Category Archives: Tummy Time

New Tummy Time Site! Important Information For New Families

Tummy time is often either a source of fun for families–or of distress. Check out my new tummy time website! EnjoyTummyTime.com – Your Source for a Respectful and Informed Approach to Tummy Time

BusCard-EnjoyTummyTime1

Whether it’s going wonderfully or is challenging, I have some important information to share with you, including tips you will not see in much of the tummy time literature out there:

  • How Baby gets into and out of tummy time makes a difference
  • Watching for and reducing a startle response
  • What counts as “tummy time”
  • Why tummy time is not just about muscle strength
  • Allow the newborn’s bending hips and knees in tummy time
  • Empowering ways to address that stuck arm
  • Engagement vs distraction–why paying attention to fussing is important
  • How propping devices can actually make tummy time more challenging
  • Tummy time is part of a bigger picture: lying on the side and back are important too!

This approach to tummy time comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education (IDME), part of the Body-Mind Centering approach to somatic education.

Make Tummy Time a place of ease, comfort, and delight!

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

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Tummy Time: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends daily Tummy Time. Others say don’t put babies in it until they can roll into it on their own. Many babies are uncomfortable in it. What to make of all these messages?!

Each offers a valuable principle at its core:

  • Tummy Time allows reflexes to open and natural movement development to occur
  • We disempower children when we prop or put them into positions they can’t get into on their own
  • Babies are uncomfortable for a reason and we need to listen

Let’s re-define Tummy Time, from an Infant Developmental Movement Education perspective.

Why is Tummy Time important?

Many babies enjoy Tummy Time!

Much about development is triggered by being on the belly. Many babies get less of it these days, partly because of sleeping on their backs (for SIDS safety) and being propped in seats and standers. When babies don’t visit Tummy Time, problems can develop.

Tummy Time isn’t just about being active. It’s just as much about resting! (There’s actually a reflex for it: “Tonic Labyrynthine.”) Many sources mention movement benefits, like lifting the head and arm strength, but miss this important factor! We can’t move off the earth efficiently until we’ve released into its support (“yielding”).

What’s even more immediate than being in Tummy Time?

Two things, as my colleague Lenore Grubinger and I like to discuss. Address these, and Tummy Time emerges as a natural option:

  • How Baby gets into Tummy Time
  • Lying on all four sides

How Baby gets into Tummy Time

Just put the baby on his tummy, right? No, please don’t! It’s the only way many folks know, but this very act is related to much Tummy Time distress, and therefore the perception that infants don’t like it.

Make it adult-sized. Imagine someone’s holding you and moving you face-first toward the floor. What the… is about to happen to me? All systems on alert! I was not expecting this! I don’t know how I got into this, and how will I get out of it? Startle reflex, engage! Protection! Nervous system on alert, now!

Sound fun? Being brought tummy-ward to the floor can induce the startle reflex, which heightens adrenaline, retracts the shoulder blades, and has the infant in a state of alarm before even touching the floor. Then crying happens to release emotion and stress chemicals. It’s uncomfortable because one needs one’s arms useable in Tummy Time, not stuck backwards in startle.

How, then, to get into Tummy Time?

By utilizing the pathway Baby will use, bypassing startle, moving at Baby’s pace, and being down on the floor with him.

  • Begin by holding Baby in a ball (flexion)
  • Place him on his side on the floor in this ball (including head/neck in flexion), so he doesn’t startle
  • Pause, and slowly roll him onto his tummy (see my last post for what to do about that stuck arm)
  • Use this every time you want to put Baby down, including onto his back.

Being on all four sides

3-dimensional orientation is natural. Back-lying-only is not “natural.” Neither is only-tummy-time! Putting babies into positions they can’t get into and out of by themselves can be disempowering. However, there is no one body surface that’s more “natural” than others; we just tend to be back-lying-focused as a society.

It is greatly important to experience all sides: for balance/inner ear, proprioception (where I am in relation to gravity), spatial awareness, preparation for falling, and milestones like independent sitting. The back, tummy, and both sides are all important surfaces to know.

“Bottom” line?

Respect babies as humans. Encourage being, resting, and playing in all orientations to gravity. When handling them, mimic how they’ll do it themselves. If Baby protests, there’s a reason, so please don’t push it. Regarding the tummy, this is usually a signal that something is probably uncomfortable and needs support, rather than that Tummy Time itself is a bad thing. Think of Tummy Time more as a place to be, less as a thing to do.

 

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.)

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.

Why?

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.)

Floor Time Surfaces–Soft Ones & Smooth Ones

Floor Time! Placing Baby on a variety of surfaces offers a variety of movement opportunities.

Some families I meet will put their babies down anywhere; others prefer the designated spot only. In the first 4 or so months, having a designated spot is super useful–a place that is ready for Baby, comfy for her grown-ups, and easily accessible. During these months, Baby is experimenting with non-locomotive movements. From about 5-ish months on, Baby will typically start learning how to shift her weight and then begin traveling across the floor via belly crawling.

Before we go any further, have you belly crawled lately?

Try it! First push yourself backward with both arms. Then go forward (just please push forward with your foot rather than pulling with your arms). What surface are you doing this on? Try it on a wood or linoleum floor; and try it on carpet, or even on a blanket.

Ah, yes… friction! Some families find that once they allow Baby access to the kitchen floor, her movement explodes! Discovery time! She may spin, work her toes into the floor (this is a good sign), push backwards, and at some point belly crawl forward (a massively important movement pattern!). All of this can be easier learned at first on a slidey floor.

Some babies I’ve known chose different movements for different surfaces: for example, rolling for the bed and belly crawling for the hardwood floor. So try placing Baby on different surfaces from around 5 months on. Always use your best judgment, but in general, a smooth household surface will not hurt Baby’s elbows and knees. If Baby is learning to roll from front to back via “falling” and is bumping her head–also use your judgment (for small falls, sometimes it’s our reaction that scares them rather than that they got hurt or knew it was supposed to hurt).

Be prepared for both magic and developmental frustration as Baby learns to move through space on her tummy! For nifty tips on how to move Baby onto the floor and make Tummy Time a place of fun and ease, see this article.

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

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Video! Educational Play, Tummy Time Options, and Comfort Moving While Holding Baby

Video time! Here is a snippet of what we “Infant Developmental Movement Educators” do. In this clip, Sandra Jamrog (IDME and Childbirth Educator) shows:

  • Playing with an older baby who has not yet rolled. We interact not by using force, but through ‘educational play’ to help the baby find new or missing movements for himself. Watch at about 1:12 how the baby engages his attention and reaches, and Sandy follows his impulse. This helps his nervous system learn unconsciously and open up reflexes/movements that were previously not available or not used.
  • Ways to move while holding Baby that both help the caregiver be comfortable and support Baby’s movement. …like getting down to and up from the floor.
  • Creative options for Tummy Time; and fun rolling with Baby

Video by Saliq Francis Savage.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

Be On Baby’s Level (Why Tummy Time is for Grown-ups Too)

You know Tummy Time, or “floor time,” for babies? It’s really for grown-ups too!

I invite you to come down to Baby’s world and experience what she is doing. Get face to face on her level. What’s she currently doing? Tummy Time; or Side Time or Back Time? Yay! Enjoy lying down with her (give yourself permission if you need it). Belly

Hands-and-knees crawling? Explore together this angle on the world.

crawling? Give it a try and you’ll discover why this stage can be so challenging!

But of course you’ll be holding her some too when you’re standing. Sometimes, when you are already upright, try—if you don’t already—holding Baby up high enough so that she's face to face with you.

Truly, one of the best things we grown-ups can do for our babies is to bring ourselves down to their level. As a society, we tend to lovingly try to bring them up to ours—to prop them up in sitting or standing so they can be up higher and look around, for “up higher” is where all Baby’s loved ones are! They want to see what’s going on and be a part of it—right?

Yes and no. That desire to get up higher is part of Baby’s motivation to learn how, from his tummy or back on the floor, to incrementally raise his head, push up on his hands, roll and belly crawl to move in space, independently sit, come up to hands and knees, then pulling up and walking.

However, if he’s not doing it by himself already, then he’s gaining a lot of valuable experience by continuing to do whatever he’s already doing if he’s developing in a typical manner.

Coming down to Baby’s level gives us an inside glimpse of what it takes to learn“from scratch” how to move. We appreciate the mindstate of what Baby is doing. We  become a mirror to Baby’s process, and in doing so communicate that we see her and accept where she is—this lays a very important foundation forschool-learning later in life! We build relationship around “being” together, not just “doing” together. Find out if it’s relaxing; or if it’s hard work?; and enjoy this precious time with your Baby.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Tummy Time Troubles? Tips for Making it Easy and Comfortable

My previous post began a conversation about the importance of Tummy Time. These tips will help make TT more fun and beneficial for both babies who don’t like it and those who do.

Reduce the Startle Response 

One of the  most important aspects of Tummy Time mechanics is reducing the startle response. Imagine you are being picked up and brought toward the wall in front of you. You have no way of stopping it, you just perceive the wall coming toward you. You have no idea if it will be a soft landing or a fast painful one. How would you react? 

Even in our most loving intentions, we sometimes forget how something might feel to a baby. The startle response is  reflexive and can occur when Baby is brought directly to the floor directly tummy-ward or back-ward. Just like the wall experience for us, this feeling of surprise and lack of control is one reason some babies dislike Tummy Time.

Try this: hold Baby in a ball, with head and legs tucked in, and lay him on his side on the floor. From there, roll him to his belly (or back)—slowly, to give his inner ear time to adjust. Roll him by tipping his pelvis. This teaches him the pathway in and out of Tummy Time, and he learns that he is not stuck.

Tummy Time Tips

  • Reduce the startle response (see above)
  • Begin tummy to tummy, or chest to chest. If needed, begin upright while sitting. Then gradually lean back further and further until you are lying on your back on the floor, with Baby lying on you.
  • A squished arm is an opportunity for empowerment. When Baby can’t get his arm out, do everything possible to help him move it himself, rather than pulling it out for him, so he learns how to be in control in this position. First, try lifting his hip or shoulder a little bit. If that doesn’t work, try brushing your fingertips against his arm to stimulate his awareness of it. If thatdoesn’t work, bring his arm out a tiny bit and try the above again.

Tummy Time joy and empowerment!

  • Watch for signs of “done.” This is different than frustration. Be prepared for some frustration–it’s a motivator! Aside from this, be ready to roll him out of Tummy Time when he signals he is done. Roll him to his side and scoop him up from there.
  • Find dynamic ways to “prop.”  Avoid propping on pillows as much as possible. If you do prop, do as little as possible and use propping as a transition to “the real deal.” Propping Baby on a pillow actually mimics pushing up on the hands, rather than resting on the belly. Pushing up will develop after belly contact becomes comfortable. Because he hasn’t learned to push up yet himself, compensation patterns can develop. Rather, lie Baby across your own leg or belly. You are a dynamic, moving creature; he will feel you moving and you will be in tune with when he needs to adjust.
  • Help him find his own hand with his mouth. This will help him self-soothe, develop a body “map” of his hands in his brain, and is the start of hand-mouth-eye coordination.
  • Play in Tummy Time several times a day. This is more important than staying put for long periods.

Overall, look for solutions that are empowering and help Baby to learn for himself! And most importantly, allow yourself the luxury of lying on the floor with Baby! The more we go down to their level, the more our babies will feel safe and comfortable.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)