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The Baby Hercules Hypothesis

Within the topic of Family Fitness, I have approached the topic of my sons' health a bit aggressively.

My wife and I have two boys, the firstborn is currently 5 years and the second is 11 months.

During the first year of a child's life it is generally recommended that parents do something called "Tummy Time" with their children.

Tummy Time encourages the baby to learn how to roll over, and also increases their arm and leg muscles. It is part of a baby's normal development.

As a personal trainer/sports trainer I approached this topic by aggressively doing Tummy Time with my first son (Richard), every day, often multiple times per day. And this worked fantastically in my opinion, speeding up his ability to crawl, cruise and eventually walk with confidence.

With my second son (Arthur), I repeated this process, with the difference being that Arthur was about 3 lbs heavier at birth than Richard was and seems to be developing at a faster rate.

At 11 months old he is walking (with aid), taking a few steps by himself, cruising with ease, and can stand independently for minutes at a time. He is also walking up and down stairs (with aid, for safety reasons).

As I write this Arthur is standing in his playpen, unaided, and playing with an old remote control with both hands. We let him have the old remote so that he stops grabbing the other remote controls. He likes pressing the buttons, even though they don't do anything.

Every day, several times per day, I am currently taking Arthur for walks around the house to visit various family members, and I will help him up and down the stairs too during these daily walks. Sometimes I will bundle him up in a snowsuit and take him for a walk outside in the backyard. (I am looking forward to summer time when I can take him for walks more frequently and don't have to worry about snowsuits.)

Arthur is surprisingly strong. I joke to my wife that changing his diaper is akin to trying to change a diaper on Baby Hercules, because if he is not cooperating then he makes it very difficult to change his diaper. Sometimes it takes two people to do it, one to distract him and keep him happy (and possibly grab him if he tries to squirm away), while the other changes the diaper.

Now it is my belief (and I defy anyone to prove me wrong) that a stronger baby is effectively a healthier one, and that if in a dangerous situation a baby who knows how to roll over can roll themselves over on purpose.

But what about a baby who cannot roll over? Well, I think that is inherently dangerous. What if the baby ends up in a situation where they are being smothered and they will suffocate unless they can roll over?

The Potato Baby Conundrum

Meanwhile a relative of mine has a little girl who was born only a few days before Arthur. So they're roughly the same age, but the mother has taken a very different approach to her baby's welfare.

She refers to her daughter as "a potato". She doesn't do Tummy Time. If you put her daughter on her tummy she starts to scream and struggle because she doesn't know how to roll over. The mother does this because she wants her daughter to "remain a potato" for as long as possible, because it is less work to manage her movements and behaviour.

I consider that to be inherently more dangerous, because what if her baby ever ends up in a situation where she is being smothered, is in water, or in some other kind of danger and all she needs to do to save herself is to roll over, sit up, stand up, etc. If the baby cannot do such actions independently then it could die.

Worse, as her baby gets bigger and bigger, the baby is facing an ever increasing uphill battle. As she weighs more her muscles will have to work that much harder just to roll over and accomplish other tasks like sitting up and walking. Her little muscles will, eventually, catch up and grow so that she can do such things, but she will be effectively be physically delayed when compared to other children who got the recommended daily Tummy Time. (And far beyond children like Arthur who got above and beyond that.)

Arthur is bigger and stronger than the baby in question, but his strength and size are partially due to the fact that he gets exercise every day (with his own private certified personal trainer, aka Daddy). As such I have greater confidence that if ever placed in a situation where his life is in danger he is physically strong enough and confident in his ability to stand and walk to escape from danger.

So my recommendation to other parents?

Do Tummy Time every day with your baby. Encourage your baby to roll, crawl, stand and walk. Don't turn your baby into a potato who just sits there all the time. Let your baby be a mini Hercules or Atalanta (Greek girl who was raised by bears).

Will it be harder to change your baby's diaper? Yes. But that is a price worth paying to keep your baby alive and healthy, in my opinion.

Baby Arthur with Kettle Bell

Note - The Kettle Bell in the photo is just plastic and when you rotate the grey section then it makes a clicking sound. It isn't actually heavy.

And for fun, here's another photo of Arthur giving daddy a big smile.

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