Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tummy Time

Ah yes, tummy time.  A necessity for babies of today because they go "back to sleep." Tummy time is the exercise a baby needs to strengthen their neck, arm and shoulder muscles and to prevent the scary condition known as flathead. Tummy time was not an easy thing to master for me or for my baby.

When the baby was first born, we were told to place him on his stomach for a few minutes a day and work up to an hour and a half a day by the time he was a month old. We started with the few minutes in the beginning and right from the get-go it was clear that he hated it. He screamed almost instantly and seemed angry and in pain as he kicked and struggled to move around while in this new uncomfortable position. I swore I would get him to like it but I got lazy.

After a trying summer due to some unexpected health problems (me) resulting in the inability to lift him, I had to have someone with me while I recovered. During that time we didn't give him much tummy time. I couldn't listen to him wailing while a family member was with me to help and I kept saying that "we'll do it tomorrow" and of course I never did. He spend an awful lot of time on his back during this time period too. So no surprise at his 4 month needles the nurse was wary of the beginnings of flat head. His shoulder and neck muscles were weaker than they should be for a child his age, plus he had a large head and would need a lot of practice to get good at holding it up. I wasn't shocked but it did give me a good scare. Oh dear, now how to train my four month old to spend a lot more time on his belly. Yikes.

So I dug my heels in and started that very day. I began by putting him down for 10 minute intervals during every hour he was awake. Over the next few days I increased these intervals up to 15, 20, and finally 30 minutes. Once he started staying down for 30 minutes I wouldn't pick him up until he started crying after that point. To keep my sanity I got down with him and shook rattles, played musical toys, squeaked Sophie, and turned on the Hot Dog Dance from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as many times as I needed to in order to distract him from the discomfort and keep him from screaming. When it got to the point that none of these things worked I would busy myself close by him to avoid giving in to picking him up because he was crying so hard. It was rough on both of us.

 After about four days there was some improvement in his endurance and after two weeks we really started to see the change. Now more than a month later he is loving his time and is rolling over plenty from tummy to back much more often than before. He lasts much longer when down there, has a stronger head and can hold his shoulders up higher. He has started to make the crawling motions and is now attempting to roll from back to belly. I feel so much better too.  I thought the crying was going to break my heart but we managed to get through it. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do with him thus far, and making myself stick to his endurance schedule was something I really had to push myself to do - but it was all worth it!

Momma's Musts
  • Put the baby on his/her belly! Plain and simple, put them down for short periods and repeat a couple times a day and increase intervals and duration over time.
  • Play with baby. To keep the tears at bay, try whatever you can think of to occupy. Music, squeaks, rattles, dance even if that's what works.
  • Keep busy. If you have tried everything and nothing works to settle the tears, to help resist the urge to take the little one out of their misery find something to do to occupy yourself during the time.
  • Follow through. Don't give up when it's rough. It will get worse before it gets better but when it does get better you will feel accomplished! You will be so proud of your child for doing it! Not to mention the benefits to his or her growth and development :)

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