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Let’s Talk Tummy Time

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Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post was written by Ashley Shupe, PT, DPT, pediatric physical therapist at Athletico Oak Park.

There’s a lot to keep in mind when bringing a new infant home from the hospital and, in the early stages of development, positioning is of the utmost importance. Having an infant spend supervised time on their stomach is being recommended by both clinicians and pediatricians and is commonly referred to as “tummy time.” Tummy time has been introduced as a priority since the introduction to the Back to Sleep Campaign developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Tummy time was originally avoided in young infants secondary to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), but the importance of awake tummy time has shown to be incredibly beneficial for gross motor and cognitive development.

iStock_000005715163MediumTummy time is recommended very early with supervision. This becomes critical at 3 months when integration of basic reflexes begin and babies begin to develop better head control. This simple position is an important prerequisite to crawling and sitting. When the infant is placed on their stomach they are required to lift their head against gravity. This action builds strength in the extensor muscles of the neck and back. These same muscles will be called upon later in development to help the child maintain an upright posture when sitting. Other key components in this position include weight shift and placing weight through the arms which is required to initiate crawling.


Tummy time is being used at home and in pediatric physical therapy to:

  • Increase head control
  • Facilitate scapular stability
  • Promote core strength
  • Increase weight bearing through the upper extremities
  • Facilitate weight shift
  • Help the child establish midline positioning
  • Establish balance responses
  • Strengthen trunk and cervical extensor musculature
  • Increase upper extremity strength
  • Encourage child to explore their environment visually
  • Allow full cervical range of motion
  • Promote gross motor skills such as sitting and crawling
  • Helps reduce torticollis and plagiocepha


  • Many children resist tummy time
  • At young ages infants are typically carried in supportive carriers or spend long times on their backs
  • Children with more complex medical needs may have respiratory or GI issues leading to decreased tolerance for prone positioning
  • Monitored tummy time can be time consuming

Tips for Success

  • Use a towel roll or bolster under the child’s shoulders to make the position more comfortable
  • Engage the child in play during tummy time to increase time
  • Complete tummy time frequently to increase tolerance for the position
  • Encourage the child to reach for toys in this position to increase weight shift
  • Get on floor with the child to encourage play during tummy time

Supervised tummy time has been shown to be beneficial in helping the child achieve key developmental milestones such as head control and crawling. It helps to strengthen neck musculature and promotes full cervical range of motion. Children can often resist this position; therefore, incorporating tummy time into a daily routine can greatly improve compliance. For more information on tummy time, please contact your pediatrician or pediatric physical therapist. For a list of Athletico facilities offering pediatric physical therapy, click here.

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