One of the important mini baby milestones is achieved when baby can be comfortable and quiet when put down on the floor or in his crib for baby play or sleep. Often in the first three months when a parent puts the baby down he starts crying. Sometimes the parent says, “He only goes to sleep when I hold him.” This may be true, but if the pattern continues in a few months he will be quite heavy and the parent may develop back problems. Parents can learn that they are not limited to only two choices: 1.) holding baby while he falls asleep, or 2.) putting baby down and then listening to his cries. A third option exists. That option is to learn parenting tips on how to teach baby to be comfortable on the floor or in his crib without being held in mom or dad’s arms. Learning to be comfortable on his own is an important development of a baby and is essential for motor skill development. Baby benefits from learning to be content on the floor where he will take the time to explore how his body moves and ultimately attain a few motor milestones.
PARENTING TIP #1: TRANSITION BABY GRADUALLY
Often baby may be set down on the floor or in the crib rather abruptly. For some babies this may OK, but for some it is not. It feels a bit quick and harsh. These babies really like to be held. They feel they contact of mother’s arms so clearly because the sense of touch is one of the most developed senses at birth. For these babies it helps to set them down slowly and keep your hands in contact with them even though you have put them down. Wait awhile and then remove one hand slowly. Wait again and then slowly remove the other hand.
PARENTING TIP #2: CONNECT WITH YOUR VOICE
Before removing your hands from baby, talk to him. As you remove the contact of your hands establish a clearer connection through your voice. This is using another one of the five senses to establish a sense of security for baby. A newborn clearly feels the security of his parent when he feels through his skin that he is being held. As his senses develop he can also feel secure when he hears his parent talk. Towards the end of his first year he will know his parent is near when he sees her in the room. Speak to him in a reassuring and soothing voice as you tell him “I am here. You are OK. Everything is OK. It is time to sleep/play now.” Try singing a lullabuy to him such as ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” If you sing the same lullabuy regularly the familiarity will feel soothing to him.
PARENTING TIP #3: PRACTICE
Recognize that baby is learning to be comfortable without the presence of your immediate touch. Learning is a process that takes time and repetition. Try these tips for new parents each day and see if there is an expansion in the amount of time that baby can be on his own comfortably in his crib or in floor time. After two weeks notice if you see some improvement. Always consult your doctor if you have a concern.
NEWBORN BABIES AND neck CONTROL
Newborn babies do not have head control, the ability to lift and move her head on her own. It is a motor skill that develops with plenty of tummy time. With the early gross motor skill of lifting the head, baby develops strong neck muscles. The action of lifting the head strengthens baby’s neck muscles so she can eventually hold her head up on her own. Until she can hold her head up all by herself, her neck muscles are weak and she needs support. When you hold her or move her from one place to another, please use your hands and forearms to provide extra stability for her. Young babies need support to prevent their heads from falling to the side and over stretching ligaments or muscles. For a more detailed explanation about why babies need neck support please read our post on baby head support.
WHEN CAN BABY HOLD HEAD UP?
Often babies learn to hold their heads up for long periods of time on their own by about 5 or 6 months of age. At this time you can hold them upright and baby can manage her own neck control. However, even at this stage it is a good idea to put a hand behind baby’s head and neck to support her as she goes down toward the floor. Often the action of putting baby down on the floor moves her through a backward motion which can be stressful on the neck. We recommend putting your hand on the back of baby’s head and allowing your wrist and forearm to cross in back of her neck and upper back. This puts her head, neck, and torso in one piece as you move it so no part can unsafely dangle. When she is on the floor, roll her a bit to one side and place your hand behind her head and then roll her back onto your arm before picking her up. Observe baby Zizu (5 months) in the above photo receiving some extra support as she is picked up from the floor.
PARENTING TIPS FOR NEWBORN BABIES
- Always support baby’s head when holding and moving her.
- Avoid playing the game of tipping her head backward (even if she seems to like it). It over stretches ligaments.
- Learn to roll her to the side to place your hands in the best place for her to feel your support. This includes behind her neck.
- When baby is able to hold her head up on her own in a few months, continue supporting her head as you put her down for naps or floor time.
What is colic? Colic is a term used to described babies who cry loud and for long periods of time with no explanation. Often their faces are twisted as if they are in pain. Parents think they may have gas and a trip to the doctor reveals everything is normal, yet baby continues to spend a large portion of daily awake time crying at the top of her lungs. Parents often feel at a loss as to what to do for these babies. Dr. Harvey Karp, a respected pediatrician, researched this dilemna and began working with parents of babies with colic. The result is his book The Happiest Baby On The Block.
The Happiest Baby On The Block addresses the question “How Can I Calm My Baby?” by looking at the top five actions parents have taken across cultures over thousands of years. Now a national bestseller, Dr. Karp’s book presents “the 5 S’s”: Swaddling, Side Position, Shhh Sound, Swinging, and Sucking.” Dr. Karp’s theory is that babies respond to the 5 S’s when used in combination because they provide an experience for baby that closely resembles the experience of the womb. Soon, with these techniques, even the fussiest baby learns to be calm. Dr. Karp presents the “5 S’s” in a simple manner so parents can try them at home and quiet baby’s cries.
The Happiest Baby On The Block: by Harvey Karp, M.D. (New York: Bantam Books, 2002).
When a baby learns to come into the sitting positon on his own, it is a wonderful accomplishment! Watch Maddoxx in the above video from Jillybomb’s youtube channel. Notice how he is shifting his weight in many different directions while sensing where he feels secure so he can lift his torso a bit more upright. Slowly, over the course of the four minute video, he learns where to feel support for him to sit up. By bringing his pelvis down so it is more in contact with the floor, he is able to bring his head and torso more upright. Near the end of the video he is sitting up with his hands still on the floor. He is rocking back and forth so he learns to shift his weight toward the back of his pelvis so then he can sit completely upright. He does this successfully by the end of the video!
While Maddoxx is experimenting with shifting his weight we can hear his mother in the background praising him with words specific to what he is doing. When he crawls just a bit she says, “I saw you just shuffle your knees.” It is as if she is holding his hand with her voice. She is with him every moment of the discovery of this motor skill through her encouraging words so he knows that what he is doing is good, safe, and that he should continue. At the end of the video Maddoxx sits with excellent posture and a big smile on his face. What a proud caterpillar, and a stellar one too!
Please read our post “Why Babies Love Sitting Up” for more information on the motor skill development of sitting.
MOTOR SKILL JUNK FOOD: Movements baby enjoys but for which her bones and muscles are not yet strong enough.
DIETARY JUNK FOOD
The easiest way to understand motor skill junk food is to compare it with dietary junk food. Every mother knows dietary junk food when she sees it. She also knows how much her kids love it because she has to pull it out of their clinging hands at the market. Why, then, does she still refuse to give it to them? The answer is obvious: JUNK FOOD IS NOT GOOD FOR THEM. When children are growing and developing their brain and their organs, parents know how important proper nutrition is.
DEFINITION OF JUNK FOOD
The term “junk food” is also used to refer to non-edible items. For example, the dictionary.com definition includes the quote “the junk food offered by daytime television” to demonstrate the use of the term for certain television programing. Merriam-Webster.com’s definition includes author Cleveland Amory’s phrase “The ultimate in junk food for young minds.” Stellar Caterpillar uses the term to describe certain movements with babies that parents think they love and yet they are not good for the development of their bones and muscles.
MOTOR SKILL JUNK FOOD INCLUDES
Like dietary junk food, the above “Motor Skill Junk Food” does not contain any real value for the development of the muscles and bones. Baby’s bones are soft and she should not be put in a movement activity that she can not do on her own. Read stellarcaterpillar.com to learn more favorable options for the development of a baby. Also like dietary junk food, babies LOVE motor skill junk food. When I explain to a parent not to put the baby standing on his feet because his bones are not strong enough and his muscles are not strong enough, she tells me that “He LOVES it! He DEMANDS it.”
Why don’t some parents respond the way they do with the dietary junk food by recognizing that it is not good for motor skill development and choosing a better option? I think the answer is summed up by Martha Boesing who was quoted on the dictionary.com junk food definition page. She expressed her confusion as a mother about how to guide her children toward wise decisions for themselves. She describes teaching them to eat what their body wants and then learning to tell them “No more junk food in this house!” Her quote ends with a golden sentence, “I flounder like this because I have no training and very little support for this work and there are days when I’m the one who needs the parenting, even more than [my kids] do.”
Stellar Caterpillar was founded by Donna Eshelman as a place for parents to receive training in how to support heathy, skillful, effortless, joyous movement in their beautiful babies. Although each of us can not be experts in everything, we can become students of anything and benefit from learning. Baby’s milestone journey starts with birth and stellarcaterpillar.com offers parenting tips to guide the way.
One of the most popular baby shower gifts today is an infant sling or wrap. The trend in baby wearing is one that is deeply beneficial in the development of a baby. For many years, non-industrialized cultures have practiced this technique of wrapping baby in fabric and carrying her mother’s back or chest during the day while mother goes about her household duties. The benefits of baby wearing include:
- Reduced Crying
- Facilitates Motor Skill Development
- Free Hands for the Mother (or Father)
- Improves Emotional Bonding
SOOTHES BABY’S CRYING
A research study published in 1986 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, in the journal Pediatrics, found “Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying.” This study found that crying patterns of infants decreased 40-50% when the babies were carried for an additional couple of hours a day in slings or wraps. This additional time does not include the minutes of holding and carrying of baby during feeding or soothing cries. The researchers suggest that the relative lack of carrying in our society may predispose infants to colic and crying. Published in 1986, the researchers now have the chance to observe the increase in baby wrapping and wearing.
FACILITATES MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Baby wearing also facilitates motor skill development in babies. The pressure of the fabric wrapped around baby’s body along with the pressure of her body against her mother’s (or father’s) improves her proprioception. She also experiences a wonderful amount of vestibular stimulation while gently moving around with her mother. This facilitates the development of balance. Baby also enjoys the opportunity to be on eye level with the activity of the world around her.
BENEFITS MOTHER (OR FATHER)
Today there is an epidemic of utilizing equipment such as jumpers and exersaucers/activity centers to give mother free hands so she can go about her daily activities. Using these pieces of baby gear force baby to be in a positon her bones and muscles are not yet ready for. Better developmental options which also free the hands of the parent and facilitate the development of a baby include the playpen and the baby wraps. Psychologists also suggest there is an increase in the emotional bonding of the mother/father to the baby with the use of wraps and slings, and may be especially useful in cases with maternal postpartum depression. And with both parents working today in many families, dad can learn to wear the wrap as well.
HOW TO WRAP BABY
It is important to receive instruction from a qualified resource regarding the technique of wrapping baby. In recent years there have been recalls on certain wraps/sling due to problems often related to how the parent was using it. It is important to observe safety precautions. One important point is to make sure that the baby’s chin in not pressed down toward her throat making breathing difficult. Another safety tip is to avoid carrying baby in a vertical position, with her head up toward the sky, until she has mastered tummy-time. She is not strong enough in her neck muscles to hold her head up for long periods of time in a carrier until she can do so on the floor while on her tummy. Opt instead for a baby wrap such as the moby wrap where you can learn to carry baby in the horizontal positon. Babies enjoy being carried with you, it just takes a bit of patience and learning to use these tools.