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Tummy Time Essentials

Tummy time for premature babies: Everything you need to know

Tummy Time for Premature Babies: Everything You Need to Know

Having a premature baby can be a stressful experience for parents, especially when it comes to their development and reaching milestones. One such milestone is tummy time, which is essential for strengthening your baby’s neck, shoulder, and arm muscles. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about tummy time for premature babies.

What is Tummy Time?

Tummy time refers to the time your baby spends on their stomach while they’re awake and supervised. This position allows them to strengthen the muscles in their neck, back, and shoulders, which are essential for achieving other developmental milestones such as crawling, rolling, and sitting up.

Why is Tummy Time Important for Premature Babies?

Premature babies may have weaker muscles due to their early arrival and may need more support and practice in developing these muscles. Tummy time is crucial for strengthening these muscles, as it also helps to prevent flat head syndrome, improves digestion, and promotes overall physical development.

When Should You Begin Tummy Time for Your Premature Baby?

Tummy time can begin as soon as your premature baby is strong enough to lift their head and hold it upright. This typically occurs around 2-3 months of age but may be later for premature babies. Always consult with your pediatrician before starting tummy time with your premature baby.

How Much Tummy Time Should Your Premature Baby Have?

In the beginning, your premature baby may only be able to handle a few minutes of tummy time each day. Gradually increase the duration of tummy time as your baby becomes stronger and more comfortable in the position. By the time your baby is 3-4 months old, they should be able to handle 20-30 minutes of tummy time each day.

How Can You Make Tummy Time More Comfortable for Your Premature Baby?

It’s essential to create a comfortable and safe environment for your premature baby during tummy time. Here are some tips:

  • Use a soft, padded surface such as a playmat or blanket.
  • Place a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your baby’s chest for added support.
  • Use toys or a colorful cloth to capture and hold your baby’s interest during tummy time.
  • Get down on the floor with your baby and play with them during tummy time.

What if Your Premature Baby Doesn’t Enjoy Tummy Time?

Not all babies enjoy tummy time, especially premature babies who may struggle with physical development. Here are some tips to make tummy time a positive experience for your baby:

  • Start with a few seconds of tummy time each day and gradually increase the duration as your baby gets more comfortable.
  • Use toys or colorful objects to capture your baby’s attention during tummy time.
  • Try different positions for tummy time, such as placing your baby on a boppy pillow or across your lap.
  • Make tummy time a part of your baby’s daily routine, so they know what to expect.


Tummy time is essential for the physical development of premature babies. It’s important to consult with your pediatrician before starting tummy time and to gradually increase the duration as your baby becomes more comfortable. Remember to create a comfortable and safe environment for your baby, and don’t be discouraged if they don’t enjoy tummy time at first. With patience and practice, your premature baby will reap the benefits of tummy time and reach their developmental milestones.

FAQ: Tummy Time for Premature Babies

1. What is tummy time?

Tummy time refers to the time that babies spend on their stomachs while they are awake. This actually helps babies develop the strength and coordination needed to sit up, crawl, and walk.

2. Why is tummy time especially important for premature babies?

For premature babies, tummy time is essential to help them catch up developmentally. Premature babies are often behind in their motor skills because they have missed out on the third trimester in the womb, which is a critical time for development. Tummy time can help premature babies build up the strength they need to overcome these deficits.

3. When should I start tummy time with my premature baby?

Tummy time can be started as soon as your premature baby is stable and has been checked by a doctor. However, you may need to start with just a few minutes at a time and gradually build up to longer periods.

4. What if my baby doesn’t like tummy time?

Some babies do not like tummy time right away, but there are a few things you can do to make it more enjoyable. You can try placing your baby on a soft blanket or mat, or use a colorful toy to keep them engaged. Gradually increasing the time may also help your baby get used to it.

5. How long should my baby do tummy time each day?

It is recommended that premature babies do tummy time for a few minutes at a time, multiple times throughout the day. This can gradually be increased as your baby gets stronger. Try working up to 20-30 minutes of tummy time each day.

6. Are there any precautions I should take with tummy time?

Tummy time should always be supervised, and babies should never be put to sleep on their stomachs. It is also important to make sure the surface your baby is on is clean and free of any hazards.

7. What if my baby has reflux or other medical issues?

If your premature baby has medical issues, such as reflux or breathing problems, talk to your doctor about tummy time. Your doctor may recommend modifications to make it safe and comfortable for your baby.

8. What are the benefits of tummy time for premature babies?

In addition to helping your baby catch up developmentally, tummy time can also help prevent flat spots on the back of the head, improve digestion, and reduce fussiness.

9. What if my premature baby has special needs?

If your premature baby has special needs, talk to your doctor about tummy time. Your doctor may recommend modifications or adjustments to make it safe and beneficial for your baby.

10. How can I make tummy time fun and engaging?

Tummy time can be made more fun and engaging by incorporating toys, colorful objects, or music. You can also try getting down on the floor with your baby and making eye contact and talking or singing to them.

Related Products for Tummy Time for Preemies

  • Tummy Time Mats

    A tummy time mat is a great tool to help preemies enjoy tummy time safely and comfortably. These mats are designed with soft and supportive materials that can help preemies develop their muscles. Some tummy time mats come with engaging toys and textured surfaces to keep babies entertained and stimulated during this essential activity.

  • Tummy Time Pillows

    Tummy time pillows are another option for preemies who need extra support during tummy time. These pillows can be placed under the baby’s chest to lift them up and provide a comfortable and secure surface to lie on. Some tummy time pillows come with adjustable straps to make sure the baby stays in the right position for optimal muscle development.

  • Tummy Time Toys

    Engaging and interactive toys can make tummy time more fun for preemies. Toys that are brightly colored and have different textures can help stimulate the baby’s senses and keep them entertained. Some toys are specifically designed to encourage tummy time, with features such as mirrors or detachable parts that can be played with while lying on their stomach.

  • Tummy Time Books

    Books can be another great tool for encouraging preemies to engage in tummy time. Soft and colorful books with different textures can be placed in front of the baby to encourage them to lift their head and engage their neck muscles. Board books with high-contrast pictures and simple text can help stimulate the baby’s brain and encourage language development.

  • Tummy Time Mats with Water

    For babies who need a little extra stimulation, tummy time mats with water features can be a fun and engaging option. These mats have water-filled areas that babies can play with while lying on their stomach. Some mats even have floating toys or colorful objects that move around in the water to keep the baby entertained and engaged during tummy time.

  • Tummy Time Music

    Music can be another sensory tool to keep preemies engaged during tummy time. Soft and calming music can help relax the baby and encourage deep breathing, while upbeat and rhythmic music can encourage movement and muscle development. Some tummy time music options even have interactive features that respond to the baby’s movements to create a fun and engaging experience.

  • Tummy Time DVDs

    For parents who want to create a stimulating tummy time experience for their preemie, there are a variety of DVDs available that feature colorful and engaging images and sounds. These DVDs are designed to encourage babies to lift their heads and engage their neck muscles, and some even feature interactive elements that respond to the baby’s movements.

  • Tummy Time Tracker

    For parents who want to make sure their preemie is getting enough tummy time, a tummy time tracker can be a helpful tool. These trackers allow parents to log the amount of time their baby spends on their stomach each day, and can help ensure that the baby is getting the recommended amount of tummy time for optimal development.

Pros & Cons of Tummy Time for Premature Babies


  • Improves Muscle Development: Tummy time is an excellent way to develop head control, which in turn helps in overall muscle development. It strengthens their neck, shoulder, and abdomen muscles, making them more robust and helping in improved postural control.
  • Prevents Flat-Head Syndrome: When babies sleep on their back, there is a risk of developing a flat spot on their head. Tummy time helps reduce this risk by giving them an opportunity to rest in a different position, which also helps in the development of the neck muscles.
  • Improves Digestion: Tummy time also helps improve digestion for premature babies. It helps relieve gas and decreases reflux by reducing pressure on their stomach. This can have a positive impact on their feeding patterns and help promote weight gain.
  • Facilitates Sensory Development: Tummy time is a great way to stimulate a baby’s senses. They can see and explore their surroundings in a new way, which can help develop their hand-eye coordination. This can have a long-term impact on their overall cognitive and motor development.
  • Prepares for Crawling: Introducing tummy time early on can help a baby prepare for the crawling phase. Tummy time helps strengthen the core muscles and improves balance and coordination. All these skills are vital for the next stage of development.


  • Discomfort: Tummy time can be uncomfortable for some babies initially, especially for premature babies who may have lower muscle strength. Some babies may not be able to lift their head or find it challenging to stay in this position for an extended period, causing discomfort.
  • Time Constraints: Premature babies often require more care and attention, which can limit the amount of time parents can dedicate to tummy time. It can be challenging for parents to balance other daily activities and care while ensuring the baby receives the recommended tummy time.
  • Risk of Suffocation: Premature babies may have a weaker or underdeveloped respiratory system, making them more susceptible to suffocation. Parents should ensure that the baby is always under supervision during tummy time and not left unattended on their stomach.
  • Developmental Issues: In some cases, tummy time may pose developmental challenges for premature babies, especially those with underlying motor or neurological issues. It is crucial to discuss any concerns with the pediatrician and follow their guidance before starting any tummy time routine.
  • Resistance: Some babies may resist tummy time, causing frustration and stress for both the baby and the parent. Parents should try to make the experience positive and engaging by introducing toys and fun activities, making it an enjoyable experience for the baby.

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