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

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