Laying your baby on his tummy – information and exercises

Laying your baby on her tummy is important for her physical development. It is an expression of the baby’s physical activity. The neck, shoulder girdle and back muscles work when the baby is lying on its tummy. It also strengthens neck control (head posture) and develops the cervical spine. The American Paediatric Association recommends that babies should be placed on their tummies from the first days of life.

Lying on your tummy strengthens your baby, helping him to develop, develop, improve and reach the next stages of development more smoothly. By lying on his tummy and strengthening different muscle groups, the baby will develop strong forearm support, learn to shift his body weight from one arm to the other, reach for toys in different directions, and then learn to crawl and later crawl. This is why tummy time and tummy lying are so important from the first days of life. The scientific literature shows that lying on your baby’s tummy is positively associated with more active movement and smoother development, lower body mass index (BMI) and is important for preventing plagiocephaly (flattening of the head, “sleepy baby head”). Tummy tucking is included in the World Health Organisation’s recommendations for health promotion and physical activity for children, as well as in health promotion programmes in European countries, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The duration of the baby’s position on the tummy should start with a couple of seconds and gradually increase. The American Paediatric Association recommends that a three-month-old should get up to 60 minutes of total tummy time per day (but no less than 15-20 minutes per day). This includes carrying (with the baby lying on her tummy), lying on different surfaces and rolling on a ball while lying on her tummy (rolling belly down).

Some babies are born stronger and try to lift their heads from the first days, while others are born a little weaker, so lying on their tummies causes them negative emotions. These babies have difficulty lying on their tummies and lifting their heads. So it’s important to know how you can make it easier to get your baby used to lying on his tummy. There are two main ways in which you should lay your baby on his tummy:

  1. When the baby is lying on its back, you need to put your arm and leg around the baby and turn it over on its tummy like a log (with rotation from the third month onwards, as the vertebrae are soft and rotation can put too much pressure on the vertebrae);
  2. Place the baby on a flat surface when lifted and held belly down.

To make it easier to carry your baby on your tummy, it is useful to know a few tummy-down carry positions:

  • when the baby’s arms are stretched forward (this is where the baby’s neck, shoulder girdle and back work),

lying the baby down

  • when only the baby’s tummy is held (only the baby’s neck and back are involved).

lying the baby down

When carrying your baby, it is important to change both carrying positions and hand positions to activate both sides of the body and avoid the dominance of one side.


It is also useful to know that in the first few months of life, lying on your tummy, lying on the development table in front of a mirror surface and lying on your lap are all useful for getting your baby used to lying on her tummy. Also, it is important that in the first few months the baby sees black and white best, so it is useful to include black and white pictures or toys in tummy time.

lying the baby down

From the second or third month onwards, we can already exercise your baby using a gymnastics ball as an aid. Swinging on a ball reminds the baby of being in its mother’s tummy. It is an unstable surface, so more muscles are involved during exercise. The baby is effectively strengthened. Recommended exercises for this period of life:

  • We put the baby on the ball with her tummy and hold her arms with our hands while we press her elbows into the ball. We support the baby’s seat with our chest or belly. Keeping the toddler like this, roll the ball back and forth.

lying the baby down

  • Hold the baby as in the previous exercise. Roll the ball left and right.

lying the baby down lying the baby down

  • With the baby lying on the ball, we put our arms around the baby’s elbows and roll the ball forward, slightly lifting the baby’s upper body.


In the third month, a baby lying on its tummy should already be supported by strong forearms and should keep its elbows in line with its shoulders instead of close to its body. The head should be held up for at least one minute. The head should be held at a right angle (90°). If your baby has these elements, he or she will enjoy tummy time and will go smoothly. Your baby will prefer to lie on his tummy rather than on his back. The third month of a baby’s life is particularly important for its further development.


Lect. physiotherapist Vaiva Selevičienė

The text is based on the following sources:

  1. Global professional organisations:;;
  2. Hewitt, L., Kerr, E., Stanley, R. M., & Okely, A. D. (2020). Tummy time and infant health outcomes: a systematic review. Pediatrics, 145(6).
  3. Williams, E., & Galea, M. (2023). Another look at “tummy time” for primary plagiocephaly prevention and motor development. Infant Behavior and Development, 71, 101839.
  4. Okely, A. D., Ghersi, D., Hesketh, K. D., Santos, R., Loughran, S. P., Cliff, D. P., … & Tremblay, M. S. (2017). A collaborative approach to adopting/adapting guidelines-The Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the early years (Birth to 5 years): an integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. BMC public health, 17(5), 167-190.
  5. Budrienė, L., Strukčinskaitė, V.. (2020). Motor development and motor skills training in infants. Vilnius: Vilnius University Press.