In our RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ Classes, we talk a lot about giving trust to very young infants. We talk about how it is important to allow a struggle for some time and let the baby work on his challenges. As well as, they need our support and help in many situations. One of the mamas, Nelly in my class asked, “How should you help the baby, and at what point?” Our goal is to learn how to support our children going through struggles in the best way.
Let’s look at a few different situations:
1. Nelly said my daughter just learned how to turn from her back to her tummy. When she does this, one of her arms often gets stuck and she looks pretty uncomfortable. Should I help her move her arm? Or I roll her back? Maybe I wait and if so, for how long? What could I do?
· Start with observation. See what your daughter is doing for a few seconds first. You might realize that she doesn’t need your help yet.
· If you feel she is getting frustrated bring your face closer to your daughter’s face and talk about what’s happening: “You rolled on your tummy.” Pause. “Your arm got stuck. It looks uncomfortable. You are trying to get it out.”
· And then wait a little more, if she continues being frustrated and it seems like she is getting tired let her know and pick her up: “Looks like you tried very hard. I think it is time for you to rest.”
· Bring her to your arm, let her spend some time with you, and get recharged. Then you can try again to put her on the blanket on her back. Make sure you do that slowly while supporting her neck with one arm.
Sometimes you will figure out that you helped her too fast or maybe waited too long—it happens. You can adjust the best timing next time. Finding a balance allows learning, trusting, nurturing, and helping.
2. Another scenario: sometimes she manages to get herself on her tummy, but doesn’t know yet how to get back on her back. Consequently, she will grow tired after a while. Should I roll her back? You can do the same thing:
· Start with observation
· Bring your face closer for support.
· Narrate what you see.
· Once you feel she is too tired to be on her tummy, don’t roll her back. Let her know that you are going to pick her up and take her in your arms. Let her rest.
3. Sometimes, Lori plays with toys and the toys will get away from her. I see her gaze and I feel like she is asking for my help.
· I would again suggest starting with observation. Sometimes the baby is focused on his movement and doesn’t need the toy at the moment.
· You might support her by narrating and naming what you see, “I see the ball rolled away. It is over there now.”
· Acknowledge her frustrations and other emotions she might experience.
· Once you feel she is too tired to continue, you might want to pick her up and let her recharge. Now you can reposition toys. Next, when you bring her down you might position her a bit closer to them; especially if she is not mobile yet, and there is no way for her to get there.
Parents often ask me how I would know that it is time to help. There are no formulas and it’s not an exact science. Therefore, sometimes we intervene too quickly while at other times we wish we would have picked up the baby faster. Each time we become better and better observers. After all, we want to give our babies the support and empathy they need while trusting that they can do it at the same time.
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!