• So what does tummy time have to do with head shape?
  • Why should you do tummy time even if your baby has a round head?
  • What do I do if my baby hates tummy time?
  • How much time do they need every day?
  • What do I do if my baby spits up when on her tummy?
  • What does tummy time have to do with crawling?


The above are questions I hear over and over in my clinic from parents concerned about their baby’s head shape or development. Even pediatricians get confused about why tummy time is so important.

Let’s start with the first question above. So what does tummy time have to do with head shape? We want the baby’s head to be in varied positions when asleep on her back – sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left, and  sometimes to the center.  A flat head in a baby occurs when that pressure is always in the same exact area of the head.

Let’s take Baby Adeline. She tends to look to the right and that is the position she spends 15-18 hours a day in when she sleeps. The back right part of her head becomes flat and that also causes misalignment in the face and jaw, a condition termed plagiocephaly.  Now let’s go to Baby Abe.  His parents follow our tummy time recommendations for his development. They also watched Baby Sleep Position and understand how to position him when asleep. He spends the same 15-18 hours on his back sleeping, but sometimes his head is to his right and sometimes his head is to his left, and sometimes it’s in the center. His head is fine.

Many, many babies are born with neck tightness and unless we help them early on, they will have a preference to turn in one direction. That causes the flat head syndrome. The epidemic is further exacerbated by too much equipment use (baby’s in inclined positions, swings, etc.). Babies who spend time on their tummy gain strength. Often, neck tightness can work itself out in a very natural way. So it’s not the 15-18 hours of sleep on their back that creates the flat head issues we see daily in our clinic.

Simple huh?  Yes, except so much marketing of equipment makes it hard to know the best ways to help development and normal head shape. Carolina Kinder Development created a series of informative baby development videos. Videos range on a variety of topics like Baby Sleep Position and Tummy Time (below).

Does Your Baby Hate Tummy Time? Watch the video!

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All our recommendations fully support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for all baby’s to be placed on their back to sleep.

The above is very simplified.  There are many babies that don’t quite fit the example of Adeline or Abe! Talk to your doctor or occupational or physical therapist for specifics for your baby.  Some babies will need therapy to address the underlying neck issues.