NEWBORN BABY TOYS
A baby needs time to learn the motor skill of grasping and reaching which is required to hold a toy and play with it. Even the most simple rattle takes time for a baby to learn to grasp in their hand and shake with their arm. Baby learns to hold a rattle for the first time around 2 or 3 months of age. What toys will a newborn baby enjoy if she can not hold one very well yet? The answer is simple: a toy with a very clear face on it. “Clear” means easy for the newborn baby to see. A newborn baby’s eyes can see high contrast best which is black and white. A face with large eyes in black and white will be easy for her to see.
Toys made from soft materials that can hand from the edge of a baby carrier or a stroller are fun for her to look at. Some play mats have an arch above baby’s head from which to hang these soft and colorful toys. Eventually she may begin to reach out a hand or foot to try and touch the friendly looking creature smiling down at her. Often they are in the form of insects or bugs such as caterpillars or bees. Sometimes the smiles are hidden inside of a flower. There are many creative options on the market today. Choose a couple of them for the newborn developmental stage. These toys also are practical and colorful baby shower gifts.
WHAT IS INFANT MASSAGE ?
In our busy world today many adults have learned the benefit of a massage. It has become a treat to indulge in while on vacation, a part of healing an injury while in physical therapy, or a way to reduce the stress of daily life. There is also an increasing awareness of the benefits of massage for babies. Many new parents are now seeking instruction in the art of massage for their baby. However, massaging your baby is a custom that has a very long tradition in some cultures such as India and Sweeden. They knew the benefits of a daily massage for baby and passed down the technique from one generation to the next. In her book Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents, author Vimala McClure shares the technique she evolved after spending time volunteering in an orphanage in India and learning about the benefits of massage for babies. McClure’s book is considered a classic and her technique is taught internationally.
BENEFITS OF INFANT MASSAGE
In her book, Vimala introduces massage as a method of communication between mother and baby, facilitating the process of bonding. She also explains that babies benefit in numerous ways from massage. In fact, numerous research studies have been published that substantiate the benefits of a daily massage for baby. Some of the studies focus on the benefits for babies born premature and show that babies in the NICU unit receiving daily massage gain weight faster and are released from the hospital sooner that those who do not receive massage. Other benefits of massage for babies that McClure mentions in her book include:
- Bonding between mother/father and baby
- Decreases fussiness or colic
- Improves sleep
- Decreases digestive discomfort
- Releases muscular tension as the body develops
INFANT MASSAGE TECHNIQUE
McClure’s book is complete with step-by-step instructions of her massage technique for babies. Beautiful photos illustrate each of the strokes along with clear and detailed instruction. How to choose a good massage oil, how to massage a baby with special needs, and how to adapt the massage for the baby as she becomes more physically active and grows older are also topics of discussion. This book makes a wonderful gift for a new mother. You might include a gift certificate for a series of classes in infant massage with a local instructor. Contact Infant Massage USA for an instructor in the United States or the International Association of Infant Massage (founded by Vimala McClure) for an instructor in your country. Both organizations teach Vimala McClure’s method.
The gift of nurturing touch is a beautiful gift.
Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents: by Vimala McClure (New York: Bantam Books, 1979).
WHEN TO STOP SWADDLING BABY
Newborn babies sleep very well when swaddled. The pressure of the fabric against their muscles and bones help them sense their bodies more clearly and they feel more secure as a result. This physical sensation created by the cloth fabric replicates the experience of being in the womb where baby feels pressure from the water. Parents learn to swaddle baby in order to quiet baby for naps and for sleeping through the night. Soon, they ask “When do I stop swaddling baby?” Many parents stop swaddling baby by the age of two to three months. As babies begin to learn to feel their limbs stretch and learn the early motor skill of rolling onto their tummy, the swaddling can be restrictive and potentially dangerous.
HOW TO STOP SWADDLING BABY
Transitioning baby from swaddling to no swaddling is not so easy sometimes. The key is to create a similar physical sensation for them of the pressure on their body which makes them feel secure without the restriction of the fabric wound around them. This concept is the idea behind a “sleepsuit.” The thickness of the fabric and the snug fit help baby feel secure so she can sleep through the night. A favorite sleepsuit is Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. Designed to create a “cozy, calming, and safe sleep environment,” the Magic Sleepsuit is an excellent transition out of the swaddling. Developed by a pediatric physical therapist who is also a mother of four, the idea behind the magic sleepsuit was how to prolong the duration and quality of a baby’s sleep. One of the most important events in the development of a baby is sleep. With a good night of sleep on a daily basis they have more energy for their motor skill development. Next, we would like Magic Merlin to create a sleepsuit for tired mommies.
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.
BABY MILESTONES AND THE “FENCING REFLEX”
One of the most visible infant reflexes is the Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR). Usually visible in up to six month old babies, this reflex is often called the “fencing reflex” because the movements of the arms reflect the stance of someone engaged in the sport of fencing. Although there is also some movement in baby’s legs with this reflex, the action is more evident in the arms and head. Some researchers suggest that one of the purposes of certain infant reflexes is the preparation for motor skill activities while others seem to be survival oriented. What are the baby milestones that the ATNR Reflex is facilitating?
ATNR DEVELOPS HAND-EYE COORDINATION
Watch the above video from betapicts’ youtube channel to see the coordination of this baby reflex in slow motion through an illustration of a baby and then on an actual baby. The reflex is most easily observed by watching the movement of the head and arms. With the ATNR reflex present, baby’s arm straightens (extends) on the side at which her head is pointing while the opposite arm bends (flexes). Since reflexes are involuntary coordinations or movements, baby has no control over this movement. Everytime she turns her head to the right the right arm straightens and the left arm bends. This baby reflex will usually disappear from your observant eye by around four to six months of age. Some suggest this reflex may stimulate eye-hand coordination because one hand moves directly in front of the face.
ATNR IN UTERO DEVELOPS BALANCE
Child Development researcher and author Sally Goddard discusses the presence of the ATNR reflex while baby is in the womb. In her book “Reflexes, Learning, and Behavior: A Window Into The Child’s Mind,” Goddard explains that this reflex is responsible for much of baby’s movement in utero which facilitates the motor skill of balance as well as important developmental neural connections.
ATNR AND THE MOTOR SKILL OF GRASPING AND REACHING
The ATNR-like movements visible during the pregnancy ultrasound exams are the beginnings of the neural connections that evolve into the motor skill of grasping and reaching. The movements of the tiny arms bending and straightening as the head turns from side to side are rehearsing one of the first motor skills baby learns. According to neurobiologist Lise Eliot, arm movements appear at about seven weeks post conception. Although there is much to develop with the motor skill of grasping and reaching during the first few months after birth, the early neural connections for this skill trace back to the beginnings of the ATNR reflex in the womb.
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.