Resisting the Temptation to Just Get Through Diaper Changes



Sometimes when infants start to roll over, diaper changes become . . . quicker.  It can also be said that they become more challenging.  When infants learn to roll over, and especially after they learn to crawl, they can be eager to do so every moment that they are able to.  In my experience, many infants do not consider a diaper change a justifiable reason to lie still.


When Moon’s right foot starts to push against the floor and her pelvis starts to turn, followed by her twisting torso, I sometimes have the urge to grab her body and turn her back. Sometimes when she twists, I wish and may even plead, “Can we work together to get this diaper changed?”  Sometimes, just sometimes, I get caught up in finishing my job of getting through her diaper change, to snap it on so that I can get back to what it was I was doing before. When I finish this kind of diaper change on my own, that’s how I feel – on my own.


When I treat a diaper change like a chore, it certainly feels like one. Crossing this task off my mental to-do list leaves me feeling disconnected from my daughter, who I treated as the recipient of a diaper change rather than a partner.


When I am able to be present and mindful, I respond to her differently. Sometimes, when my daughter twists and turns during her diaper change, I’ll just go ahead and stop. I look to see what she is interested in and why she is reaching. Sometimes as she turns to try and stand or sit, I honor her capabilities and change her diaper in the position she is most comfortable in rather than the one that is most convenient to me.


More times than I want to admit to, I have to repress an urge to turn her around – to keep her on her back just to snap a diaper that I can snap almost as easily as she sits or stands. Often, however, I will follow her lead. I set aside my agenda of changing a diaper for a moment to acknowledge her experience.  By pausing to comment on Moon’s object of focus, I am trying to validate her interests, however fleeting, and thus ultimately prioritizing who my daughter is over the need to complete a task.


The following are the just a few of the steps detailed by Magda Gerber regarding respectful care that I try to keep in mind when changing my daughter’s diaper.


Ways To Partner Through Diaper Changes
Describe each thing you are going to do before doing it.  For us, this begins when I tell my daughter that she needs a diaper change. She is becoming responsive and going to the diaper changing area on her own. As I take her diaper off, I tell her what I’m doing. Since this is something we have done for a while, and was admittedly easier to do when she laid very still, she is used to the routine and understands.


Encourage the child to participate in whatever way possible. As young infants, children may just be listening to your descriptions, but with time and consistency they are able to help by pulling their own diapers off or lifting their legs to help.


If the child becomes distracted or disinterested, acknowledge what has caught her or his attention. If she begins to look at her hands or in the direction of a sudden noise, I’ll tell her that I heard it too.


Move at a pace that the child can respond to. This is the toughest for me. When my daughter is trying to crawl away, I am eager to work fast to get that diaper on. When I respond to her movements in a way that gives her time to participate, I am giving her a chance to learn from this experience and to cooperate, which can sometimes be a struggle.



Changing diapers can be a time when we try to distract or cajole children into cooperation so that we can get the job done, or it can be an exercise in developing our children’s sense of self.  When we can take the time to convey respect for the child’s interests by working with them to change a diaper, we can show our children the respect we have for them.

Discovering a Place in the World


There is a shift happening in our home. The relationship that Moon used to invest the majority of her time and attention on is now sharing attention with something new . . . exploration.


Attachment and exploration go hand in hand. Moon is intent on discovering her place in the world. With me as her secure base, she is ever more determined to make a connection to this place we call home.


Spaces that she used to crawl past now beckon, holding her attention. She approaches all the spaces inside our home and out with a recently revealed possibility that she may have a place within them.


Her relationship to the spaces in our home is becoming more complex. She intensely explores the space behind every door and behind every curtain. I am reminded of my place as her guide, a witness to her life.


When I see her climb into different spaces around our home,  I see the parallel to what will be – some small insight to a possible pattern of how she will find her place throughout her life. I can imagine that she will continually revisit her relationships to her surroundings.  I wonder how her confident approach will evolve, and how milestones and her surroundings at ages  6, 13, 18, 22, 30 years old and on will affect the verve with which she currently explores her ever-expanding world and her place within it.


Maybe some spaces will be a risky fit.


Maybe some will reveal another perspective of the world around her.



Some will be fun.



Some I may not know about  . . .



or she may not think I know about.



And odds are that she’ll struggle along the way.



She may find only a few places where she is content, or she may feel connected to many. Our emerging practice of communicating about which spaces are safe and which ones are not are straightforward now. Talking about climbing into spaces that cannot support people or that need to serve a different purpose (namely the small toilet that her sister needs at the ready) is the beginning of a pattern of communication that I will strive to maintain as she explores further and further into the world.


While there are several unknown variables to Moon’s equation, the one constant is her place to me. As her mom, no matter how far she may go, she will always be next to my heart.


The Bumbo Seat and Learning to Sit


I am incapable of not having an opinion when it comes to toys or child-related equipment. From gadgets meant to help feeding infants to balls, I have my favorites and NOT-so-favorites.


One of the main aspects of my former job was to justify every purchase we made for the children. When it came to purchasing equipment for the classrooms, we always needed to make sure that the item was in-line with our program’s philosophy.


I’m grateful for having developed this habit and way of thinking that automatically evaluates products as I see them, especially now as a parent. Products come in and out of our home as gifts, donations, and of course by choice/purchase.


Many popular child-oriented products are not used in our home because I consider  some products to be unnecessary. The Bumbo seat is one of those products. I consider the seat to interfere, unnecessarily so, with children’s natural development.


Over the last holiday, I came to realize that of the all of the seven children (age three and younger) at my family’s home but two (my two) had been sat in a Bumbo seat. Can this product be that popular?


I do not consider the Bumbo seat to be useful product however given its marketing and placement, I can imagine how it could be perceived as such. The large baby gear stores and chain retailers are packed to the hilt with products promising to make caring for your child easier, thus making you and your child happier. The Bumbo seat is at the forefront of this type of product.


Promising to be the extra pair of hands you will almost always need, Bumbo seats are giving you what they think your child wants – to sit so that she can see. Sure, your child is happier when he can see you. Your baby wants to see you and the world around them. The important question here is  – is this the best way for your baby to learn to see you? Being seated may support your child in seeing you and all else around them, but it does so without relaying on any competencies of the child. I expect being seated can also evolve into a dependence on the need and desire to be sat up to see rather than learning to use a baby’s own skills and strengths to see on her own.


Eye Contact Without Sitting or Being Seated


I listened intently as one mother explained that her son learned to sit because she worked on it with him by sitting him in the Bumbo. I agreed – it probably did contribute to his being able to sit. What would his trajectory have been without the involvement of the seat? At 2 years old now, I think back about how little his being able to sit at 5 months and my daughter (who sat some time in her first year) affects their physical competencies now.


How old was Greysen when she started sitting, I ask Mike. He kids, “two months,” and laughs. The joke is, we don’t remember, but it’s not because we don’t care. I’m sure we took photos, as any parent does.  Greysen and Moon are typically developing children, so we are not tracking their development for any purpose other than fond memories. We don’t see the need to take note of something that is as it should be – she’s a work in progress and a finished piece all at once.


Using the Bumbo seat to teach your child to sit is conveying the message that learning to sit on your own, in your own time, is not enough. These actions also reflect a lack of trust that a baby’s physical development will evolve on its own. Paradoxically, by keeping an infant snuggly seated, a child loses the invaluable ability to move freely – the very thing she needs to learn to sit – in her own way, in her own time.



What’s the real appeal? Is it that we, as parents, are searching for ways, any way, to have an extra set of hands, or is it that we want our children to develop as quick as we can get them to? Or, is it that in our consumerist culture, the market for infant-oriented products is so much in demand that the next best thing to make your child smarter or better is always being sought after?


Regardless of the reasons parents may use the Bumbo seat, which are likely more complex than the several I have suggested, I think the thing I’d caution parents of the most to beware is: question any blanket promises made by products that claim to make you a happier parent. That comes from within.



When Should We Prevent Risk-Taking in Infants?



Be careful.


If there was such a list, “be careful” would have to be in the “Top Ten Phrases Parents Tell their Toddlers,” and I’m not exempt from uttering those words on occasion. Reminding Greysen to be careful as she bends forward into the tub, feet dangling just off the ground, comes to mind. Sometimes, though, I hear these words spoken so incessantly that I wonder if parents are hoping to turn this warning into their toddler’s mantra.


As parents, we are ultimately responsible for keeping the youngest members of our families safe as they learn to navigate in this world of endless fascination.  All too often, fears over the mildest of injuries can result in a parent’s total discouragement from activities that, to children, are natural and (dare I say) necessary.


Encouraging occasional risk-taking in our infants and toddlers may feel counter-intuitive to our protective instincts. We want our children to be safe and avoid harm – as we should – but children are born adventurers.


Consider milestones, for instance. Taking one’s first steps involves letting go of a secure base to move forward without a stabilizing object. Now that’s risk!



I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.  ~Pablo Picasso


The Challenge of a Safe Risk

Steering a ride-on toy toward the street – high risk. We intervene as it’s a no-brainer.


A young toddler wants to jump off a step or climb tree stumps – what is the actual risk to the child? The answer depends on the toddler, each with his or her own strengths, meaning that what is risky for one may be done effortlessly by another.



This is Moon at the top of a some steps in our home.  Perhaps if it weren’t for others encouraging me to rescue her, I may not have even realized that encouraging Moon to descend the stairs on her own felt risky to anyone.


In her very first attempt to descend the stairs, Moon faltered from the top step, landing roughly on the second. She has since taken a more cautious approach to heading down the stairs.


Trusting that she knows best how her body moves, I did not prevent her from trying to go down the stairs again even though she may fall.


I did not show her or turn her around so that she would descend feet first.  Instead, I sat nearby, gave her time and a offered a reassuring confident presence.



She’s been contemplating trying the stairs again for a few days.

She’s been mentored by her face-painted sister.


On this morning, she thought about it for nearly 20 minutes before letting me know she was not ready to try the stairs, but definitely ready to eat.

I think she was making a plan.

After many mornings, afternoons, and early evenings hanging out at the top of the stairs, she made her second attempt to go down them.


Head first.


This moment reminded me of one of the most fundamental tenets of RIE’s philosophies regarding movement.  That is children, when given unrestricted chances to move of on their own and of their own choosing will know their bodies. They know how to move, as well as how to fall.



As valuable than a blanket warning of “be careful,” our infants and toddlers need responsiveness and trust.



The following words sum up my sentiments:



Only those who risk going too far will know how far they can go. – T.S. Elliot



The girls will take risks with or without my encouragement. I, for my part, am responsible for acting as their guide, assessing which risks need to be reigned in and which really do not. This takes frequent self-reflection on my part because I’ve noticed that I am more prone to err on the side of keeping them uber safe when I am distracted. I am however, always on the lookout for interesting movement opportunities when we are out and about on our own.

What types of motor challenges do your children find irresistible? In what types of situations do your children take safe risks?

Three Good Reasons to Not Do Tummy Time

Playing Underneath the Curtains

Trying to make the best decisions for my children most often means following my gut. When that instinct, however, contradicts the pediatricians’ recommendations – and it regularly does – I worry. Am I making the right decision?


I am never more confident in going against this grain than when it comes to respecting my daughters’ physical competencies and not putting them in positions that they can not get into and out of themselves.

Playing Peacefully On Her Back


More than several years ago, I saw the video “See How They Move” featuring Magda Gerber at a staff meeting.   In the video, infants’ movement are filmed and contrasted while they move on their own and by adults. I was instantly struck by the unnecessary intervention the demonstrating adults imposed on children’s physical development.


One demonstration stood out to me in particular: the child who was placed on their tummy for tummy time versus the child laid on their back.  One struggled, while the other was at peace.


After some discussion and some careful consideration, we as a staff decided to demonstrate our respect for the infants in our care by ceasing to place infants on their tummies.

Here are three reasons why I believe “tummy time” should be nixed in the classroom and at home:

3.  Children don’t like it (though I numbered it third, it is the most important reason). Most infants protest this position because they are not yet strong enough to be in this position comfortably. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a parent state that their child does not like “tummy time.”  We are told that it is in his or her best interest and, after all, why would we not do what is in our children’s best interest?


In my experience, young infants are most often unhappy lying prone for the very reason they are placed there – they cannot lift their heads. Unable lift their head and hold it steady often means that they can not comfortably see. Instead I have seen infants struggle at the discomfort and confusion of being faced down.

What are our babies learning from us when they tell us that they do not like lying on their stomachs, and yet we leave them there anyway?


2. Practices that encourage parenting against instinct should be questioned. We, as parents and educators, are inclined to respond to our infants’ needs, feed them when hungry, and be present when needing rest. However in the case of tummy time, we are expected to push that instinct aside and ignore our worried babies.


Does the benefit of tummy time outweigh encouraging parents to set aside the discomfort of their infants?


Tolerating tearful tummy times is justified by the rationale that children will experience unpleasant things in their lifetimes. The long-term effects of some unpleasant experiences, such as vaccinations or tummy time, are deemed to outweigh the unpleasantness.


1. It’s unnecessary. Placing your infant in a position that they are not physically capable of holding themselves demonstrates a disrespect for those movements that our infants are capable of doing. We are communicating to our infants that this is what they should be doing, rather than honoring their individual time tables and naturally unfolding strengths. Learning to hold one’s head occurs in time as children grow and gain strength.
Tummy time is not only meant to strengthen a child’s neck, it is also instruction for parents to make sure the infants head is not constantly against a flat surface which can cause plagiocephaly or a flat head.

The time infants spend time in car seats or under toy bars can limit their head movements, resulting in flat heads. So, tummy time lessen the effect of such restricted movement.



Floor Time - Looking at Plant

Floor Time In Lieu of Tummy Time

I never placed Greysen or Moon on their stomachs until they were well beyond being able to get there and back on their own. But even before the girls, I had the benefit of seeing the unfettered development of many typically developing children in my care. Rather than tummy time, we practice “floor time”. Laying infants in a comfortable position on their backs on a firm surface with interesting things to look at (toys or adult faces) offers infants a similar opportunity to develop their neck muscles without imposing an uncomfortable position on them.


Both Greysen and Moon can hold their heads up and learned to do so on their own time and without tears. More importantly. listening to my instincts has given me some confidence to hold onto in other times and decisions I have made regarding their care in which the results are not immediate.


Beyond Roll-Over: The Natural Progression of Physical Development

side-lying position

In a lighthearted conversation about my daughter’s first birthday next month, a well-meaning adult, who loves her very much, commented to Greysen, “You have to walk by your first birthday!” Does she?

Though I do not think this adult’s expectations is altering her developmental path in anyway, I do regret that this individual and countless others like him are not able to appreciate all the physical accomplishments my daughter has achieved so far. She can do so much more than roll over, sit, and crawl.
Children’s physical development, when allowed to unfold naturally, is more complex and varied than the tricks commanded of a dog.  That may seem obvious, but rolling over, sitting, and walking seem to be the only standards by which children’s growth and success are generally measured.
In the book, Unfolding of Infants’ Natural Gross Motor Development (2006) published by Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE), illustrations of the motor development of children whose growth was supported by letting it develop naturally are detailed. Infant movement is described in the following four categories:

1. Lying positions
2. Transitional positions
3. Sitting
4.  Standing.

Each chapter further illustrates movement, as it has been observed in infants. The lying section, for instance, describes the intricacies of movement from lying supine to prone. The transitional positions section describes increasingly complex infant movements such as “half-sitting” or “side-lying elbow position”.
Most importantly, these movements are not qualified by age. No date by which you can expect your child to do these movements or descriptions of how to encourage your child to crawl accompany the sketches. The importance of these simple definitions is the attention that they bring to the myriad of movements that largely go unappreciated by the milestone checklists.

The Pikler Institute. (2006). Unfolding of Infants’ Natural Gross Motor Development (2006). Resources for Infant Educarers.