The Importance of Tummy Time

by Nancy Maruyama, R.N.

Since 1994, the "Back to Sleep" national campaign to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome has dramatically decreased the number of infant deaths from SIDS. In Illinois alone, the infant mortality rate has dropped 68% since 1993!

In keeping with this important downward trend, we are recommending "Back to Sleep -- Tummy to Play" as a way to reduce the incidence of positional head molding, acquired torticollis or "wry neck" and poor upper body strength. The following are a list of guidelines that promote the "Back to Sleep -- Tummy to Play" effort.

Tummy Time, Tummy Time, Tummy Time

baby practicing the superman move during tummy timeTummy time is very important for any baby. While many babies don't like this position at first, you can encourage your baby by joining him or her on the floor, for playtime. Remember, babies only need to be on their back when sleeping! When awake, we need to hold them and play with them and love them.

  • Give your baby supervised tummy time -- even during the newborn period.
  • "Tummy Time" can include short intervals several times throughout your baby's waking time.
  • Strive to make this a fun time by providing toys or even better, your presence as a distraction. get down on the floor and play with the baby!"
  • Infants often tolerate tummy time more easily in a slightly upright, slanted position.
  • Honor your baby's cries, but continue to provide tummy time. If the baby is really upset, try for short periods, several times a day.
  • Babies that are not yet rolling over can be supported in the tummy position by a towel roll placed under the baby's arms. Make sure to remove the towel and put baby on his/her back if/when they fall asleep.
  • When the baby is sleeping, frequently alternate the position of the baby's head; one time facing right and the next time facing left.
  • Restrict the use of the infant carrier and car seat. Babies need to be held securely in your arms to help strengthen their upper body muscles. Remember to support the head as long as needed.
  • Follow these simple guidelines for a healthier baby and enjoy the loving interaction you share.

Adapted from a handout of Nancy Maruyama, R.N., SIDS of Illinois, Inc.

Copyright © Nancy Maruyama. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.