Category Archives: TUMMY TIME

tips for tummy time


baby with head and neck supported


One of the most commonly-needed supports for baby is that of the head and neck.  This is often easy to do when holding the baby in one’s arms but challenging to do when picking baby up or putting her down.  It is the transition from picking her up off of the floor and putting her back down again that brings moments when her head lacks the necessary support.  Parents should learn how to hold and transition baby from one place to another while keeping her head and neck supported.


In the above photos, Donna demonstrates head support with Zizu (about 5 mos. old).  The hand can be placed in back of the head so it is cradling the head while the wrist of the same arm crosses in back of the neck and upper back.  This prevents the head from tipping backward beyond the position of extension.  Extension of the neck is the position of the head when we sit up straight and look forward.  Hyperextension is when we sit up straight and look up toward the sky. The latter should be avoided with baby.  To complete our anatomy lesson we should also mention that flexion of the neck  is the action of looking down toward the floor from a sitting position.  When baby is lying on her back in your arms or on the floor, extension exists when her spine and head make a straight line that is parallel to the floor.  Hyperextension, which we want to avoid, exists when the head tips backward from the point of extension.  This causes great strain on the developing muscles and ligaments of the neck.


The great range of motion that is possible with the head and neck exists because we need that mobility to look around us.  The somatics pioneer Dr. Moshe Feldenkais referred to the head as the “perioscope of the senses.”  You can imagine a submarine with the perioscope moving around to observe what is happening, to determine which way to go, and to steer clear of potential danger.  That is what we are basically doing with our head and senses as we move.  Thus, we need greater mobility in the neck region of the spine than we do the lower portions such as the middle of the back.  The mid-back had less range of motion because it is part of the ribcage which protects vulnerable organs like the heart.  The need here is for stability and protection.


Babies develop strong neck muscles through motor skill development.  Tummy-time is one of the most important activities for developing this strength.  Tummy-time for babies teaches the gross motor skill of lifting the head.  By putting baby on her stomach two or three times a day while supervised, she will learn to lift her head very high.  At first, begin with only a few minutes on the tummy and gradually increase the time as her strength and comfort improves.  This activity develops the strength in her neck and back muscles so she can eventually hold her head up on her own.  Remember that it takes  time, maybe 2 or 3 months, to develop this strength.  Continue to support baby’s head until she can hold her head up on her own for a long time while on her tummy.


See Nigel Run? U.K. Push to Trim Baby Fat,” Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2011.

“Babies should spend less time watching TV and swim more, according to new health guidelines issued by the British government,” reports the Wall Street Journal regarding recent U.K. Department of Health recommendations.   For the first time, the agency issued exercise recommendations for children under 5 as part of their campaign to prevent and reduce obesity.  Almost 1 out of every 4 adults in the U.K. is obese. In the U.S., 17% of children and adolescents are affected by obesity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The baby play activities identified by the U.K. agency as “sedentary” and “to be reduced” include spending time in baby bouncers, strollers and car seats, and watching TV.   Recommendations encouraged for infants include swimming with parents and playing on baby gym mats.  Time on a mat encourages rolling, crawling, and many motor skills which exercise baby’s muscles.

This is the first time the U.K. has issued guidelines toward the under 5 population.  To date, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not issued any recommendations for infants and children under the age of 5.  Last month The Institute of Medicine, which advises the U.S. government on health issues, released recommendations for infants and toddlers as part of an obesity prevention campaign.  The report recommended adults give infants under 6 months of age daily tummy time exercise.  In our previous articles on “tummy time,” we discussed how the exercises during tummy time strengthen many muscles such as the neck, back, and arms.  Tummy time is indeed vigorous baby exercise!  Both tummy time and swim time for babies provide great exercise and help prevent obesity.



Madison Masters MULTIPLE Milestones!

baby tummy-time

A few months ago we watched Madison learn to lift her head.  Her mother practiced with her for about 10 minutes a day. Gradually her strength increased to where she could hold her head up for long periods of time.  Madison first learned tummy time and then she gradually strengthened her neck and back muscles through daily practice of short intervals, no more than 10 minutes twice a day, of lifting her head.  Eventually she could spend many more minutes in tummy time.  After a few weeks of skill development with “lifting the head,” she began to learn the next motor milestone of rolling. During one of her Stellar Caterpillar lessons, she learned to turn from her back to her belly and from her belly to her back.  After practicing that at home for several days, she began rolling through the house!


What follows the developmental milestones of lifting the head and rolling?  Belly crawling!  Madison demonstrates the preparation for belly crawling by bending her left knee and leg so she can push off of the floor and scoot forward. This is the skill we focused on during today’s Stellar Caterpillar lesson.  How does Madison need to move her body to prepare for belly crawling?  She needs to lift up one side of the pelvis so the leg on that side becomes lighter in weight and the hip joint is free to bend. This drags up the leg and bends the knee.  In the photo above, Madison lifted the left side of her pelvis to bend the left hip joint and drag up the left leg.


Most of the skills Madison has learned were built from the tummy time position.  This is where she learned lifting the head.  She developed strong neck and back muscles as well as upper body strength.  When reaching for and grasping toys in this position, she strengthens her upper body because she supports her weight with only one arm while the other one is busy playing with the toy.  She learned to move her legs and pelvis in order to roll.  When a baby masters tummy time, she prepares to conquer more milestones and become a true stellar caterpillar!



baby learns flexibity in hip joints

Zizu demonstrates how tummy time opens the hip joints.  Zizu learned to enjoy tummy time during her first stellar caterpillar lesson, so it was easy to work with her in this belly-down position.  While she was enjoying holding a rattle, we put our fingers underneath her knee joint and then lifted the knee joint and thigh up toward the ceiling just a little bit.  The elongates the muscles in the front of the hip joints.  Remember our discussion of baby’s in utero position which keeps the hips in a flexed position? This position shortens the muscles of the hip joint.  We lift the thigh a little bit and then bring it back down, a few times.  After the muscles of the hip joint elongate, the bones can move in greater and more efficient range of motion.  This is important for the locomotive skills of crawling, walking, and standing. You can see in the photo that she is quite content to remain in the tummy time position for a while as we work with her.



The term “tummy time” is searched over 27,ooo times a month on in the USA, at present.  This reveals a high-level of concern by parents regarding how they can help their baby learn to be content while lying on the floor on her stomach, the official “tummy time” position.  The importance of this position for motor skill development has been emphasized by pediatricians, yet many babies cry and resist this position.  What shall we do?

Stellar Caterpillar blog explains to parents why some babies may not be happy in tummy time and teaches techniques for guiding baby into more comfort and enjoyment.  Stellar Caterpillar “Tummy Time Tips” are short and simple activities with step-by-step instructions for mommy or daddy to playfully try with baby at home.


  1. More physical comfort
  2. Less fear of this new position
  3. Enjoyment or curiosity with this new perspective

Our goal is for all babies to enjoy tummy time while learning their motor skills!


introduction to tummy time

Madison Demonstrates at 6 weeks

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If you have ever watched a football game, you can recall the running back running down the field while holding the football. Holding the football with both hands and forearms, he prevents the ball from dropping or being stolen.  The football is more secure in his possession if much of his arms are in contact with and it is held close to his body.  Thus, we have the name of this technique for carrying baby:  “the football carry.”  This position keeps baby secure as she is supported by most of your lower arm bone, offers her a new perspective on the world, and gives her an introduction to tummy time.


The important details for this position are:

1.  Support baby from head to tail (pelvis). Notice the palm of the hand under her pelvis.  The palm of the hand offers more support than the fingertips, so it is important to support the pelvis, one of the heaviest parts of the body, with the center of your palm.  Her head is resting on your arm near the elbow.  She will lift it from time to time, but your arm is there for her when when needs a rest.  Like the football, the length of baby is in contact with the forearm.  Her tummy receives the pressure of contact with your arm, replicating the sensation of laying on the floor on her tummy.

2.  Tap her back and talk to her. Your touch and the sound of your voice give her a sense of security in this new position.  Be aware that baby is in a brand new orientation to her world.  Prior to this position, she has spent most of her time on her back looking up at the ceiling or at your face as you lean over her.  Because this is brand new, she may be a bit insecure.  Providing her with security, she enjoys the novelty of this relationship to her environment.

3.  Use your body as a back wall of support.  As you put baby in this position, gently and slowly, lean her against your body to keep her secure and allow you greater ease in transitioning her to her tummy.  As you carry her, her side can be up against your body while you both learn this new position.

4.  Change directions.  Sometimes hold her with her head close to your right elbow, and other times with her head close to your left elbow.  This keeps her muscles balanced since she will sometimes have her head turned to the right and other times to the left.

Babies enjoy this position because it gives them so many new things to observe!  Parents appreciate this position because baby feels secure and more easily adapts to tummy time.  The football carry is a winner!