Being on the Belly

Remember airplane flights? Sitting in a small seat with little room to stretch your legs. When you finally exited the plane, maybe you were a little stiff in the hips. Your body was fine though you needed to move around, get in alignment again. That’s how you could get comfortable.

Sometimes 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. Resting tummy down is helpful for baby’s adjustment.

Support under their torso promotes a baby’s instincts to move and crawl. Their head is in a better position to nuzzle up to the breast and find the nipple.  Resting on your body is also safe and calming. This is good for all babies, not just for newborns. It may take a few days or weeks for a baby to unfurl.

I remember a specific baby’s birth from my doula days. As 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.) He 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. His mother’s instincts were to rest with him, tummy on her chest, until he was ready to move. (You can imagine he had some stiff muscles.) They did that for twenty-four hours. By the next day, his face was no longer swollen. He was in a better position to move his head and neck and jaws for feeding.

That was a dramatic example of tight muscles and 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.

Time on the belly encourages babies to use the neck, torso, shoulder, even jaw muscles. That influences how they open their mouth, use the tongue, how easily they latch, swallow, breathe and more.

It’s natural that babies need to move, stretch and wiggle their bodies. 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. They need time on their tummies, too.

When you change the diaper, lay your baby tummy down and have a little face to face chat. It’s a nice way to connect and it’s helpful for your baby’s alignment. When your baby is on his/her belly, you can observe what makes them comfortable. And when your baby is comfortable, you are, too.

Photo: Shanice McKenzie from Pexel.