In a TikTok video, a pediatric physical therapist explains why “tummy time” isn’t really a thing in other countries—but why it’s still important
Tummy time, the practice of placing your infant on their stomach to play, is a very common part of raising a baby in the U.S. But apparently, in the rest of the world, it’s not. Recently, an American mom who gave birth in France went viral for a video of a French pediatrician telling her not to do tummy time, causing moms everywhere to stress about what’s actually best for their babies’ development.
“I had multiple professionals being like, ‘You shouldn’t be putting your baby in uncomfortable positions especially if they’re not already getting themselves into that position,'” the American mom in France said in one video. “If they’re rolling over onto their tummy, that’s one thing, but putting them in positions that they aren’t able to get into naturally is developmentally inappropriate.”
But that’s not the standard advice in the U.S., and a pediatric physical therapist made a video response to explain why medical advice for infants is so different in France—and why tummy time is still very important, despite that one doctor’s guidance.
Dr. Bonnie Soto explained that the guidance varies because tummy time is all about helping your baby build muscle, but it isn’t the only way to do that.
“If you live here in the United States, if you’ve been around my page for a while, you know that tummy time is a big thing and it is important, but I don’t think in the way that people understand,” she said.
I’ve been trying to find a moment to talk about this all week 😅 So many differences in how we raise children that affect this convo #tummytime #newborn #babytips #newborn #babiesoftiktok #postpartum #parentsoftiktok #milestones #motorskills #momsoftiktok #dadsoftiktok♬ Paradise – TELL YOUR STORY music by Ikson™
Dr. Soto explained that when we used to put babies to sleep on their stomachs, they got plenty of tummy time naturally, right after waking up from each period of sleep throughout the day. But once we learned it was dangerous to let babies sleep on their stomachs, she said, parents overcompensated and started being afraid to put their babies on their stomachs at all. That’s when pediatricians started recommending “tummy time” for play. But once again, parents overcorrected.
“I think parents get really stressed out about it,” she said. “Then it becomes this big to-do, like, ‘Oh my god—I have to fit tummy time in,’ and parents are being told things like your baby has to do an hour of tummy time a day. Oh my gosh, that’s crazy.”
Dr. Soto explained that the goal of pediatricians’ recommendations is not to get parents to fit in a regimented 30 minutes of tummy time every day. It’s to get them to give their babies lots of attention, care, and variety to help their bodies grow and develop.
“Roll into tummy time after a diaper change for a few minutes and you can sit and chit-chat with them,” she said. “Your baby needs to snuggle you on your chest and take a nap, take a contact nap, get in the baby carrier, or just lay there and chit-chat in your face as you’re leaning back. Those are all part of a tummy time program.”
She continued, “Your baby needs free, unrestricted movement. They need connection with you. You just holding your baby, snuggling them, moving them around in different positions is good for their development.”
So there you have it. Don’t ditch tummy time, but don’t treat it as a hard and fast rule, either. The important thing is to help your baby move as much as you can, so they can keep building strength all over their bodies.