A Stuck Arm is an Opportunity for Empowerment: Tummy Time Essentials

This baby isn’t stuck any longer, but we can see how he may have been in his earlier days.

It’s inevitable: the arm stuck under Wriggling Baby in Tummy Time. What do you do? Many grown-ups will lovingly want to help and will pull Baby’s arm out. You might even feel mean if you don’t, as if you’re abandoning a helpless creature. I invite you into a whole new perspective. Let’s turn this upside down!

Empowering Your Baby

I like to ask, “what would be most empowering to the baby?” This may take some redefining of love, caring, support, and attentive parenting. Consider: when do we intend to be helpful but actually create dependency? Could we shift our perspective of helpful from “doing something for Baby that she can’t do herself” to “supporting her so she can do as much as possible herself, which sometimes means not doing it for her”?

In the case of the stuck arm, there are several options by the above latter means.  Again, the idea is to help Baby in a way that allows her to do as much as possible on her own. After rolling Baby into Tummy Time, try these things:

  1. Wait. Allow her to feel herself and respond to the sensory information her brain is receiving. A baby’s pace is often slower than ours. A little frustration is part of the learning process (different from anger or pain). Give her some time, she’s new at this!
  2. Lift and roll the same side of her pelvis as the stuck arm. This may give her the space she needs to manage her arm.
  3. Lift the shoulder of the stuck arm and let her pull her arm out.
  4. Gently-but-firmly brush her stuck arm/hand. This can help notify her brain exactly where the challenge is so she can direct her attention there.
  5. If none of the above works, gently bring her arm out just a little bit—not the whole way! See if she can do it from there, or try the above options again.


Empowerment. Confidence. Trust in herself. Allowance of reflexes to do their job. The experience of and ability to figure out a challenge and manage it herself (with support when needed). Her pace. Her learning process. Because she actually can do more than many people realize. Her needs, not ours. Yes, even at a wee 1, 2, or 3 months old.

Getting into Tummy Time

Please do so by rolling her into it rather than flying her belly-ward toward the floor. Think of a wall coming straight toward you–it’s not a natural or comfortable proposition! Rolling from flexion (in a ball) will utilize the pathway she’ll use to get into and out of Tummy Time and it will bypass the startle reflex, which is responsible for much TT discomfort. Please see my post, “Tummy Time Troubles? Tips for Making it Easy and Comfortable” for more info  on how to do this.

Then, go down there on the floor with her–and enjoy yourselves!


Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Elizabeth Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)


3 responses to “A Stuck Arm is an Opportunity for Empowerment: Tummy Time Essentials

  1. I love this concept of what it means to be helpful and I think it is important for all ages! We should all be asking ourselves “when do we intend to be helpful but actually create dependency?” about all the ways we try to “help” others.

  2. Pingback: Tummy Time: Should You or Shouldn’t You? | Conscious Baby Blog

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