Tummy Time Milestones All New Parents Should Know
This article is meant to provide helpful insights for all new parents, whether this is your first or tenth child! The developmental milestones described below should be used as a point of reference for parents, but please note that every child develops differently. It’s okay if your baby achieves a Tummy Time Milestones at their own pace. Some children can even be 1-2 months ahead or behind the age listed here. The important thing to do is look at the progression of skills listed and mention any developmental concerns with your child’s doctor. If your child has a medical condition or was born prematurely they may develop slower. If your child does not appear to be reaching these milestones it’s important to talk to a professional.
When working on tummy time it is important to always supervise your child closely. Babies should always be placed on their back for sleep and their tummy for play. If your child falls asleep during tummy time it is important to roll them over to their back while sleeping.
Most new parents are given instructions for how to position their baby while sleeping but few are given information on how to position their baby during the day. Some pediatricians mention “tummy time” but they rarely explain what tummy time is. As a general rule tummy time should be something your baby enjoys, if not you may want to contact a specialist to get tips on helping position them in a way that provides opportunities to practice these skills in a way that is comfortable for the child.
If possible start tummy time activities as soon as possible to help baby learn to enjoy this position early on. Most full-term babies tolerate this position well, and it helps them stretch from being curled up while in the womb.
First 2 weeks: Newborn Tummy Time
What it looks like: Baby is in the fetal position with his cheek to the ground and arms and legs tucked into his body with his bootie is in the air.
Head: Baby can lift and turn his head briefly with great effort
Movement: Baby may make motions with his feet as if crawling or pushing
1-2 Month Old Tummy Time
What it looks like: Baby’s arms move away from her body and her legs begin to straighten so her belly touches the surface of the floor. By the 2nd month, her hands press down into the ground.
Head: Baby is comfortable with either cheek down. She can briefly lift her head 45 degrees and can turn her head to press her opposite cheek to the ground.
Movement: Baby can push up from the ground slightly so her shoulders and the top of her chest are raised.
3 Month Old Tummy Time
What it looks like: Baby’s elbows are under or in front of his shoulders. He can lift his shoulders and chest off of the ground
Head: Baby can hold his head steady 45-90 degrees and looks side to side without bobbing
Movement: Baby may unintentionally roll from his belly to his side if he turns his head too far.
4 Month Old Tummy Time
What it looks like: Baby can lift her upper chest by pressing through her forearms.
Head: Baby can hold her head steady at 90 degrees
Movement: Baby can look down while her chest is lifted. She may lift her arms and legs off the floor as if flying or swimming.
5 Month Old Tummy Time
What it looks like: Baby presses through straight arms to lift his chest up
Movement: Baby is often active in Tummy Time and may start reaching for objects or intentionally rolling from his belly to his side.
6-7 Month Old Tummy Time
What it looks like: Baby presses hands into the floor and assumes a push-up position with her belly raised.
Movements: Baby can reach with her arms and pivot her arms in a semi-circle. She begins to push backward on her belly using her arms.
7 Months Old and Up– Should I Continue Tummy Time?
Eventually your baby will become so skilled in Tummy Time that he’ll “graduate” from this position. At this point, it becomes a transitional position that he’ll use only briefly while assuming more complicated positions (e.g. hands and knees, pushing up to sit, and rolling).
While at this point children are often not staying in the tummy time position, it is sometimes advised to continue giving Tummy Time to help your child with skills that they will need in the future. Continued Tummy Time has a lot of benefits which can include:
- Help strengthen back and neck muscles
- Increasing strength in the shoulder complex for bearing weight through arms and hands
- Help baby get ready for the next developmental milestone of crawling.
- Prevents development of a flat spot on the head due to restricted movement during floor time play
If your child is not reaching a few of these developmental milestones it may be completely normal, but if you notice that most of these milestones are being missed, your baby is developing a flat spot (Torticollis) on the head or if your baby appears uncomfortable during tummy times, it might be important to talk with your doctor or a specialist. While many doctors recommend the use of tummy time they don’t always know some of the tips and tricks to help a baby enjoy tummy time. Specialists such as an occupational therapist are skilled at engaging baby in tummy time, so if you continue to have questions or concerns make sure to ask about an occupational therapy consultation.