Reflux and Tummy Time

baby laying on tummy with words "Things to know about Tummy Time and Reflix"

We all know that tummy time is super important. But, what if your baby’s reflux is making it easier said than done? It’s time to discuss tummy time and reflux!

I need to make this very clear: none of what I am sharing here is medical advice regarding reflux. I am not a medical doctor and cannot/will not speak to what is/isn’t “normal” in regards to reflux or provide any medical advice for addressing your baby’s reflux. These tips are simply to guide you on doing tummy time if your baby is dealing with reflux! The tips I’m sharing below are for healthy babies that are gaining weight and do not have health concerns related to reflux. Your baby’s health always comes before tummy time!

Reflux In Babies

Reflux in babies is incredibly common – more than 50% of babies will have some degree of reflux. The cause of reflux in babies is due to the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) being immature and underdeveloped in infants. Some babies just experience some spit-up, and it doesn’t seem to bother them. While others experience GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and more severe symptoms like pain, excessive vomiting, and trouble gaining weight. You should work with your child’s medical team to decide if your baby has GERD.

Also, just because your baby spits up sometimes or spits up during tummy time does not mean they have GERD. Spitting up can be caused by putting pressure on the baby’s tummy when moving them, picking them up, or placing them on their tummies. Remember, they have an underdeveloped esophageal sphincter!

Spit-Up, Reflux, and Tummy Time

Do you avoid tummy time because of your baby’s spitting up or reflux?

Spit-up is a huge hurdle I see parents have when trying to tackle tummy time. I often hear, “she spits up her whole bottle when I put her on her tummy!” Spit-up alone isn’t a concern or a reason to avoid tummy time. The amount likely looks way more than it really is. As long as your baby is happy, just throw down a towel and keep rolling with tummy time! 

An Unhappy Baby and Tummy Time

The good and probably surprising news? Tummy time will actually help improve reflux! When your baby strengthens the muscles of their tummy, neck, obliques, etc., the muscles of the esophagus will also strengthen. This will help reduce the amount of stomach contents that come back up!

I know, realistically, that it can still be so hard to persevere through tummy time when your baby is constantly spitting up and seems uncomfortable! Let’s talk about some ways to make it more tolerable so that we can reap all of the benefits of this important tummy-down position:

  • Start with tummy time on an incline: chest to chest, a boppy pillow or towel roll under the chest, or tummy time on your legs. These will all decrease the amount of pressure on your baby’s tummy.
  • Utilize babywearing as a way to help strengthen the neck right after feeding times. This decreases pressure on the tummy while the baby’s food digests and also gives you a few hands-free moments.
  • Use alternative tummy time positions during times when your baby’s reflux is at its peak. Check out this Instagram post for some ideas for non-floor tummy-down alternatives.
  • Don’t forget about my blog post on Tummy Time Sensory Hacks to help make tummy time more fun!

Tummy Time and GERD

If your baby has severe symptoms of GERD, know that this is a symptom of another issue, and it’s important to look for the root cause! They could be experiencing it due to a poor latch (breast or bottle feeding), a lip or tongue tie, and even food allergies. It is important to find a team of medical professionals to help you troubleshoot your baby’s symptoms and work toward a solution! Follow Milk Matters PT and Baby Reflux Lady as they are both amazing resources!!

  1. […] Tummy time is hard work for little ones because it engages so much of their core muscles. By using these sensory hacks, you can make it a mentally stimulating activity as well! This will likely make it more fun and less miserable for you and your baby! If your baby struggles with spitting up while doing tummy time, check out this blog post! […]

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