Helping newborns get used to tummy time, to give them regular practice to get stronger and gain more control over their bodies.

Sometimes newborns don’t like being on their tummies, maybe because they’re not used to that position. But short periods of tummy time gives them regular practice to get stronger and gain more control over their body. It is also a change from always being on their backs.

If pēpi is introduced to some tummy time early, they may begin to enjoy it as the months go by.

Head flattening

Ask whānau:

  • What do you know about head flattening?

Positional ‘head flattening’ can result when a baby spends too much time lying on the same part of their head, such as on their back. Having a little regular tummy time can help avoid this.

Parents can also help by turning baby’s head to a different side each time they lay them down for a sleep.

  • Have you tried putting pēpi on their tummy?
  • What have you noticed?
  • Have you tried ‘tummy-to-tummy’, with pēpi laying on their parent's tummy?

Tummy-to-tummy time

Tummy-to-tummy can be a more enjoyable way for baby to experience time on their tummy. They get to see their parent's face when they look up, feel the warmth of their parent’s body under them, and hear their voices.

This can be much more reassuring for a newborn.

Try an activity

Tummy time

Spending brief amounts of time on their tummy will strengthen baby’s neck and shoulders and upper body.

Tips for tummy time

  • Are you happy for baby to have tummy time on the floor?
  • Where would it be safest for baby?

Here are some ideas for tummy time on the floor that you can share with whānau.

  • Rolling them onto their tummy from their back can feel more natural. Gently raise one of their arms above their head, while slowly moving the opposite leg across their body so they naturally turn onto their tummy. Their other arm might need a little help to move from underneath them.
  • Put a small rolled towel under their chest and underarms to help raise their head.
  • Don’t leave them there on their own – it’s a new experience, which they might find upsetting.
  • Carry them lying over a forearm and held securely against the parent’s body, with their head supported by a hand under their jaw line.
  • Lay them over a parent's lap while the parent sits comfortably in a chair or on the floor.

Short and sweet

A newborn may only tolerate tummy time for a couple of minutes, and that’s okay.

Parents can encourage them by being close, and talking and playing with them.

If baby’s obviously had enough and is getting distressed, it’s better to pick them up, have a cuddle and try again later.

Helpful resources for whānau