Tummy time troubles? Are you Superman dropping?
For some parents, tummy time can be downright frustrating. No matter what, when, or how they try, tummy time seems to end up in tears - and I don’t mean only for baby. For this reason, avoidance is common, and sort of sensible given the circumstances.
To get a taste of what tummy time can feel like for your baby, lie down on your belly, tuck your arms under your body, and imagine your head is a medicine ball. Now imagine your arms and legs start flailing, you can’t see what’s happening around you, and you don’t know if - or when - it will end.
But here’s the thing. Picking your baby up and putting them face down is jumping in the deep end - and most of the time it doesn’t promote a positive tummy time experience. Tummy time is a skill, and most skills are best learnt gradually.
An excellent way to build up your baby’s love of tummy time, is giving them a safe opt-out. Don’t go straight for the superman drop, but instead, spend some time playing with your baby on their side. Bend their top leg up and make sure they feel secure. Side-lying is a truly wonderful position, in that your baby’s hands will come together, and if you’re lying with them, they can explore your face or some simple toys with relatively little effort.
When you are both comfortable with playing on your baby's side, it’s time to progress. Did I mention that you were going to teach your baby to roll over? Guide them onto their tummy by gently bringing their top (bent) leg further across their body, which will roll their hips around. Your baby’s upper body should naturally follow the movement of their hips, but if an arm gets stuck, you can always help them out with that. It’s normal for these transitions to feel awkward at first, but it’s one of those things that you’ll both sort out together with practice. It may even be a calm experience.
You may decide to roll half way the first few times - and that’s great too. Be playful. Sing. Stay with your baby in the moment. When your baby starts to fuss - be more playful, smile, and roll them back out the way they came. Tuck one of their arms under their body and guide their hips back around. Sing, laugh, and love some more. And then? Repeat. Show your baby that it’s ok to struggle once in a while. That it’s actually part of the deal for getting stronger.
So why this method over the superman drop? Your baby learns - and has some control over - how they got on to their tummy, and that you’ll be responsive in reading their cues for when it’s time to opt-out. Far less scary. It’s more like dipping their toes in the ocean than sending them head first into a breaking wave.
There is never a one size fits all solution to tummy time troubles, and not every day is a winner. There are teeth, sleep, and bowels to contend with. But arguably the most important lesson here is about building trust and confidence in the process. Partner this with a smattering of practice, often enough, and hopefully tummy time can be a non-issue for everyone.
For movement’s sake.