Newborn: Beginning Tummy Time


“My daughter, Malia, is 5 days old.  Is it too early to start tummy time with her?  She doesn’t seem to like it.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting babies on their backs to sleep and their tummies to play.   However, it’s not always the easiest thing to put your newborn in the prone (or tummy time) position in the first few days and weeks.  It seems they either sleep or fuss when placed in that position!  The hips are high in the air, elbows are off the ground and the weight is on the face.  It does not look so comfortable and it can be a bit of a tricky start!

A good thing to keep in mind in the first 10 days or so is that due to physiologic flexion, the hips have around 35 degrees of flexion.  While on their tummy, the baby is able to lift and turn the head from side to side with some effort.  This movement actually begins to mobilize the cervical spine, readying it for more experienced head lifting and head turning.  The process is gradual and starting with many short sessions of tummy time often works well.  Baby can also lay on your chest facing you, to provide a little closeness and motivation.


Author: spritelypt

Pediatric physical therapist

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