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Tummy Time


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They say that my baby is a dream baby.

Now you might wonder who “they” are. It’s those folks who come up to me and say that my baby’s feet are cold without socks; her head is baking in the sun without a hat; she’s too hot with that blanket over her. Oh, the joys of living in Israel, where we are all family.

They tell me how lucky I am, how blessed I am. I guess she is appropriately named Bracha, since she is not much of a crier. She is content, sleeps nicely, and nurses well. Please Hashem, no surprises with future babies who have colic!

As I was sitting at the computer writing about my dream baby, I suddenly wondered, “Where is she? She is too quiet.” So I turned around to see what she was doing. I had left her sitting behind me with toys to keep her busy, and she had been playing nicely. As she was no longer there I went to look for her, and found her happily sitting on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pile of ripped tissues. Okay, back to my story.

As a tiny baby, Bracha slept a lot, and during her time awake, when she wasn’t hungry or tired, she would sit contentedly in her car seat or on a blanket on the floor. Many mothers, doctors and nurses told me about the importance of “tummy time” – placing an infant on her tummy to increase the development of her upper body strength. But I didn’t take them seriously.

I made a slight effort to comply, and saw that my baby did not like even the smallest amount of tummy time. So I forgot about it for now. Why would I choose to place my adorable, happy, quiet baby who lay perfectly peacefully for long periods of time on her back, and subject her to being unhappy? Was tummy time that important? Did I really have to make her suffer for her own good?

When Bracha was about four months old, I spent some time with my rebbetzin at her home, where she frequently babysat for her four-month old granddaughter, Batya. While Bracha spent most of the time on her back, Batya had become accustomed to being on her tummy, and could lift her head. We noticed the drastic difference and realized that if Bracha had been given her tummy time, she would have greater upper body strength and mobility.

My rebbetzin advised me to start putting Bracha on her tummy even if Bracha did not enjoy it.

I was still hesitant, until a few days later when a friend came over and asked me if I ever gave my baby tummy time. I wondered if she was clairvoyant, until she explained that her sons were both plastic surgeons who spent a great deal of time making helmets for babies who had flat heads as a result of lack of tummy time. She told me that Bracha had a flat head, and it was apparent that I had been placing her on her back for too long.

Until that moment, I would never have considered making my baby unhappy purposely. But now I realized that she needed tummy time, whether she liked it or not. And whether I liked it or not.

So the tummy time began, followed by kvetching, whining and whimpering.

“Mommy, how can you do this to me?” my four-month old seemed to plead, as I slowly began incorporating longer and longer periods of tummy time. Little by little, she began to raise herself on her arms, pick up her head, and develop the crucial upper body strength she needed in order to crawl and grow properly.

I don’t know if this challenge was harder for her or for me. It must have been very difficult for her to desperately try to lift her head when all she wanted was to calmly lie on her back, as she was accustomed to doing.

It was also terribly painful for me to watch her strain and exert herself to merely raise her head off the floor, then put it down again and pitifully whine, begging me to rescue her.

I had to fight my intense urge to grab Bracha off the floor. I resisted the temporary relief of her momentary discomfort for the greater goal of her growth.

I began to connect this episode in my daughter’s life to events in my life. When things do not go as planned, I often wonder, “Hashem, how can You do this to me?”

As I struggle with life’s difficulties, I am sure I am not alone in thinking, “Why do I need to go through this? Why do I have to suffer so much? Can’t Hashem just end the challenge now?”

As I watched my baby struggle in her attempts to grow, I knew this was what was best for her. I came to realize that as the ultimate parent, Hashem surely does what is best for us, regardless of how much we must struggle. He gives us what is right for us at every moment, in order to help us learn, grow, and develop.

Even though they are not always pleasant or easy, our challenges are ultimately for our good.

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As I was sitting at the computer writing about my dream baby, I suddenly wondered, “Where is she? She is too quiet.” So I turned around to see what she was doing. I had left her sitting behind me with toys to keep her busy, and she had been playing nicely. As she was no longer there I went to look for her, and found her happily sitting on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pile of ripped tissues. Okay, back to my story.

Now you might wonder who “they” are. It’s those folks who come up to me and say that my baby’s feet are cold without socks; her head is baking in the sun without a hat; she’s too hot with that blanket over her. Oh, the joys of living in Israel, where we are all family.

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