Dan Rindler, G.C.F.P., Child’Space Practitioner
Tummy-Time While it is well-accepted that lying on the tummy when awake is an important position for development, many babies do not spend much time in this important position. Babies who don’t become accustomed to this position from their first days of life, may cry and fuss, leading parents to abandon trying tummy- time. By gaining improved awareness of the body, especially the flexor and extensor muscles of the trunk, babies can learn very quickly to find comfort on their tummy. When parents use the techniques of the Child’Space Method at home, they will see their baby’s world expand as they are able to begin lifting their head and exploring the world from this new position.
S.I.D.S.: You can find many resources, most importantly your pediatrician, to advise you on avoiding SIDS. Please follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to preventing SIDS.
Benefits: When a baby lies on her tummy, she learns to bring her head and upper body up and down in gravity. This exploration is a major part of how she learns the balance and organization needed to keep the head up without strain in upright postures. On the tummy, babies can reach for objects, balancing with only one hand, and can practice rolling over to their side or back. These movements help organize the coordination of the many small muscles around the spine for crawling, sitting, and standing. Bone growth and shaping is also positively affected by bearing weight in this position. No advances in motor development occur without affecting a baby’s cognitive and psycho/social development as well. Compared to lying on the back, tummy-time is an active posture: reaching for toys and other objects in the baby’s world give her a new feeling of agency, of having an effect on her own world. Lying on the tummy with the head more upright leads to new interactions with parents and others from a more independent position. The baby is beginning to enter the world of the adults and older children in his or her life, where social interaction takes place in a vertical position.
Standing and Sitting: It may seem counter-intuitive, but standing and sitting your baby isn’t the best way for them to learn to stand and sit! In fact this may delay your baby’s ability to find comfort on his belly as well. In sitting or standing before this organization has been learned, babies must contract their muscles in order to hold their head up, often with excess muscle tone in their back (extensor) and neck muscles. That excess muscle tone can make it difficult for babies to relax into the floor when lying on the tummy and can make rolling over seem almost impossible. When a baby explores bringing her head up from the prone position, she can rest her head on the floor whenever she gets tired. She will learn to organize her whole system to manage the weight of the head without unnecessary strain. When she is ready, your baby will find sitting and standing as a natural outcome of her movement exploration and will be able to move freely in and out of many positions.
What About my Exersaucer? Exersaucers, bumbo seats, jumperoos, and the baby bjorn among many others are designed in a way that requires babies to hold their heads erect before they have found this position on their own in floor time. All of these devices put added stress on the infant’s system and play time on the floor is so much more beneficial than many of these devices. Ideally, you should use them sparingly if at all. (The newest baby bjorns are an improvement on the old models, but other carriers are much better.)
Strength or Quality of Movement? What’s the difference between an expert athlete and his or her competitors? It’s often more a matter of coordination and timing than strength. In the Child’Space approach, we stress that proprioception, or the mapping of the body in the brain is crucial for coordination. To quote Moshe Feldenkrais, “If we know what we’re doing we can do what we want.” Practicing the tapping and movements taught in class will help improve your baby’s proprioception, and help them find comfort and coordination in tummy-time and many other new postures and movements.
© Dan Rindler, 2012