Tummy Time for Reflux Babies (21 Ways To Help Your Infant)

Worried about tummy time for reflux babies, especially if you’re a new parent? It’s understandable if you’re even scared to try tummy time with your reflux baby. 

They might spit a lot and even vomit a couple of times a day.

So how do you make a baby with reflux do some tummy time? 

When is the best time in a day to do tummy time that won’t stress your baby out too much?

What tummy time positions can you try with an infant with reflux?

This article will answer that and more. 

But first, let’s start with the basics.

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Basic Tips: Tummy Time for Reflux Babies

Here are some do’s and don’ts in making your baby with reflux, do tummy time:

Always supervise

Don’t leave your baby alone to do tummy time. 

Especially if they’re doing it on a bed, where they can roll over or suffocate on a pillow or a nearby blanket.

Try to wait for an hour after feeding

It’s recommended to wait for about 20 to 30 minutes after a feeding) for tummy time but why not just make it longer?

Wait for 40 minutes or up to an hour before laying your baby on their tummy.

Make it quick

Just initially  try 15 seconds, 30 seconds a day, several times a day. 

Then if you see that your baby is getting a bit more comfortable, try laying them down on their tummy for a minute. Then for a minute, 2 minutes, and so on.

Find the right timing

Try to find that sweet spot to squeeze in some quick tummy time.

The best timing is right before they feed and before your baby realizes that they’re hungry.

This could be when they wake up from their nap, before or after a diaper change, or before or after bathing.

Don’t do it when they’re sleepy or hungry

Don’t force your baby to do it when they’re hungry and/or tired as they will hate it.

Doing tummy time when they’re asleep can also endanger them and can lead to SIDS. 

So never put your baby on their tummy when sleeping.

Do it only when they’re awake and alert and not yet hungry.

Tummy Time Positions for Reflux Baby

On your chest

This is the best way to do tummy time, especially when it’s done skin-to-skin.

Your baby would be delighted to see your face and to hear and smell you.

And hopefully, that would be enough to distract them from their reflux.

You can do it while you’re walking around carrying them. Or while laying down on an inclined position or laying flat on your back with a pillow under your head.

Use a gym ball

Let your baby lie on it, hold them securely then gently and slowly roll the ball back and forth.

Remember to always hold your baby and interact with them – talk, sing, etc. – to distract them.

Try a football hold

Check out this video at the 1:42 mark and see how to carry your baby football style.

Try it out and carry your baby closer for added support.

Do baby airplane

This is like a football hold but you’d be moving around the room, making airplane sounds, to make it a more entertaining tummy time experience for your reflux baby.

Try side-lying

Try rolling your baby on the left and let them lay on their side. 

Prop their back with some rolled up towel or blanket for support and place also some support on their head.

This can be a great alternative for tummy time but remember to fully supervise and do it with an awake and alert baby.

Try side lying for 30 seconds or so then place them on their tummy.

If your baby prefers the side-lying position, let them stay on it a bit longer. But gradually incorporate laying down on their tummy as well and let them get used to it slowly but surely.

Do it across your lap

Sit down on your sofa and let your baby do tummy time on your lap, with a blanket or pillow.

Use some toys or books to further encourage them to do more tummy time.

Use a towel or pillow 

Make it easier for your little one to lift their head by putting a rolled-up towel under their armpit. Or a baby lounger pillow under them.

Do it across your leg

Get your legs outstretched on the floor and let your baby do tummy time on it. 

Distract them with toys, and books, sing songs to them, talk to them or rub their backs.

Try babywearing

Babywearing can be a form of tummy time but it can’t replace the benefits of getting down on the floor for your baby to do a proper tummy time.

Still, babywearing puts your baby in an upright position that allows them to develop their neck and back muscles. 

And just to let you know, babywearing also helps with reflux!

Try out more fun tummy time activities and ideas here.

More Tummy Time Reflux Ideas 

  • Use toys, books, props

A one-week-old baby can already see some colors at 8-10 inches away.

So make tummy time more fun and distracting for your reflux baby by propping up some toys, books, and family pictures, in front and around them.

You can also do sensory activities to make tummy time more engaging.

  • Change locations

You can further distract your baby by letting them do tummy time in different areas. Like the living room, kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows (if you have one), and even outdoors, in the garden, at the park!

Just make sure that the area is relatively clean then use a blanket or use a playpen, playmat, or rug and your baby is good to go.

  • Do it with other people

Maybe a fresh face might make tummy time more tolerable for a baby with reflux.

So if you have other family members or kids nearby, let them do tummy time with your little one.

Check out other ways how to help your baby with their reflux here.

What To Do If Baby Hates Tummy Time

It’s very normal for a baby with reflux to hate tummy time. 

It’s uncomfortable and even painful for some, so much patience and understanding are needed.

Aside from the tummy time activities above, here are more ways to distract your baby and make them do more tummy time:

  • Change locations

Make them do tummy time on the living room floor. 

Or in the garden on an outdoor playpen or playmat. 

Or just anywhere clean and safe, with some interesting things for them to get distracted with.

  • Massage their feet

Your baby might like doing tummy time while you’re giving a foot massage! 

It’s also a great way to distract them when they don’t like doing tummy time.

  • Let your other kids join in

If you have other older kids, ask them if they can join your newborn on the floor for some tummy time.

A fresh face can hopefully make tummy time more fun for your little one.

  • Change the toys

Try different high contrast cards, put family pictures, or use a rattle or any new toy that they might find interesting.

FAQ: Reflux and Tummy Time 

Why does my baby need to do tummy time?

Your baby needs to do tummy time to further strengthen their neck muscles and improve head control, to develop their gross motor skills that they’ll need to roll over, crawl and meet milestones.
It also prevents flat head syndrome, helps with torticollis and for some babies, it can alleviate gas pain.

When can I start tummy time with my baby?

You can also start tummy time right at the hospital, doing skin-to-skin with your newborn after giving birth!
Or you can also just wait for a few days and do it once you’re all settled back at home.
Check out here some more info on when to start tummy time, how to do it, and more.

How can I do tummy time with my baby?

You can do tummy time with your baby by letting them lie down on your chest, doing it on the floor, or using a rolled-up towel or baby lounger pillow under their armpit.
You can also use toys, family pictures, or do sensory activities for a more fun tummy activity.

What if my baby hates tummy time?

If your baby hates tummy time, try a new tummy time position, put them in a different room to do tummy time, change up their tummy time toys, or do shorter stints several times a day.

Do babies with reflux hate tummy time?

Yes, babies with reflux hate tummy time. Most of them feel uncomfortable and even experience some pain when lying down on their tummy. 
Plus they can frequently spit up or vomit when tummy time is done immediately after a feeding.

How do you pace a baby with reflux?

You can try pacing a baby with reflux by feeding them in an upright position, trying smaller feedings, using an anti-colic bottle, and letting them upright for 30 minutes or more, after a feeding.

What age does reflux peak in babies?

Reflux usually peaks in babies around 4 to 5 months.
For those that are born at full term, by 9 to 12 months, their symptoms would have gone by then as their upper digestive tract functionally matures.

What happens if the baby doesn’t get tummy time?

For some babies that don’t get enough tummy time, they might miss most developmental milestones at a certain age. And they might take longer to develop basic motor skills as well.

Takeaway on Tummy Time for Reflux Babies

It’s perfectly normal for some babies to hate tummy time, especially when they have reflux issues.

Some parents have reported their little ones still hate doing tummy time at 5 months and are still struggling to do more than 10 minutes a day!

It’s understandable to be extremely worried and frustrated about such cases. And to even feel lacking as a parent when your baby won’t do what is a regular activity for their age.

But this is normal and your little one might just be one of those babies who skip the rolling stage and just progress straight to crawling or sitting.

Take note to discuss your baby’s progression with your pediatrician.

And remember, you’re already doing a great job researching and trying your best to make them do more tummy time, even if they have reflux.

If you like this article, check out my guide on Best Bassinets for Reflux Babies, Best Baby Swings for Reflux, and The Ultimate List of Newborn Baby Care Tips For New Moms.