When you embark on the adventure that is parenthood there are so many places to find information - medical experts, parenting aficionados, the world wide web (this name seems particularly fitting when it comes to parenting articles - it is a vast and webby world out there), loved ones whose opinions you trust, and your own humble instincts whose reliability may make you uneasy. Especially if those instincts are in direct opposition to the people above who clearly must know more than you because they have been in it longer.
Well I'm here to say that if your instincts have lead you well in the past, they will probably do OK for your child (if your instincts have repeatedly failed you, for example by telling you it's a great idea to ride a goat into a T-rex enclosure, then I think you should stick to listening to the "professionals"). For me this lesson was learned via tummy time.
Tummy time, for anyone not in the know, is neither the time to fill your tummy nor to tickle it. Rather it is laying your child on their stomach to build muscle tone in their upper body. It's also a step in the rolling over process and later conducive to crawling. So it has a lot of benefits. Right from the beginning the medical professionals encouraged it, as did the entire Internet. In fact, I think they wanted Roman to start practicing tummy time when he was still in my tummy... I had no problem with that. I had a brightly colored tummy time mat, and was ready to sing songs and cheerlead while he became the buffest baby ever.
The only probably was Roman was not. into. it. About 5 seconds after belly flopping him onto the mat he would start whimpering and become very sad. He never got to the point of screaming because I scooped him up immediately. Call me a helicopter parent, but I wasn't ready to see my 3 day, 2 week, or even 1 month old struggle. I was pretty sure he was experiencing some stomach aches, and it wasn't worth it to me to put more pressure on his belly causing further discomfort. Besides, he was lifting his head up way ahead of schedule and would keep his whole body taught while "flying," surely that was exercise enough? Most of the time his tummy sessions were only a minute or two long. There were several days in a row, maybe even weeks where we skipped tummy time altogether.
I talked myself into feeling guilty about it. Even though my gut said that my kid was developing fine, my brain overrode with *real* information. I read that he was supposed to be getting anywhere between 30-90 minutes of tummy time a day by 3 months. Our pediatrician confirmed that he was quite strong, but told me to keep trying with tummy time even if he cries for a little while. But I didn't. I had a talk with myself and decided that I would take the full brunt of responsibility if he went to college lying on his back because he never learned to roll over and crawl. He was so vulnerable, so trusting, and so dependent on me to make his life OK that I couldn't just leave him in an uncomfortable situation when it was within my power to make him feel better. I know in the future I'll wish all of his problems were so easily remedied by Mom!
Now I have to cover my ass a little bit (this is a public forum after all) and say this is true in this instance for my specific family. I know there are babies out there that love tummy time from the beginning, and others who absolutely hate it but have to persevere through it because they really need the practice. Kudos to every mama who knows what her baby needs and provides it for them! All I am saying is that I felt like it was doing more harm than good for my particular kid when leaving him to cry it out on the mat!
So we did tummy time in bits and pieces as it naturally came up in our day, but I picked him up the moment it stopped being fun for him and no longer worried about it. I trusted my instincts that all would be well and gave up the guilt. Lo and behold, a little after 4 months guess who rolled onto his belly all by himself? And after that roll, guess who no longer fussed or looked at me with despair when finding himself doing a cobra pose on the playmat? Now at 5 months old he LOVES to be on his tummy, and chooses that position for himself regularly.
When a baby crawls, walks, gets their first teeth - all of these things are seen as milestones with a varying age of achievement. We don't stress to parents that their kid should do so many hours of standing by 9 months before they start walking or maybe they'll never walk (at least not that I've seen, thank goodness!). I wish someone had said the same for tummy time! If your kid seems to be developing well and has good muscle tone for their age, why do we put so much pressure on something they will eventually learn to do on their own?
Maybe it was just me. Maybe I made the pressure up in my head those first 3 months, but I'm just putting this out there for anyone in the same boat: Don't stress, you know your kid, and they'll be fine. If they are getting in 90 minutes of tummy time at 3 months it just means they will be in therapy for some other thing when they grow up. You just can't win them all. ;)