What Should My Baby Look Like In Tummy Time?
by Nicole Campbell, PT, DPT
Kids Place West Pediatric Physical Therapist
Babies have the tendency to do things on their own timeline, but frequently parents ask us what we look for when working with babies. Here are some general things we look for when babies are practicing tummy time (not just on the floor, but also supervised over an infant pillow or on family’s chest).
Newborns (0-3 months)
Typically, it is safe and recommended for babies to start tummy time when they come home from the hospital or birthing center. By 1 month old, a baby should be able to turn their head from side to side by slightly lifting their head off the floor and rotating their head. Between 1 and 2 months, a baby should be able to keep their arms bent and slightly away from their torso with their elbows behind their shoulders. Towards the end of 2 months, a baby should be able to lift their head to 45 degrees. Between 2 and 3 months, a baby should occasionally push through their forearms and slightly lift their chest off the surface and a baby typically begins rolling from their belly to their back. At 3 months, a baby should be able to keep their elbows in line with their shoulders and towards the end of 3 months a baby should be able to lift their head to 90 degrees.
At this age, babies should be able to hold their head up to 90 degrees for an extended period of time and they are typically able to bring their arms towards their torso and straighten their elbows to lift their chest off the surface. Babies will usually shift their weight between their left arm and right arm and might accidently roll from their tummy to their side. You will likely start to see babies “swimming” by lifting their arms and legs off the surface at the same time. Babies should start to slightly pivot to the side to look at a toy by bending their elbow and knee on the same side they are looking towards.
At this age, babies usually start preferring the tummy time position and should be able to roll from their back to their belly. Babies should also start pivoting on their belly to reach toys next. Babies will usually shift their weight to one hand in order to reach for a toy with their other hand. Babies should also start lifting their stomach off the surface and may even get into a hands and knees position.
A baby should easily pivot on their belly 90 degrees to the left and to the right. By now a baby should be getting into the hands and knees position and start rocking back and forth—this is a baby’s way of practicing shifting their weight to prepare for crawling on hands and knees. They should be able to transition in and out of hands and knees by themselves and be able to reach for a toy while on their hands and knees. By the end of 9 months, a baby should be crawling on hands and knees to explore their environment.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your baby’s development, talk to your doctor to see if a physical therapy evaluation is recommended.