Help! My Baby Hates Tummy Time

Baby cries when she's on her belly? Relax: It's completely normal. Follow these tips and tactics for encouraging tummy time. 

crying baby hates tummy time
Photo: pinkpig0416/Pixabay

Tummy time is important for building your baby's neck and upper-body strength, but not every infant loves spending time belly-side down. "None of my four babies liked tummy time," says parenting psychologist Heather Wittenberg, author of Let's Get This Potty Started! The BabyShrink's Guide To Potty Training Your Toddler. "I tried to make it interesting and fun, and to try it when they were well-rested, fed, and happy. But they just weren't into it."

The good news is, if your baby is old enough to sit on his own, he'll probably start trying to crawl soon and will flex his muscles that way. Be careful if your little one prefers standing in a walker over attempting to crawl, though, warns Wittenberg: "They have been found to be dangerous, and they don't help babies walk any sooner. Try a stationary activity center instead."

If your baby is younger and you're concerned about her not reaching the physical milestones linked with tummy time—such as the 4-month-old "push up"—there are things you can do to make tummy time more comfortable. "Try rolling up a towel into the shape of a pool noodle and putting it below your baby's armpits to support the chest, which can help encourage him to start using his upper body to push up," suggests Carrie M. Brown, M.D., a pediatrician with Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. "Do this for a few minutes several times a day—keep your child on his stomach and lie next to him while providing entertainment with facial expressions or toys."

Build up to longer sessions of tummy time each day, and don't pick your baby up during these periods unless she becomes visibly frusterated or upset. If your efforts to encourage tummy time don't improve things in a week or so, consider contacting your pediatrician.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more time your baby spends on his tummy, the stronger he'll be—and the more he'll (hopefully) like it. Beyond placing a boppy pillow or rolled up towel under your baby's chest, try getting down on your belly too; make funny faces, sing songs, and play with your baby's favorite toys. Sometimes, spending tummy time on a bed (as long as it's closely supervised) can be more comfortable than on the floor.

If your baby cries or gets upset during tummy time, try not to automatically pick him up. Instead, comfort him in other ways first, like rubbing his back or singing soothing songs. Aim for about 30 minutes a day total, but you can break these up over the course of the day if your baby's really resistant. There's no need for him to be miserable.

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