It’s inevitable: that stuck arm under your wriggling baby in tummy time. What should you do? Many parents will lovingly want to help and will pull Baby’s arm out. You might even feel unkind 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 he can’t do himself” to “providing support so that he can then do as much as possible by himself”? There’s a difference!
In the case of the stuck arm, there are several options for offering support yet not doing it for your baby. Again, the idea is to help him in a way that allows him to do as much as possible on his own. After rolling Baby into tummy time, try these things:
- Wait. Allow him to feel himself and respond to the sensory information his 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 him some time, he’s new at this!
- Lift and roll the same side of his pelvis (hip) as the stuck arm. This can give him the space he needs to manage his arm.
- Lift the shoulder of the stuck arm and see if he’ll pull his arm out himself.
- Gently-but-firmly brush his stuck arm/hand. This will help notify his brain exactly where the challenge is so he can direct his effort there.
- If none of the above works, gently bring his arm out just a little bit—not the whole way! See if he can do it from there, or try the above options again.
Empowerment. Confidence. Trust in herself. True functional independence. Allowing reflexes to do their job. The experience of and ability to figure out a challenge and manage it himself (with support when needed). His pace. His learning process. Because he actually can do more than many people realize. His needs, not ours!
Getting into Tummy Time
Please do so by rolling him into it rather than flying him 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 he’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 him–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.)
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.
Thanks for your comment, Sarah; SO true! on so many levels and in so many facets of life… individual, family, society, country, world…