OT Bella’s Tips for Tummy Time
A Bit About Bella and OT
Hi Mamas! So excited to be writing to you this week. Before we jump into infant development and milestones, I figured I’d give you a little blurb about me. I’m Bella – an occupational therapist and Tummy Time expert on Long Island that specializes in women’s health and infant/pediatric development. Now, many of you may be wondering, what is an occupational therapist (OT)? We’re kind of like the Swiss Army Knives of health care professionals – plug us into whatever scenario/setting/client population, and our skill sets may vary a bit. BUT at the heart of every OT is this notion…our goal is to facilitate you – our client – living your life to your fullest by doing what is most meaningful to YOU! For my private practice, mama and little one are both my clients. Although I specifically make a plan of care with you around lactation and/or infant feeding, I also recognize that we are the sum of our parts, and that you both are your own individuals.
So, with introductions out of the way, let’s jump into the topic of “Infant Milestones.” This post isn’t your traditional guide on development (although there will certainly be tips and tricks throughout). What I am hoping you take away from this is confidence and perspective. As parents, we all want our children to thrive – but it’s so important to respect that thriving looks different for every little one. Of course, we want to meet their basic needs (food, clean diapers, shelter, love). We also want to remember that they are their own little person, with likes and dislikes, feelings, personalities – just like you and me!
Tummy Time – Am I Doing This Right?
Let’s take a look at “Tummy Time” for example. As a pediatric OT, I constantly see parents bombarded by so many messages from other parents, pediatricians, and Dr. Google on “How to do Tummy Time the right way”. How overwhelming is that?! Especially if your little one hates Tummy Time (gasps). There is no cookie-cutter “right” way, mama! There are two very helpful concepts that can be invaluable for approaching Tummy Time: flexibility and opportunity.
Just like you or I may change what we are in the mood for or to do, so can babies! One day – even one hour – little one may be all about playing on his or her tummy; the next time, not so much. It’s the general trend that we’re looking to be consistent. Which brings me to the next concept —
Although well-meaning, many pediatricians and health care professionals may stick to this idea that little one HAS to do Tummy Time for “x” amount of minutes a day. That notion is too inflexible, and oftentimes leaves parents feeling overwhelmed when they can’t meet that rigid criteria. So, there’s a growing movement of us that recommends ditching the clock and don’t worry about minutes. You heard me – stop looking at the clock, mama! Instead, it’s about providing our little ones with the opportunity for Tummy Time and floor play. What Tummy Time looks like depends on your baby’s age (check out the pictures) and preferences. A starting place may be four opportunities on a daily basis for baby to have for floor play. Each of those sessions may look different – which is where the flexibility comes into play.
Encouraging Positive Experiences
I truly believe that we as parents become the experts when it comes to our children. Recognizing our little ones’ stress cues can make infant development and promoting milestones much more of a tolerable (and even pleasant) experience. We want to try to catch these cues before we get to later cues like crying. They may look like baby starting to avoid your eye contact; skin color changes (reddened eyebrow areas); yawning; frantic squirming; and more. When you start to notice these cues, it can indicate baby is nearing the end of this activity (and is moving toward a state where there is too much stimulation in their environment).
This is where we help guide our little ones towards resilience. Instead of picking them up right away and removing them immediately from the situation, try helping them exit the situation themselves. The primary example I give is when baby is done with Tummy Time gently helping guide their shoulders and hips, showing them that they can start to get back onto their backs. Resilience in the face of adversity is one of the most invaluable skills we can help our children with.
I can go on and on about infant development, but I would not want the above message lost! I hope that this post left you feeling like baby milestones looked less like mountains and appeared much more manageable. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. You got this, mama! And thank you, Cassie, for giving me a place to help get this message out!
Love & Positivity,
ABOUT: Gabriela Masotti Rochford, MSOT, OTR/L, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist ™️. Contact Bella at Nurturing Lift, LLC
**Disclaimer: Remember that EVERY baby is different. Little one in these pictures is meant to show you the somewhat linear way that we would like the trajectory of infant motor development to go with Tummy Time. If you are concerned about your child’s milestones (e.g. 6 month old unable to lift head up from floor or roll in at least one direction), reach out to your pediatrician as well as a pediatric development specialist (OT or PT) to assess for whether your little one may benefit from early intervention services**