Evidence-based advice on when and for how long to start putting babies down for specific tummy time is sparse and so even the NHS advice is pretty vague. It is suggested that tummy time should begin from birth – babies should be put on their tummies on their parent’s chest. In other words…cuddle your newborn baby!
This seems obvious but many babies spend hours on their backs – in their bouncy chair, car seat, cot and pushchair and so rarely spend time on their tummies in the natural, in-arms way.
From about 5 or 6 months onwards, babies gradually start to roll over by themselves. This is a natural developmental stage and, once your baby finds they can roll over and reach out for a toy (or the pet cat) they will do it repeatedly and you no longer need to set aside a specific time. So, whenever your baby is lying on their back enjoying a good kick, place toys at a short distance away to encourage them to look and reach.
Babies used to be changed on the floor or a lap and had space to move and roll, whereas, on modern changing tables, movement tends to be a bit more restricted if for no other reason than mums understandably worry about falls and so prevent their baby shifting about. So consider ringing the changes every now and then by getting down on the carpet when you’re tackling a wet nappy – pop baby on a towel and then take your time and play.
How long should my baby spend on their tummy?
Little and often is the best way to begin. Newborns can be put down on a soft blanket for a minute or so at a time a few times a day. As the days and weeks go on, gradually increase the time babies spend on their tummies out of arms.
As a rough guide, start with that newborn minute on a blanket and then increase the time by a minute or two at each session every couple of days until your baby is getting a total of 40-60 minutes over the course of each day. This time does not need to be all in one go so don’t leave an unhappy baby wailing on their tummy.