What If My Baby Hates Tummy Time? – 8 Solutions & Positions To Try

Why do babies hate tummy time? If you have been wondering this lately, you have come to the right place.

You’ve probably heard that tummy time is crucial for baby’s healthy development. These “exercises” when your awake baby lays on their stomach for brief periods, helps to develop neck control while strengthening the back muscles.

I get that you’re concerned because your baby hates tummy time and you may be thinking if it’s going to have negative impact on their development. In this article I’m sharing the best solutions and quick tricks to help your baby enjoy tummy time!

What If My Baby Hates Tummy Time

Although babies spend a LOT of time sleeping on their backs initially, tummy time practice is very important for their development which augments in future milestones like rolling, sitting up, etc while also preventing flat head syndrome.

Experts recommend you start tummy time sessions as soon as you bring your healthy newborn home1, initially starting with two to three sessions of one to three minutes that you can gradually increase with time.

Have you been wondering if you are doing something wrong that the baby won’t stop crying whenever you put them on the playing mat to practice tummy time? Some babies still dislike tummy time despite the parents using various techniques. It can be quite frustrating, especially for first-time parents.

Let me tell you, we have all been there. Here I bring some tips on how to make tummy time fun for your baby and you.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

Signs That Baby Doesn’t Like Tummy Time

You can identify signs that your baby dislikes tummy time if you can differentiate between general fussiness and tummy time distress. The best way to figure this out is to keep an eye on your baby’s cues. Once you get the hang of it, you will know for sure what is troubling your little one.

If your baby cries whenever you lay the baby belly down, but goes back to their angelic self when you scoop them in your arms, it shows that your baby hates tummy time.

You might notice that tummy time goes poorly when the baby is sleepy or upset. That’s why I suggest to select a time when they are in their happy zone.

If your baby is colicky or has reflux, tummy time can be quite challenging. Throw-ups and belly aches can make babies associate tummy time with discomfort. But do not worry, some other options (mentioned below) can make tummy time easier.

Is It Normal For Babies Not To Like Tummy Time

Is It Normal For Babies Not To Like Tummy Time?

It is absolutely normal when babies dislike tummy time. Since they are not used to being on their tummies, it can take them a while to warm up to the concept of tummy time.

Remember, you have to convince your little one that tummy time is fun until it becomes second nature to them.

You can start slowly with mini-sessions ranging from one to two minutes initially, and repeat three to five times a day. Gradually, you can increase the time up to 20-30 minutes2 as your baby gets older and has stronger muscles.

Why Does My Baby Hate Tummy Time?

The reason why babies dislike tummy time is that they have to work against gravity to lift their heads and it can be quite a workout for them.

Second reason: they are not accustomed to it yet. Just think how you feel whenever you have to face unfamiliar situations in life?It is the same with babies.

But can you blame them though? With little power to move their head and look around, it can be quite frustrating, especially when they are too little to understand the reason why they are stuck face-down on their tummies.

Another reason can be symptomatic reflux which can cause pain and that can be counterintuitive for tummy time, leaving both baby and parent frustrated. If your baby has colic or reflux, tummy time can be quite intimidating.

If you put your baby on their belly soon after feeding, it will result in spit-up which might leave your baby irritable. It is recommended that you initiate tummy time at least an hour after the baby ate, so the pressure on their belly does not upset them.

At the begining tummy time is a huge challenge for a baby who lacks neck strength and head control
At the beginning tummy time is a huge challenge for a baby who lacks neck strength and head control

What To Do If My Baby Hates Tummy Time?

Here are a few tips and tricks to help your baby enjoy tummy time. Some even include participating actively, so you can make tummy time fun for baby and you:

1. Burp, Burp, Burp All The Way

It is recommended that you burp your baby at least 15 minutes before you initiate tummy time.

With zero to little control over their esophageal sphincter in the initial months, babies are prone to spitting up. When you burp your baby regularly after they eat, the chances of spit-up decline greatly.

This is important because of the pressure on their stomach when you lay them on their belly.

It is advisable to space tummy time by an hour after eating.

2. Plan A Routine

Always try to plan the tummy time session when your baby is fed, slept well through the nap, and generally in a happy mood3.

You’ll notice tummy time goes more smoothly after your baby’s rest.

A cranky baby hates tummy time and all that struggle can be avoided if you schedule carefully.

3. Go Slow

Maybe your baby hates tummy time because it is a lot for them right now. You do not need to get it all in one go.

Break it into intervals, starting with as little as a few minutes4 repeated 3-5 times a day. As the baby grows, you can gradually build up to longer sessions.

4. Keep Them Company

Encourage tummy time by participating in the session. Lay opposite your baby at their eye level facing them and keep them engaged with your voice or sing a song.

Baby will be attracted to see their loving mama, so it will be a win-win situation. Whenever they try to lift their head, appreciate them wholeheartedly.

What To Do If My Baby Hates Tummy Time

5. Prop Them Up

Usually, a baby hates tummy time because they do not have the upper body strength to lift their head.

You can prop them up on a rolled towel or a soft blanket (or a Boppy pillow) that goes under their chest and arms5. This extra support will help direct some of the weight toward the bottom, enabling the baby’s neck to lift their head.

6. Distract With Visual Stimulation

Engage baby in tummy time with toys, visual books, pictures of familiar people, or even mirrors (as babies love to look at themselves) displayed in front of them.

This can help distract them and spend more time on their belly, especially if you switch up the toys when they seem done with the previous ones.

If you have been eyeing that water mat, now is a great time to get it for your little one.

It may be also a good idea to get a crawling mat with patterns that will attract baby’s attention – and remember to choose a non-toxic play mat (I’m sure you don’t want your baby to inhale any chemicals or lick that nasty PVC or EVA foam!)

What Happens If Baby Doesn't Do Tummy Time
Use toys to entertain your baby during the tummy time. Choose something that’s not too flashy to avoid overstimulation (source: lovevery.com)

7. Choose Different Positions

Many babies hate tummy time because they find the floor playmat uncomfortable. Prop them up with a small towel under their chest, or even better, change to a different position6.

  • You can place your baby belly-down on your chest while you lay at a slight incline.
  • You can try laying the baby on your forearm while you support their chest and head with your hand.
  • Another comfortable position to try is laying them on their belly in your lap, and you can raise one leg slightly to create an incline.
  • You can use your yoga ball to engage the baby in tummy time. Make sure to hold them at all times.

8. Incorporate Tummy Time In Daily Routine Activities

By including it in your daily activities, you will encourage your baby to spend time on their belly without fussing over it.

You can roll them in and out of tummy time after a diaper change, or promote it by massaging their back. Time spent on their stomach during routine activities benefits their development.

Positions To Try If Baby Hates Tummy Times

If your baby cries during tummy time on the floor or playmat, you can place them in any of the following positions4 to assist them in lifting their head while strengthening the neck.

Prop Up With A Towel Roll Or Pillow

You can place a towel roll or a Boppy pillow under their chest and shoulders, going under their arms. Even better if you display toys or other attractions in front of them while they are propped up.

Propping baby up with Poppy Pillow to make tummy time more enjoyable
Propping baby up with Poppy Pillow to make tummy time more enjoyable (source: boppy.com)

Chest-To-Chest Tummy Time

Lay on your back in a slightly inclined position and place your baby belly down on your chest facing you. In an effort to make eye contact as you talk to them, the baby will lift their head and this strengthens their neck and shoulders.

Tummy Time On Your Lap

Lay the baby belly down on your legs while slightly raising one leg to create an incline. You can gently rub their back and rock your legs slowly to make this fun for them.

Positions To Try If Baby Hates Tummy Times
Tummy time on your legs is another position to try if you little one doesn’t like lying down on their belly on a playmat (source: sproutandthrive.com)

On The Side

One of the recommended positions by a pediatrician7 – you can lay the baby on their side with support. Remember to switch to the opposite side every few minutes.

Yoga/Exercise Ball

If you have a yoga ball lying around, you can sit in front of it and while you hold your baby belly-down throughout the session, you can gently move the ball to and fro. This can have a calming effect on the baby.

The Football Hold

You lay your baby belly-down on your forearm while supporting their chest with your hand and their legs near your elbow. Initially, you can keep your hand slightly raised while keeping the arm close to your body to support them, and you can move around the house with your tiny super-baby, as they try to lift their head.

Football hold for babies who hate tummy time
Football hold is one of the best positions to try for babies who hate tummy time. It’s also helpful for soothing colicky baby (source: sproutandthrive.com)

Is It OK To Let Baby Cry During Tummy Time?

As hard as it seems, it is okay to let newborns cry during tummy time because of its importance in their development.

With some patience, you can soothe them by rubbing their backs or talking/singing to them. Help them get accustomed and avoid picking them up instantly when they cry, unless visibly upset.

Why Is Tummy Time So Important

Here are the benefits when newborns spend time on their bellies:

  • They gain neck strength as well as upper body strength.
  • Their back muscles and shoulder muscles grow stronger.
  • It helps avoid flattening of the head known as positional plagiocephaly.
  • They develop motor skills while achieving milestones relevant to their age.
  • It alleviates gas pain.

Once they start crawling, tummy time is no longer necessary.

What Happens If Baby Doesn’t Do Tummy Time

  • Delayed milestones – baby won’t achieve their milestones timely as other babies of their age do.
  • They take longer to develop motor skills.
  • Baby’s head flattens – they might develop flat spots on the back of the head, also known as positional plagiocephaly8.
  • In some cases, torticollis (tightening of one side of neck muscles)9 can occur.

Tummy time alternatives

Tummy Time Alternatives

If your baby still hates tummy time, you can opt for these alternatives.

  • Chest-to-chest belly time
  • Yoga ball
  • Prop up with a towel or blanket roll
  • Tummy time in the lap
  • Football hold

Remember to watch over and support the baby throughout the whole session. I hope these tips will make tummy time more enjoyable for your little one.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.











About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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