I really wish there were a better moniker for this activity, because this ridiculously cute name can be highly misleading for what will surely follow. But the options seem to be somewhat limited by the act itself. Belly time? That’s even worse. The problem is that there’s just not much action to describe except for some crying, some drooling and a shocking display of limited mobility.
Origins of TT have been speculated on for centuries. Seems that no one quite knows who first decided to put an otherwise contented creature lying on its back onto its stomach with the inevitability of tears, wailing and general ire. Medieval torture immediately jumps to mind, but scholars generally credit Jasper Jenkins, a late-nineteenth century Tuscaloosa resident for coining the phrase.
While sitting on his porch one Saturday afternoon, minding his nephew, the baby began to cry. A friendly passerby walked by and issued the ubiquitous greeting ‘Roll Tide.’ But never a sports fan, and with the din of the baby’s frenzy, Jasper heard ‘Roll Ty.’ Now for whatever reason (perhaps he thought it would douse the pint-sized inferno), he bade this stranger’s bidding, and a new fad was about to sweep the nation.
No amount of progress or technology over the years has made tummy time as less arduous. Babies hate it, parents hate it, even the pope said we should ‘re-evaluate’ the practice. The directions are pretty simple. Step 1—place Baby face down on floor. Step 2—Insert ear plugs.
Of course, tummy time does have medical justification on its side. The point is to strengthen Baby’s neck muscles, since the head is about 60% of overall body weight. He can then move on to more complex activities, like sitting up, eating, etc. Truly a baby step.
This is easier said than done, especially at first. It’s the equivalent of you trying to get out of bed in the morning with a Shetland pony lying on your back. Ever tried that? Quite the task.
Start in small, controlled bursts. He won’t be able to tolerate more than a few seconds at the beginning, nor will he be able to lift his head. He will cry. Think of that pony as an empathy exercise. This is hard to watch at first, but it gets easier. Talk to him, touch him, say encouraging things. And keep it short. You don’t want him to build a negative association with the activity, since he will be subjected to it several times a day for the foreseeable future. So it’s your job to make it fun. Or at least less miserable.
It does get easier, though. Eventually, he will be able to hold his head up a bit, and then you can use objects to tempt him into raising that giant bean higher and higher. Then he’ll be able to hold it up and even look around the room. And eventually you’ll see a rewarding smile of self-satisfaction that you should share with him—you deserve it.