A Response to Tummy Time: Baby on the Back

My wife Caitlin and I met Kate Miller many years ago at a yoga retreated and instantly connected with her. Today I was happy to receive her comment/dissension about the tummy time post I wrote a couple of days ago. I really appreciated her response and asked her if I could reprint it as a post of its own. So here you have it.

baby-laying-on-backJonathan, I have to respectfully disagree on the topic of tummy time.  First of all I think I should start off by letting you know that I’m a big proponent of self-initiated movement. I’m going to leave the whole SIDS debate alone (a very smoke and alcohol filled time in our history where parents usually slept far away from their children – I don’t think any position was going to change that).

As for the trend of Tummy Time, I personally believe that an infant ought to find their own way to their belly. Here is why.  When they’re lying on their backs, infants are working hard on developing core muscles. Not only throughout the abdomen and back, but also at their upper back and neck.  They do this as they arch and squirm.  You might think of the actions to be similar to the actions of the yoga posture, setu bandhasana (bridge pose).

Then from there, watch how infants will work the diagonals; first with their gaze and then the reach through their fingers and toes.  It’s a beautiful transitioning that will lead them to finally make their own way to their belly.  I think it’s that transition that offers so much richness!  The balancing on the side for a bit; the reaching and almost making it but falling back and then the beautiful accomplishment when they finally make it all the way.  Look at any baby put on their tummy too soon and they look pissed and they’re usually not shy in expressing that.  Why wouldn’t they be?  As you know, the head is the heaviest part of the body.  I believe strength needs to be developed gradually on the back before the heavier strength training of tummy time.

I witnessed this with my daughter many times.  I never sat her up before she found her own way to sitting (which by the way means a bit of creeping and crawling first) and I absolutely never held her hands over her head and walked her.  I can see the balance and confidence she holds in her body now just shy of two years old.  She rarely needs me on the playground or jungle gym and I believe she’s safer for it.  I also love the confidence and fulfillment I see on a baby’s face when they have accomplished something on their own.

Self-initiated movement isn’t just wonderful for the body, it’s amazing for a child’s confidence, balance and sense of self.  Something else that supported my exploration (and opinion) on this subject is my work with Bartenieff Fundamentals and Laban Movement Analysis.  The movements I had been practicing in many years of movement education, my daughter was instinctually finding all by herself.  Oh the beauty of getting out of the way and allowing!

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