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Our 5-month-old dislikes being on her tummy
Q: When my 5-month-old daughter is put on her stomach, she cries until we pick her up. She won’t even try to crawl or turn over. It’s hard for my husband and me because we wonder why she dislikes it.
Christine San Manuel
A: Christine, some 5-month-olds find playing on their tummies natural and enjoyable, and others don’t. In the past 10 years, since health experts have recommended putting babies to sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), babies tend to spend far more time on their backs and less time on their tummies. As a result, they get less experience on their tummies and are slower to learn to lift up their heads and chest, which can be frustrating. But it’s important for your baby’s development to have some tummy time during the day to increase her head, neck, upper body and arm strength and enable her to learn to roll over, crawl and explore her environment.

Your baby will enjoy tummy time more if she can see you and other interesting things. Try these tummy-time games when your baby is rested, fed, calm and alert:
  • Lie on your back with your baby on top of you, tummy down, with her head on your chest. Talk and sing to her. She’ll want to pick up her head to see you and play with your face.

  • Lie on your back with your knees up and your baby tummy down along your shins, with her head at your knees. Hold onto her and bounce your legs gently up and down. Talk and sing to her, and bring your knees and head forward to kiss her.

  • Lay your baby on her tummy on the floor, with a small cushion or rolled up towel under her chest to prop her up. Lie down in front of her to play with her, and set out toys within her reach. Try to encourage her to push up with her arms by showing her interesting things above her head, such as your face, a mirror, a rattle or a stuffed animal.

  • Place your baby tummy down on a blanket. Lift up the front two corners and pull her around the room making motor sounds.

  • Considering getting your baby an infant activity mat designed for tummy-time play.
Try to give your baby tummy time a couple of times a day, for short periods of time. If she gets upset, you can stop. But keep trying each day with different ways to play. The more practice she gets, the better she’ll get at lifting her head and chest, and the more she’ll enjoy it.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician