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21 Ideas If Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

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What activities should I do if my baby hates tummy time?

You’ve heard it since day one: back to sleep, tummy to play. And now that you’re home from the hospital, you’re ready to start tummy time. You got a blanket and your baby ready. And you’ve just come to find out your baby hates tummy time! What are you supposed to do now?

First, know that you are not alone. Many mommas have gone through this, even ones whose babies seem to love being on their tummies. Your baby is new to this world, and he certainly isn’t used to being on a hard floor, on his tummy, having to control his own head. My little guy didn’t even like being on his back on the floor early on (if you’re thinking that might be a good way to introduce the concept).

Start off practicing tummy time on your chest (while waiting for the umbilical cord to fall off). And once you move to the floor, try placing a rolled blanket under his chest and arms to give him a slight lift. For more ideas to help with tummy time, keep reading, and don’t worry, you got this!

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Why does my baby hate tummy time so much?

Newborn babies have just spent nine months curled up in a super cozy and warm environment. You spend many hours of the day keeping your baby nestled up to you. And you’ve been instructed to place your baby on his back to sleep. Now you’re placing your baby in a wide, open area, on a hard surface, in a way he is not used to lying. This is why your baby hates tummy time. However, for the best development of your little one’s motor skills, playtime is best spent on the tummy, even if your baby hates tummy time.

cranky baby on tummy
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Should I let my baby cry during tummy time?

When first starting tummy time, your baby is bound to cry often. Fortunately, tummy time only takes three to five minutes at a time spread out over a few times throughout the day. You’ll gradually increase the amount of time each day as your baby grows. It’s okay to let your baby cry during tummy time; he is learning how to cope with his emotions. However, if your baby hates tummy time so much that he has a meltdown or is hyperventilating, it’s better to break it into smaller chunks of time until he is more comfortable with it. Or start by holding your baby for tummy time.

Is 3 months too late for tummy time?

It’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that you start tummy time the day after you get home from the hospital. It strengthens your baby’s neck, shoulder, and back muscles, while also preventing your baby from getting a flat spot on his head. However, it’s never too late to start tummy time. Just remember, the sooner, the better. It’s easier to get a younger baby more accustomed to tummy time than trying to wrangle an older one who has never done it.

baby girl with red and white hate on tummy
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Does holding baby count as tummy time?

Tummy time is best for baby’s development when it is done on a hard surface. However, newborns are not used to being away from the warmth and safety of their mommas, and it can be a cause as to why your baby hates tummy time. So, yes it is okay to hold your baby for tummy time. Use those moments when practicing skin-to-skin contact. Get comfortable on your couch, and lie your baby in the center of your chest, being certain to keep your baby from falling. This makes it easy to engage your little one and keep his attention. Talk to him, sing to him, coo at him; anything to make him lift and turn his head.

Parenting tip: If you are doing tummy time on your chest, don’t forget the burp cloth. I preferred using a cloth diaper. It’s big enough to cover your whole chest and is super absorbent.

baby with yellow hat and stuffed dog on tummy
Photo by Spencer Selover from Pexels

What should I do during tummy time?

Tummy time can be as simple as placing your little one on the floor, preferably on a mat or blanket, for some cushioning and to keep your carpets clean. However, when your baby hates tummy time, it can be a little more difficult than that. So here are the best suggestions to keep your little one engaged or distracted long enough to get those important tummy time minutes in each day. Also, change up your activities throughout the day so your little one doesn’t get bored. Giving a baby new surroundings will help to keep him interested longer.

baby hates tummy time: baby practicing tummy time on white fluffy rug

Activities for When Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

1. Have your baby mirror you

If your baby hates tummy time, maybe he just misses your closeness. Get down on the floor and engage with your baby. Put your head on the floor, then lift it. Look from side to side. Talk to your baby and make different noises. When you get to the rolling over stage, show your baby how to roll over by doing it yourself and praise him each time he makes an attempt.

2. Take it outside

It’s important for you and your baby to get outdoors. Throw a blanket down and let your little one enjoy the sunshine. Even in the fall, outdoor tummy time can be a great way to help your baby with his sensory development. Put some leaves under the blanket and let your baby hear them rustle and feel them crunch underneath the blanket.

Mats for When Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

water mat with ocean animals

3. Use a water mat

Let your baby enjoy water play with no mess. This water mat gives your baby visual stimulation while helping with his muscle development.

gray teddy bear playmat

4. Prop up baby with a prop and play mat

This prop and play mat is made especially for tummy time. It comes with a prop pillow, a mirror, and toy attachments to catch and keep your baby’s attention.

farm animals play mat

5. Practice tummy time anywhere with a take along playmat

The Melissa and Doug Farm Animals Take Along Playmat allows a portable space for tummy time that keeps your little one engaged while learning colors and animals.

Baby Einstein activity mat with piano and tummy time pillow

6. Spend time in a play gym

An activity play gym gives you many options for tummy time. From the fun colors and designs on the mat to the piano with the lights and music to the prop pillow to the activity cards, it gives you the most long-term use in one product.

Pillows for When Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

caterpillar shaped tummy time pillow

7. Get a tummy time pillow

Sometimes it’s the most obvious thing that fixes the problem. This tummy time pillow can be used a number of different ways but is great for supporting your baby for tummy time while developing strong head and neck muscles.

giraffe tummy time pillow with attachments

8. Spend time with a discovery pillow

This discovery pillow has so many fun attachments, your baby is sure to find something new each time.

Boppy pillow

9. Repurpose your Boppy nursing pillow

Starting at 6 months, you can use your Boppy nursing pillow to prop your baby up for tummy time. It’s the perfect way to reuse something you already have.

Toys for When Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

plush giraffe
giraffe lovey and blankets

10. Use a favorite stuffed animal or lovey

I especially love this stuffed animal, since he looks like he’s also practicing tummy time, or use a lovey to engage with your baby. You could buy a new toy to give your baby some new stimulation, but any favorite stuffed animal or lovey will work. And when you get to the crawling stage, set the toy just out of reach to give your baby some motivation to move.

Baby Einstein take along tunes

11. Play some classical music

Get this musical toy to engage your little one with lights and sounds. I’ve used this as a tummy time distraction, a diaper changing distraction, and a car ride distraction (perfect if your baby hates the car seat).

set of 2 crinkle squares

12. Try a crinkle toy

These crinkle squares are another great way to get baby’s attention. You can crinkle them yourself, then put them in baby’s reach, so he can crinkle them too.

blue and gray tummy time piano

13. Tune that piano

Babies enjoy music, so let him make his own with this tummy time piano. Of course, you’ll be the one pushing the buttons in the beginning, but as your baby grows, the piano grows with your baby.

blue and green Oball shaker rattle

14. Shake that rattle

Use an Oball shaker rattle to get your baby’s attention, then move the rattle to either side of his head to strengthen his neck muscles as he follows along.

Related: Everything You Need to Pack in Your Newborn Diaper Bag

colorful sensory blocks, balls and animals

15. Roll balls or stack blocks

Roll balls from side to side to help your baby strengthen his neck, then stack some blocks and knock them down. This set of balls and blocks is great for sensory development as well.

Vtech crawl ball with numbers and animals

16. Get a crawl ball

Use this crawl ball to get your baby interested in tummy time. As your baby gets more mobile, he’ll be more motivated to get up and go after it.

Props for When Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

colorful personalized alphabet quilt

17. Throw a quilt on the floor

This personalized alphabet quilt uses bright colors, letters and animals to keep your baby’s attention. It’s a great way to teach letters and words while practicing tummy time.

Baby Einstein activity mirror

18. Find the baby in the mirror

Babies love looking at other babies. With a baby-safe mirror, your little one can catch all his own antics and be entertained for hours at least those three to five minutes. The older your baby gets, the more interested he will be checking out that cutie in the mirror.

baby hates tummy time

19. Introduce the family using photos

Babies love looking at pictures of people. Introduce your baby to family members using these memory game flash cards while he practices tummy time.

cover of I Love You to the Moon and Back book

20. Pick a favorite book

Grab a favorite book from your childhood or one that you got at your shower or consider getting a new book. Prop it up in front of your little one so they can enjoy the pictures while you read. It should be enough of a distraction if your baby hates tummy time.

activity book featuring black and white koalas

21. Try a combination activity book

Get all the benefits of a crinkle toy, a mirror, 3d activities, and a teether in one activity book. It’s a huge benefit if you need to practice tummy time away from home.


You don’t need anything fancy to get your baby to practice tummy time. A blanket and someone to mimic is all your baby really needs. However, if your baby hates tummy time, any way to distract or engage your baby for longer periods of time can be a real lifesaver.

Also, remember to take cues from your baby. If he repeatedly puts his head down and is crying uncontrollably, take a break and come back later, with a new idea. Eventually he’ll be able to go for longer periods and may eventually even enjoy tummy time, which is why it is a good idea to have a few different ideas and to choose toys that have long-term use.

Do you have a baby that hates tummy time? Which ideas have you used? Which ones helped? Let us know in the comments.

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21 Ideas If Your Baby Hates Tummy Time

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