We knew from Day 1 that Hannah was a “floppy” baby, which would result in physical developmental delays. I didn’t really understand what the doctors meant until Hannah was home from the hospital and constantly cradled in my arms. She was heavy and hard to maneuver. Trying to manipulate her body to find a comfortable nursing position was like trying to move a canvas sack full of wet sand.
I knew I wanted to start tummy time right away. I’d lay Hannah on my chest and she’d lift her head in small, jerking pulls. As she got older I’d lay her on the floor and she’d briefly tolerate the exercise before quickly transitioning into silent protest. She disliked tummy time more and more each day and the pediatrician assured me that it was normal at Hannah’s age because she learned it’s hard work.
An evaluation by a local Birth to Three program done at 8 weeks showed that Hannah was not far behind a typically developing child; however, at such a young age she wasn’t expected to be doing much. As a family, and with the input of the Birth to Three coordination, we agreed to wait until after Hannah’s heart surgery to begin therapy sessions since she needed to save her energy for daily functions of life.
We gave Hannah 6 weeks to recover from surgery, at which point the physical restrictions had been lifted. At a meeting with the coordinator and Hannah’s teacher Maureen, we were asked what our goal was for Hannah. I knew it was a goal that would require time and hard work from Hannah but I said that I’d like for her to be able to sit unassisted. We scheduled weekly visits with Maureen, a Special Education teacher, and a couple visits were scheduled later on with Ann, a Physical Therapist.
Days before therapy started I was dressing Hannah one morning and rolled her onto her side to reach the buttons on the back of her shirt. Hannah was bored with my fumbling and flipped herself right onto her belly and proudly lifted her head up to look at me. I was so astonished and of course I didn’t have my phone near me to document the achievement. It was at this moment that I realized how hard tummy time must have been for Hannah pre-surgery. Not only did she have little energy, but the pressure put on her lungs must have made breathing even more challenging for her. Post-surgery Hannah was ready to work!
Physical therapy with a child is essentially functional play time. Maureen and Ann hold Hannah in different positions to help strengthen the back and neck muscles. They try to lure Hannah to roll from one side over to the other, from back to belly, and from belly to back. Our program splits the visits between home and daycare so that all of the caregivers are familiar with Hannah’s progress and what exercises to do with her.
Hannah is an amazing student. Even when she’s tired and clearly had enough she does not cry or refuse to participate. She can easily roll to her left side to get to her belly and has no problem raising and gently lowering her head. She no longer sits up like a wet noddle and she finally has some control over that noggin. We are thrilled with the improvement in just 4 weeks!
The added benefit is a great workout makes for an easy bedtime.