We’ve all been there, it’s 5:30pm and your baby’s starting to get the early evening grumps. You do a nappy change, maybe give them a feed and jangle their favourite shiny toy above their face for a bit. Before you know it it’s 6pm and you realise you’ve made it through another day. Hurrah! Perhaps your partner arrives home from work to give you a break/bring you that hot drink you’ve been craving for the last 8 hours. But wait, just as you settle for a ten-minute sit-down the cold horror of realisation hits: you have forgotten to do tummy time. Again! Will you ever learn??
When I was pregnant I heard the term ‘tummy time’ being thrown around a fair bit. I didn’t really know what it was but I suppose I had a vague idea that it was time letting your baby lie on your tummy and have a cuddle. Something like that, I can’t say I thought about it much. But by the time baby boy was, around 6-8 weeks old I thought I should probably google it (this is not a good idea, never google it, never). I found a very nice little video on babycentre.com about babies having time on their tums, it was informative and no pushy. But wait! There was a newborn in the video. But my baby had been alive for well OVER A MONTH! Epic mum fail.
Once I found out what tummy time was it seemed to be everywhere. It seemed to be the number one essential activity you should do with your baby. My son hated it. There’s always lots of advice about ‘how to’ with these things and I remember some of it saying that you shouldn’t leave your baby on their front if they get too distressed, so I was like, ‘Ok, 2 seconds it is!’ The funny thing was that he had pretty good head control, he just didn’t really get it yet. As you can imagine I was completely chilled out about it all and felt safe in the knowledge that each baby develops at their own pace. (sense the sarcasm, dear reader)
And so it was that tummy time became one of the main focusses of my crippling anxiety. I just hadn’t done it right and now my baby was impaired by my ignorance! Ok, well I wasn’t that melodramatic but my stomach turned every time I thought about it. When I look back now it seems a bit comedy how worried and embarrassed I was. At the time there were few laughs.
I kept seeing posters that said ‘by 3 months your baby should be spending at least half an hour a day on their front’, or that it was ‘essential to your baby’s development’. And then there was all that crap about ‘flat-head syndrome’. Because, you know if you’re not doing tummy time with your baby you’re obviously leaving them flat on their back all day with no movement at all. Arg!
I remember when tummy time would come up in conversation with other mums. It elicited two very different responses. The first was to instantly flip their baby over and demonstrate the incredible neck lifting skill they had cultivated and then act like you weren’t showing-off. These were not my fave mums. The second response involved a flash of stress in the eyes – you know that God-I-should-be-doing-that-but-I’m-not look that parents often have – followed by something along the lines of ‘oh, I haven’t been doing that very much’. These words were often said in hushed, conspiratorial tones, as if divulging a deep, dark secret.
But the fact is that if I had tried to get my son to spend half an hour a day on his front at 3 months it would have meant half an hour’s more crying every day and, frankly, I couldn’t take that. But, naturally, I felt selfish for not doing it. Because, of course, me not wanting him face-plant on his play mat, wriggling helplessly and crying could only be interpreted as selfish. Hmm, perhaps there was a flaw in that logic.
With hindsight I know that if you see a sentence that begins with ‘by X months your baby should be…’ it’s time to turn the page, close the book or click that little x at the top of the browser window. Seriously guys, we don’t need that crap. Since when was tummy time a thing any way?
Go and ask your mum if she’s heard of tummy time. No? Now, have a look at you and your siblings, are any of you unable to roll over? Probably not.
Yes, yes, I know, I know! Tummy time was introduced as a concept somewhere around the 1990s, when parents were advised to put their babies on their backs to sleep, as a way of ensuring that they developed all of their core muscles. Blah blah blah. I’m not saying don’t do it. I carried on with it. I even managed to let him struggle for a minute or two before I swooped in for a cuddle. Sometimes. But some days I forgot and some days we only did it for 30 seconds. Guess what? My son is 9 months old and he can crawl and pull himself up on the furniture and sit up and all that good stuff. 6 months ago he was not doing half an hour a day tummy time.
So what was all that worry for? Absolutely nothing. Next time around I think I’ll see tummy time as something else to do when I can’t face waving another jangly, shiny object or singing another song. I will certainly do it as often I as I remember, but I will try not to make forgetting a failure. Because ours babies will get there, they always do.
Photo source: http://www.nhs.uk/start4life/Pages/baby-activities.aspx