is all your baby needs initially. You can gradually increase to longer sessions as your baby starts to enjoy tummy time. 

At What Age Do Babies Start Liking Tummy Time?

This will vary for every baby. I found that as soon as my babies developed enough upper body strength to push up and look around, they started to like tummy time. 

Don’t get discouraged and give up on tummy time. Your baby will eventually find lying chest down to be a comfortable position. The more opportunities you give them to practice, the quicker they will develop. 

5 Tummy Time Alternatives to Try 

Spending time on their tummy doesn’t have to be boring for your little one. Here are 5 fun ways to sneak in a little tummy time during the day:

Super Baby

For a fun alternative to tummy time, lie flat on your back with your legs parallel to the floor. Lay your baby on your legs while holding their arms. Gently move your legs away from your face and back again. 

You can make funny faces or talk to your baby while you let them soar. 

Football Hold

This classic hold is not only great for gassy babies, but it’s a tummy time alternative. Lay your baby across your forearm, chest in hand, and arms and legs dangling off the sides. Put your hand on their back for extra support. 

Gently sway them back and forth for extra comfort and fun. 

Baby on Your Chest

Your baby loves the sight of your face as it brings comfort and a sense of security. Try laying them on your chest instead of the floor so they can lift their head and see you. This is a great bonding activity for both you and your baby. 

Baby on Your Lap

If your little one is uncomfortable on the floor, they might like laying on your lap instead. Lay baby, stomach down, across your legs while you are seated. Place your hand on their back for extra support. 

Exercise Ball

Use a large exercise ball and lay your little one belly down on top of it. Hold onto your baby’s back and sides as you gently roll the ball back and forth. You don’t need to extend the ball far.  

FAQs

How does tummy time help with gas and digestion?

Tummy time helps rid gas and improves digestion by placing light pressure on a baby’s tummy. This helps move gas and food through their intestines. Parents should avoid placing their baby belly down immediately after eating as it could make the baby vomit. 

At what age can you stop doing tummy time?

You can stop worrying about setting aside tummy time when your baby can roll over both ways and lays on their tummy on their own. However, this shouldn’t stop you from encouraging them to develop the skills needed for gross motor milestones.

Once your baby is spending time on their tummy regularly, you can encourage crawling. This is a great time to purchase crawling toys for babies and motivate them to keep strengthening their arms and legs.

Baby Hates Tummy Time? Try These Alternatives Instead!


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