Tummy time: What you should know about an infant’s neck and head

Imagine if your head weighed one third of your total body weight! That’s how it is for newborns. Newborn babies are not strong enough to hold their heads upright without support, so an infant’s neck needs proper infant head support for the first 5 months.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – Tummy time helps strengthen a baby’s neck.
Make a habit of letting your baby lie on their stomach a few times a day.
Photo: BabyBjörn

Questions about an infant’s neck tend to pop up every so often with new parents. You’ve probably heard about “tummy time” – letting babies lie on their stomachs when they are awake so that they can train key neck and throat muscles.

In some parts of the world, the mantra is “back to sleep, tummy to play.” And it’s enough, actually, for babies to spend just a few brief sessions on their stomachs each day.

“A baby is born with some degree of muscle tone and tries to hold up their heavy head as soon as they’re lying on Mom’s belly immediately after being born,” says pediatric physical therapist Camilla von Lörinszky from Swedish private clinic Barnsjukgymnasten.

A newborn tries to hold up their head immediately after birth

Babies like to study their surroundings, so mobiles with distinctive patterns are fun to look at. But faces are by far the most interesting.

Tummy time on the floor or a tummy time mat is also a form of play for babies, boosting their physical development. So make a habit of letting your baby lie on their stomach – when awake – a few times a day while you remain close by.

Tummy time workout for baby’s neck

“When a baby is awake, infant tummy time is good for the baby. That way, their neck muscles get trained automatically and motor skills can develop,” says von Lörinszky.

She’s careful to point out that as a parent you should not exercise your baby in the traditional sense, but you can play with your baby in a way that strengthens their muscles. And tummy time is an excellent opportunity to do this.

Babies also develop their neck muscles when you carry them in a baby carrier, since they will want to peek up at Mom or Dad’s face every now and then.