Being on the Belly

Remember taking a long airplane flight, sitting in a small seat with little room to stretch your legs?  When you finally exit the plane, maybe you are a little stiff in the hips. Your body is fine; though you need to move around, get in alignment again to be comfortable.

Some times I think birth is like that. Your baby has been curled in the cozy, safe space of your womb and then it needs to adjust to gravity and life in important ways. Resting tummy down is helpful for baby’s adjustment.

Sometimes it takes days or weeks for a baby to unfurl. I remember a specific baby’s birth from my doula days. After the mother progressed in labor, the midwife realized the baby was presenting face first. This is difficult. Whereas the crown of the head can mold to fit through the cervix, the face cannot. This baby kept snapping his head back, not tucking his chin. Finally, he was born by cesarean.

Immediately after birth, he was brought to rest on his mom’s chest. His face was swollen and he was very still. You can imagine he had some stiff muscles, especially his neck. His mother’s instincts were to keep him tummy down on her chest until he was ready to move. That position kept him safe and warm. She did that for twenty four hours and, when he was ready, he was in a better position to lift and tilt his head for feeding.

That was a dramatic example of tight muscles and also of patience and positioning. This experience was years before I became an IBCLC. Since then I have come to understand more of this for breastfeeding.

Support under their torso promotes a baby’s instincts to move and crawl. That is a good way for a new baby to find the breast, nuzzle and then latch. Time on the belly helps babies to develop the jaw, neck, torso and shoulder muscles. That influences how they open the mouth, use the tongue, how easily they latch, swallow, breathe and more.

It’s natural for babies to move, stretch and wiggle their bodies. They have a need to be on their tummies. However, when babies spend a lot of time in car seats or bouncy seats, if they’re sleeping on their back (as is recommended), they are not using those muscles.

Spend a little time each day with your baby on his/her belly. When you change the diaper, have your baby rest on it’s belly and enjoy a brief face to face chat. It’s a nice way to connect and it’s helpful for your baby’s alignment. When your baby is comfortable, you are, too.

Check out this TummyTime!Method group for babies up to four months with a caregiver/parent. We’ll meet Tuesday mornings March 7,14,21,28, 2023 at The Gatherings in Surry, ME.  TummyTime! Method was developed by Michelle Emanuel, OT, PT, IBCLC in her work with newborns.

Contact me to register. It’s a small group, four baby/caregiver pairs. It’s free, a $2 suggested donation for each class goes to support The Gatherings.
Please wear a mask to minimize the risk of RSV for the little ones.