Do you ever notice your baby playing on her tummy and then putting her head down? Perhaps she’s new to tummy time, or starting to pivot and push backwards, or even moving forward on her belly. If you’re not familiar with this pausing, it’s easy to think she’s giving up.
But this little rest is of great importance!
It can come when your baby is frustrated, but it’s often neutral–not happy or sad, it just ‘is.’ Contrary to popular sentiment that babies “don’t do anything,” your baby actually is doing a ton! If you join your baby on the floor and do what she’s doing–especially during the belly-pushing stage around 4 to 8 months–you’ll know what I mean! It’s quite a workout for the body, but your baby’s brain is also making a massive amount of connections as he follows his immense curiosity about himself, you, and the world.
So sometimes she just needs a little rest. This rest allows:
- the body to recuperate
- the brain to integrate and record new information
- all aspects of herself to understand her new experiences–the nervous system, sensory perception, and body tissues like muscles, bones, and cellular memory
What is recuperation, really?
It may be rest–if you’ve been active. But if you’ve been sleeping for a while, recuperation may mean becoming active. In the somatic sense (your internal physical experience), it actually means to ‘recover’ by doing something different than you were doing, adding variety, and breaking up any potentially repetitive activity.
So when your baby takes this little rest, it’s a time to simply ‘be’–to be present in the midst of do-ing and learning and exploring; to just be in the moment, absorb, and process before moving on.
Of course, this sweet lying down of the head can also mean she’s tired and ready for a nap! …which is also a time of recuperation and integration. But if she’s happily playing, give her the gift of enjoying this little rest and allow her to engage again when she’s ready, without calling her name or getting her attention with a toy. She hasn’t forgotten you–she’s just following her internal wisdom, and she’ll join you again in a moment!
What giving up looks like
If your baby isn’t moving much, isn’t progressing to new motor skills, or her demeanor seems low, ‘flat,’ or unhappy, you may indeed be seeing signs of giving up. This is very important and it’s something your pediatrician may or may not notice or believe to be significant.
‘Giving up’ sometimes looks subtle and sometimes very obvious. Here are some scenarios:
- A baby lies on his back and stays there, doesn’t roll, and isn’t comfortable on his tummy
- She may reach for a toy from lying on her back (or from sitting), but if she can’t get it, will pull her arm back in rather than move her body away from the spot where she’s settled
- He might startle when he gets to the point of needing to roll
- She may seem frustrated and upset when consistently not being able to reach a toy; or she may choose something else within her reach, settling with it for longer than you might suspect it would hold his interest
- If he’s an older baby, he may even start to move and then shake his head ‘no’
- When you provide encouragement, she may show interest and begin an attempt, but then pull back
All babies have times when they want something but don’t yet have the motor skill to obtain it. In this case, you’ll see Baby attempt and then either let it go or become frustrated! The difference is that this baby’s skills will grow and you’ll soon see something change, whether she tries a new movement, a different tactic, or actually succeeds. A baby giving up may make repeated attempts, but with no, or very little, progress. Her actions may even have an autopilot quality–she may actively reach and then stop reaching at the same point every time because it’s too difficult or scary.
If you notice any of this in your baby, please reach out. The first year sets the tone for the rest of life. It’s not just how some babies are–we’re designed to move and be curious and learn. If your baby shows signs of giving up, it’s not a bad thing and doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. On the contrary, she’s signaling to us that something is scary and she needs support; and she knows you’re the amazing, loving parent to whom she has been entrusted, because you are noticing it. The sooner we provide support (noninvasive, encouraging, and based on her innate abilities), the better. Find me via the contact form below.
We learn from the babies…
Do you take the time you need to pause, absorb your experiences, and integrate your life? We have families and commitments; many of us barrel through even when we know we need a rest. How can we find a balance? We–babies and grown ups–actually learn and gain more when we take breaks to recuperate. So, happy pausing!
Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator® (work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen), Aware Parenting Instructor (Aletha Solter, Ph.D), Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and trained Feldenkrais® Practitioner.
© Eliza Parker 2017, All Rights Reserved, links welcome