A newborn girl is in the hospital being examined by her pediatrician. The doctor is trying to hear the heartbeat, but Baby cries when subjected to the cold, metal stethoscope against her warm skin. By instinct, Daddy starts to pat Baby on the back to reassure her. “Does everything sound okay?” he asks the doctor. “I don’t know,” the doctor replies. “All I can hear is you thumping on her back.”
Doctors must cringe when they see new parents floundering in the Sea of Ignorance. The truth is that most parents need to be thrown a lifeline. In all fairness, when you play with a doll in your youth, you just pour water in its mouth and it comes out the pee hole. A newborn is far more complicated, with many strange and wonderful features.
If you want to know if someone has ever had a baby, just have them hold yours. A non-parent will gleefully grab a newborn and hold her without supporting her neck. As your child’s head is Pezzing (being snapped back like a PEZ dispenser), you can wryly observe that she’s never had a baby.
A newborn has little or no neck support for the first few months. The amount of control varies greatly between babies. One baby might hold her head up at birth, but another will be as floppy as a beanbag for four months. Most rank somewhere in between the two. What does it all mean in the long run? Not much. Even strong, muscular football players are known as “no-necks.”
To help your baby gain neck support, you are supposed to put him down on his stomach several times during the day. For some babies, belly time is the equivalent of a torture chamber. By the decimal level of objection, you would think you were throwing him into a fiery snake pit. An Antibellyum Baby instantly screams, and Mommy picks him up, unable to bear his discomfort. Remember: Parenthood is not for wimps! The only way to endure the crying is by knowing that it is necessary to help him grow strong. Start with one minute and work your way up to five. Before long, he will be able to tolerate ten minutes at a time. It may take a bit longer for you to tolerate it.
A captivating toy can be used to trick your baby into holding his head up. I have a toy carousel from my childhood that still works, which is a testament to how well products were made forty years ago. I still can’t find a toaster that lasts more than a week, but this crank operated merry-go-round has even survived the abuse of our two rambunctious boys. During belly time for all of our babies, I placed this carousel a couple of feet in front of them on the floor. It helped them all gain neck strength, as they had to hold their heads up to watch the animals spinning around to the music. The same toy also helped them all crawl and learn to sit up on their own. Any toy that can hold a baby’s interest for several minutes would help them in the same way. Enjoy this now, because in a few years you will long for something that can hold your child’s attention for longer than the life of a fruit fly.