I will keep this article focused only on the tummy time positions.
If you are missing the basics about tummy time (or think you could use more information), please read the Tummy Time FAQs.
Additionally, by reading the articles from the Tummy Time dedicated section, your knowledge on this critical matter will quickly get on track.
As a new parent, it’s essential to promote your baby’s overall development through various activities, one of the most crucial being tummy time.
There are 4 primary tummy time positions.
Although you will find various articles and Youtube videos advertising more, all of them are variations of the four.
That’s what you need to know!
Beginning tummy time when your baby is a newborn is crucial for their physical growth and motor skill development.
Therefore, knowing what tummy time positions you can use is crucial.
While your baby might not enjoy tummy time initially, incorporating various positions and offering support can help make the experience more enjoyable and beneficial.
I hope you are now at the point where you ask yourself: “So, what are proper tummy time positions?“
Because they are right below!
Tummy Time Positions
There is no right or wrong approach to what tummy time positions to use.
However, there is a sequence that will make sense.
For example, it’s improbable for your baby to enjoy being on a hard surface from day one or enjoy a tummy time pillow.
On the other hand, your baby will enjoy lying on your tummy and bonding with you.
Know the tummy time positions!
Try them and see what fits your baby!
Get creative and enjoy this period!
Always stay safe during tummy time!
1. Tummy-To-Tummy (Tummy-To-Chest)
Likely to be the first tummy time position you’ll engage with your baby.
Because it comes naturally to put your baby on your tummy and have a good time together.
Tummy-to-tummy provides the most intimate tummy time experience.
This position helps your baby get used to tummy time while allowing for bonding.
How To Do Tummy-To-Tummy
Lie on a firm surface (floor, bed, or tummy time mat), flat or propped on pillows.
Place your baby on your chest or tummy with their head turned to one side or facing you.
Alternate between side-facing (left and right) and face-to-face to “work” all muscles.
If your baby favors at the very beginning a particular position, don’t force it.
Remember not to neglect others, though.
The goal is to engage your baby to move and lift their head (even for 1 second in the beginning).
Make sure to support your baby’s head and neck with your hand and keep a close eye on them at all times.
You will be doing this all the time until your baby is in control of their head.
Additionally, hold your baby firmly during this activity.
Make sure there are no obstructions or hazards nearby (like the risk of you falling from the surface you are positioned).
Remember: Any accident during tummy time, on top of potential medical issues, will create a deep-seated aversion toward this activity.
I’ve covered this topic in detail in our article about how to avoid getting to the point where your Baby Hates Tummy Time.
A variation of the tummy-to-tummy position is the popular kangaroo care position.
Additionally, this position involves skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), kangaroo care has been shown to have numerous benefits for premature babies, including improved growth and development.
It also leads to increased bonding between the caregiver and the baby, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Download for free WHO’s practical guide to Kangaroo Care.
As your baby gets used to tummy to chest, you will, naturally, want to increase the difficulty.
This position allows for increasing and decreasing the difficulty without additional effort.
Adjust your recline position by removing or adding support behind your back.
Gravity will do the rest.
When your back is horizontal on the surface, the effort for your baby is at its peak, especially when they want to lift their head.
As you lift your back toward a sitting position, the effort for your baby diminishes.
You are a living gym!
2. Tummy Down Carry (Football Hold)
This tummy time position is also an option when starting tummy time.
Although not all babies enjoy hanging from day one.
Give it a try and see how it goes.
It’s an alternative to tummy-to-tummy to create diversity and a solid option after your baby gets used to tummy time.
How To Do Tummy Down Carry
Hold your baby against your tummy, facing down, with their legs straddling one of your arms.
Support their head and neck with your other arm, ensuring their chin is off your arm.
Slowly move around the room in this position, ideally singing a song.
Gently rocking or bouncing will help in soothing and comforting your baby.
On top of the ones mentioned above, make sure your baby’s body is in a straight line from head to toe.
As your baby gets accustomed to tummy time, you can turn your baby into an airplane or Superman.
These are variations of the tummy down carry using the same concept.
The main difference is breaking contact between your baby and your tummy (or chest), inducing the flying feeling.
Check out below how to perform the airplane position from a tummy time expert:
One way to increase the difficulty is the airplane position.
As your baby loses contact and support from your tummy, their arms and leg muscles will be under additional pressure as they will try to regain balance.
By moving your arms up and down (changing the degree of inclination), you will increase, with the help of gravity, the difficulty level.
Encourage your baby to lift their head while in the football grab for additional effort.
3. Lap Soothe
Lap soothe is one of the tummy time positions allowing for physical contact and comfort.
This position is ideal for burping your baby after feeding.
This position simulates the last stage of tummy time – the tummy time on the floor.
How To Do Lap Soothe
Sit down on a comfortable surface, such as a couch or armchair.
Place your baby face-down across your lap, with their arms and legs hanging over.
One of your hands will support the head (and hands), and the other will rub the baby’s back.
This position provides gentle pressure on your baby’s tummy, which helps with burping and soothing them.
The above measures apply to this tummy time position.
Additionally, make sure your clothing and position don’t facilitate sliding.
If you use a blanket in your lap, pay attention to choking hazards.
To create a variation of this position, you can bring in front of your baby various tummy time toys, like a tummy time mirror.
I already created a Top 25 Tummy Time Toys for you as a starting point.
Another option is to place a small pillow or rolled-up towel under the baby’s chest to provide additional support and elevation.
To increase the difficulty, encourage your baby to lift his head.
The effort will be substantial when your baby lies flat on your lap.
4. Eye-Level Smile (Classic Tummy Time)
The last on the list and the last you will most likely approach is the classic tummy time.
Also known as the eye-level smile, this position should be performed on a firm surface like a mat or floor.
Because the baby is losing direct contact with you, make sure you maintain eye-level contact.
It will keep your baby calm and comfortable in this position.
From this position, your baby will hit the milestones like crawling, rolling, or sitting.
How To Do Eye Level Smile
Place the baby in front of you on their stomach on the floor or mat with their elbows bent and forearms flat on the ground.
Lie down on your stomach and prop yourself up on your elbows.
Establish the eye-contact with your baby encouraging him to move his arms and legs, reach for tummy time toys or lift his head.
Interaction is crucial for this tummy time position’s success.
All the safety measures valid to the previous three tummy time positions apply to the classic tummy time.
Additionally, since you will not have a grip on your baby:
- always be within arm’s reach of your baby
- ensure a hazard-free area
- anticipate potential issues and take corrective actions to prevent them
Eye level is one of the tummy time positions where you can easily create diversity.
One way is to place a small pillow or rolled-up blanket under your baby’s chest to help support them and increase their visual area.
Another way is to involve your baby in games with the help of the endless range of tummy time toys available on the market.
You can gradually increase the time your baby spends in this position.
Encourage your baby to reach and grab with the help of tummy time toys or even pets (consider the additional safety precautions when engaging with pets).
You can also try flipping your baby on a side or his back to challenge their core strength and improve their balance.
Just get creative while keeping your young one safe.
Before we wrap this article up, check out below the video covering all tummy time positions:
After this material, you should know the core tummy time positions.
If you still have uncertainties, I suggest reviewing it in a day or two or exploring more videos on Youtube.
Because I am visual, I also need several iterations to feel confident.
One final piece of advice I can give is to monitor your baby’s progress.
You can use and adapt our Tummy Time Chart By Age for free.
While cycling through various tummy time positions observe your baby’s motor skills development.
Take note of the milestones but remember that each baby develops at different rates, and comparing your baby to others is not helpful.
Consult your pediatrician for concerns about your baby’s tummy time progress or motor skills development.
If you have any questions, tips, curiosities, or experiences to share, please use the comments section below.
Until next time, I wish you good health, and may the best decisions nest in your mind.