baby doing tummy time on a toki mats play mat

How Tummy Time Changes As Your Baby Grows

July 18, 2022

If a newborn was to write their own dictionary, the definition of tummy time would look something like this: {tum•my • time} / noun / physical and emotional torture inflicted by parent for reasons unknown. Maybe a tad bit dramatic, but most newborns are not fans of tummy time, and they let it be known. An infant placed onto their stomach on the floor is likely to protest by loudly squalling and crying. Unfortunately for them, tummy time is a necessary evil—it’s crucial to their development because it allows them to build the strength in their head, neck, and trunk that they need in order to sit, crawl, stand, and walk someday. If you’re feeling discouraged by your baby’s lack of enthusiasm for the activity, fear not! Since your baby has virtually no strength yet in their neck, holding their head up is an uncomfortable and difficult feat. However, as your baby grows in strength and size, tummy time gets easier quickly, and becomes an enjoyable activity. So, invest in a comfortable play mat (seriously, a super soft, cozy surface makes all the difference), grab some engaging toys, and get down on the floor with your little one! Here’s what you can expect tummy time to look like in this first year:


You can start doing tummy time with your newborn as soon as day 1. In these first few weeks, your baby can do little more than lift their head for a second or two, eventually being able to turn their head to face the other way. To make it more pleasant for them, lie back and place your baby on your bare chest for a skin-to-skin and tummy time combo. Not only will you get to soak up those newborn cuddles for a huge oxytocin boost, your little one will reap all the benefits of kangaroo care while also strengthening their neck. Tummy time during this first month will be very brief, with sessions lasting only 1-2 minutes at a time. Follow your infant’s lead and break up the periods to be as little or as long as they can tolerate, aiming for 10 minutes total per day. 

toki mats founder eli yonas playing with her baby on a toki mats play mat

1-month old

Now that your baby has built more strength in their head, neck, and shoulders, they should be able to spend about 3-5 minutes on their tummy at a time. Place a soft, padded surface on the floor (like a Toki Mat), and lay on the opposite side your baby is facing. Use the sound of your voice to coax them into lifting their head to turn toward you. Aim for a total of 20 minutes a day, breaking it up into as many sessions as you need. Since your little one spends a lot of time on their back sleeping, it’s important to use their awake time on their stomachs. This helps prevent flat spots from forming on their soft skulls. 

2-months old

After two months of diligent sessions on their stomach, your baby is much stronger and can lift their head even higher. They should be able to hold their head up for at least a minute without fussing, and are probably showing more interest when you place toys in front of them. Now that their vision has improved since their newborn days, using a tummy time mirror (like this one) may be the perfect distraction. Your baby should now have enough strength to bring their hands out from underneath their chest, and may even be able to roll one direction (babies usually roll first from tummy to back).

3-months old

Your baby is gaining strength rapidly, and you can see all their hard work paying off. They’re able to lift their head between 45 and 90 degrees off the floor without tilting their head in either direction. Although their elbows are still behind their shoulders, your baby has begun to put some weight on their arms, using their forearms for support. Aim to spend an hour total per day doing tummy time, as your baby’s development has begun to pick up at a breathtaking pace.

4-months old

What a long way your baby has come in such a short time! Now, they’re able to push up on their elbows and hold their head steady at a 90 degree angle. Your baby can lift their chest easily off the floor and can turn their head to track toys, voices, and faces. With improved vision and alertness, your baby has so many things to see while on their tummy. This is a month of significant development in head control, muscle control, and symmetry,

5-months old

By this time, clocking in tummy time sessions is a thing of the past. Gone are the tears and protesting wails, and your little one may even be rolling both ways. With this newfound mobility, your baby prefers to spend their awake time on the floor, where they will continue to improve their motor control. You may have also noticed that your baby has recently begun to make “swimming” movements when on their belly, lifting their arms and legs at the same time.

6-months old

Your baby can probably roll in both directions at this age, meaning…you’re in trouble. For someone who had hardly any mobility a few short months ago, your baby is now rolling around the room at shocking speeds. You’ve now taken a backseat role during tummy time, letting your little one take the lead. They’re able to reach and grab toys, rolling for those too far away, and can pivot in a circle while on their tummy.

baby doing tummy time with a nursing pillow on a toki mats play mat

7-months old

Remember all the “swimming” your baby was doing back in month 5? Those exercises weren’t just entertaining to watch, they helped your little one develop trunk strength, as well as shoulder and hip stability. Your baby can shift their weight to one elbow to play with the other hand, and may even push their body back onto all fours, rocking back and forth. Yup. They’re setting the stage for crawling!

8-months old

Before your baby crawls on their hands and knees, they’ll start creeping, army crawling on their belly from Point A to Point B. There’s no doubt that the floor is where your little one prefers to be. At this age, bouncers may even be met with protest, as your baby is eager to practice their quickly-developing skills. They may even now be pulling up to stand from all fours. If your little one is more interested in standing than crawling, there’s a chance yours will skip the crawling stage entirely. While this isn’t that uncommon, crawling is still beneficial for your baby. Our blog post here details ways to encourage your little one to crawl.

9-months old

By 9 months of age, most babies are typically crawling, leaving you to eat their dust. We vote for crawling to be its own Olympic event because, oh boy, these babies sure are fast. Now your baby has the strength and control to easily transition between sitting, crawling, and laying. Since they’re still mostly using their arms to pull up into a standing position, a new development to look for is half-kneeling with one foot in front. 

10-months old

With the mastery of the half-kneel, your baby will be standing up more often. The new height creates an interesting perspective for your baby, although they still rely on crawling as their method of locomotion. Still, they’re making the transition from quadruped to biped, and you’re probably feeling emotional about how quickly it’s happened!

11-months old

At only a month shy of their first birthday, your 11-month old may have taken a few independent steps already. They’ve most likely been cruising since they’ve been pulling up to stand, but your baby is now showing interest in moving past the couch. To encourage walking, place another surface just far enough away from the couch that they’ll have to let go of either surface to reach the other. Place your play mat in between to pad their fall if they lose their balance, and widen the gap as they get more comfortable shifting their weight from surface to surface.

baby taking unsteady steps on a toki mats play mat

12-months old

If your little one isn’t walking yet, they will be soon. At this age, they’ve developed full trunk control and can use each side of their body independently. All the tummy time you did with your baby is responsible for building the strength and coordination needed to get to this point. So, go ahead and be proud of yourself and your tummy time graduate! You did it!

How Tummy Time Changes As Your Baby Grows

About the Author: Alice

Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.

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