Build a strong base for your Children’s health: Why is Tummy Time recommended?

-Dr Loukia Papageorgiou

Find more about our Chiropractors on the About Us page.

You’ve probably been told or have heard to do tummy time with your baby, but do you really know why?

Let’s first start at the very beginning. 

In 1992 the American Academy of Paediatrics recommended that infants be placed on their backs to sleep, this was the Back to Sleep campaign. The reason behind this campaign was to reduce the high incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), this campaign lead to a 40% reduction of SIDS in the USA, however it was observed that during this campaign children were slower to achieve their motor milestones and there was an increase in head shape abnormalities. It is important to understand that the shape of a child’s head can lead to a delay in the achievement of motor milestones, which we know is vital for a child’s healthy growth and development.

Let’s define tummy time:
Tummy time is a form of physical activity recommended for infants <6 months per age during awake periods and supervised by an adult. Tummy time is a component of the National Movement guidelines in Australia. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that 30 minutes of tummy time be performed daily, this does not have to be in one 30 minute block, but it is suggested that it be spread out over a 24 hour period.

So what’s all the hype with Tummy Time?

It’s been shown that tummy time is a critical part of a child’s development and has been associated with positive effects in 

  • Gross motor development
  • Reduction of plagiocephaly/ head shape abnormalities
  • The prevention of brachycephaly
  • Reduction in BMI/ Obesity scores as children get older
  • Improvement in a Child’s communication skills
  • Improvement in Fine motor skill development
  • Increased problem solving skills
  • Refinement of a Childs social skills

With all these benefits it’s hard to understand why only 30% of the Australian population do tummy time.

So why does tummy time have all these benefits?

The understanding is that when a child is laying on their tummy (what we call prone) it activates all the muscles in the back (spinal extensors). When these muscles are activated it means they are learning to use these and gaining strength. This is important because it will help with your child’s posture as they develop and get older. 

Do you notice those children who slouch a lot? Well, possibly they may not have received the appropriate amount of tummy time. 

The idea that when a child is laying on their tummy also means they need to work to keep their head up, and let’s be honest that’s hard work for a baby hence the tears, but remember it doesn’t have to be for a long time. One to two minutes of tummy time to start is great and then moving to five to ten minutes as your child gets stronger is a great way to progress through tummy time.  When a baby has to lift their head up, it activates all the muscles in the back of the neck and yes, you guessed it, that means they’re likely to have good strength and support in these muscles ensuring they develop good posture as they grow. We know later in life good posture leads to proper function and minimises the risk of symptoms like neck pain, headaches, migraines, low back pain, disc herniations, sciatica etc.

Neurologically when the upper part of the neck is being utilised it sends afferent inputs into the brain, especially the cerebellum. This helps with a babies awareness of their body in space, helping to create better co-ordination.

It’s also likely that tummy time will lead a child to progress easily into rolling, sitting, then crawling because they have established the fundamental strength of their backs.

So, can you see just how important the simple exercises of tummy time is for your child’s development? 

Here’s some creative ways to get your children doing tummy time

  • Lay on the floor with them, get your tummy time in – its not too late if you didn’t receive enough tummy time when you were a child
  • Mirrors – babies love to stare at themselves.
  • Use their favourite toy to help them focus. But make sure you don’t have too many toys as this can be overstimulating for baby.
  • Hold them on their tummy when you’re carrying them around on your forearm/ hands, try swapping it out for cradling them.
  • Lay on your back, knees at 90 deg and rest your child on your shins. This is a workout for mum or dad too!
  • When you’re laying on your back, lay your baby on their tummy, on your tummy. 
  • Rock your baby on an exercise ball, whilst they are on their tummy. 

Can you think of other creative ways to incorporate tummy time into your daily routine? If you do, we’d love to hear it so feel free to email us at

Some things can make it difficult for you to perform tummy time can include:

  1. colicy/ refluxy baby
  2. Irritable or unsettled baby 

The above symptoms can mostly be managed by our Chiropractors so it’s important to have these factors addressed if they are stopping you from performing tummy time. Remember to leave 20-30 minutes between a feed and starting tummy time.

Interested in Children’s Chiropractic? Dr Loukia and Dr Luke have trained extensively in Paediatric Chiropractic and our clinic can be found on The Australian College of Chiropractic Paediatrics Directory

What are some tips to help my baby with tummy time?

  • Supervised tummy time is best when your baby is awake, not too tired and not too soon after a feed (which may cause vomiting or discomfort)
  • In the beginning, your baby may not enjoy tummy time very much and may only tolerate a minute or two. Don’t give up – it will get better with daily practice. If your baby is crying when placed on their tummy, try to distract them with 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
  • You could also try a different position to see if they find this any easier.
  • Your baby will find tummy time easier if they can take their weight through their elbows. You may need to help them with this or support them there. Try to use a play mat that isn’t too silky, soft or slippery and a surface that isn’t too soft or think about placing baby on a slanted board.
  • Newborn babies can move their heads by themselves but not control their position. You may need to help them position their head in the middle

Tummy Time here we come!

Hewitt, L., et al., 2020. Tummy Time and Infant Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics. Vol145. No 6. Doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-2168