The topic of lying on the tummy is so important that it deserves serious attention from new parents. Babies learn new skills about their bodies on a daily basis. The skills that add up to get a baby rolling over, crawling, kneeling, standing and walking, develop best from the tummy position.
While in theory we know that the time babies spend lying on their tummies is very important, how does it look in practice? While we’re waiting for our baby to come into this world, we assume that we’re just going to lay our little one down on the tummy as often as possible.
However, the situation may get complicated when our baby is finally with us, and we, overwhelmed by so many new challenges, feel like we’ve completely lost our minds.
Then, the connection between theory and practice starts to fall apart: First of all, we don’t really know how to turn our baby over; and, secondly, our babies don’t always look happy when laid on their tummies.
At that point, our hearts break into a million pieces and we turn our baby over onto his or her back. But we keep thinking that we “SHOULD” lay our child on his or her tummy again because it is such an important position.
I will address this particular situation in a moment. In the meantime, let’s consider the specific topic of today’s post: Is it possible that the surface upon which we put our babies while they are lying on their bellies makes a difference?
When we stop to think about it for a moment, it quickly becomes apparent that the answer is… Yes!
WHY DOES THE SURFACE MATTER?
Because a surface with the right degree of firmness makes it easier for babies to feel the immediate positioning of their bodies. The receptors located in the joints and muscles send information to the brain; and that processing helps to build a body schema — creating a map of the body.
When the firmness of this surface is correct, the torso does not “sink” into it and babies can prop themselves up on their forearms more easily. What is more, the next developmental movement of pushing the body off the ground with the hands becomes easier as well.
HOW SHOULD WE SUM THIS UP?
I think the word FEEDBACK best conveys what is important here.
Think about it — what would your daily coffee ritual look like if your brain didn’t “know” how heavy a full cup is, and how much lighter half a cup will be? Would using the right amount of strength, bringing the cup close to your mouth, or slowing the movement down at the right moment be so automatic?
The fact that we know what to expect when the cup is full, and what to expect when it is empty, is all due to our experiences and the physical feedback that we have been receiving over the years. Our brain processes the given information, combines it, and draws appropriate conclusions — which then find their use in practice.
For our babies, almost every experience provides information that has to be processed by their nervous systems. If a specific type of information is repeated frequently, children are able to remember it — and it becomes part of their daily lives.
We know that babies spend a lot of time lying down. Therefore, it is good to pay attention to the surface on which they usually lie: it should be suitable.
WHAT DOES “SUITABLE” MEAN?
Not too soft, but not too hard either… Just right. 😀
If, for example, the mattress is very soft and your baby immediately “sinks” into it, it’s a good idea to replace this item with a firmer surface. We may use a rug, a foam mat, or even a blanket — any item that will provide the baby with stable support; and the necessary strong feedback.
IS LYING ON THE TUMMY IS REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?
Yes! But, at the same time it’s also worth remembering that forcing your baby into this position when he or she clearly doesn’t like it can do more harm than good.
So, instead of sticking to strict rules (which we often tend to impose on ourselves) that’s why it is good to introduce our newborns to lying on their tummies in a baby-friendly and easy way.
Indeed, I have written about the many ways that Tummy Time is Fun!
It is worth remembering that children who are obviously unhappy might just be manifesting the discomfort that they feel. Specifically, if the child reacts adversely to lying on his or her tummy no matter how gentle we are, there may be a variety of causes. The discomfort, for example, could come from the reflux of food from the stomach into the esophagus.
Of course, like most things, there is no “one right way” that will work for everyone. Every child is different, and we should carefully watch for the signs they give to us. Our parental intuition is usually the most reliable source of information — and, if our heart tells us something is wrong, it is worth looking carefully into every potential issue…
THE TOPIC OF ADEQUATE SURFACE SELECTION IS NOT SO DIFFICULT, RIGHT?
Yes, but in order to make the necessary changes it is always a good idea to start from with the basics and from the foundations — which should always be solid. Only then are we able to build soundly and ever further!
You may also be interested in:
Do you know how to play with your baby to make tummy time fun – and to help them develop better? I have created a resource of ideas for fun playtime with your child — from birth to first steps — in my e-book:
E-book: A COLLECTION OF IDEAS FOR THE MOST FUN PLAYTIME WITH YOUR CHILD:
- A. Jean Ayres, “Dziecko a integracja sensoryczna”, Gdańsk, 2018.