Baby learns to do a push up on the stairs. This strengthens her arms for hands and knees crawling.
BABY STRENGTH AND MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Babies gain strength in their muscles through learning motor skills. This means that they do not need to do repetitive exercises as we do them in a gym. The actions of learning each motor skill develops much strength. Kicking, for example, is one of the first motor skills that baby learns and it develops quite a bit of strength in the muscles of the legs. The action of lifting the legs and moving them (kicking) on her own requires strength. As baby grows and gains weight her limbs become bigger and heavier. This in turn builds even more strength. No need to put more weights on the machine at the gym, baby’s changes in her body size increase the challenge for her muscles.
In tummy-time, the action of lifting the head strengthens her head and neck muscles. Baby’s head is one of the heaviest parts of her body, so through practice of this motor skill her back and neck muscles become very strong and prepare her for sitting with excellent baby posture. As baby learns to move her own body weight around she gains a tremendous amount of strength.
BABY CRAWLING AND BABY ARM STRENGTH
Baby’s shoulders, hands, and arms needs to develop strength for the motor skill of crawling in the hands and knees position. This strength develops from the mini-milestone of pushing. Adults build arm, hand, and shoulder strength from push-ups. Babies do a version of a push up when they push their hands into the floor in tummy time or when they learn to push the hand down on a stair. The seven month old baby in the above photo is strengthening her arms as she pushes down into the stairs while learning the skill of climbing.
When a baby learns to lift her pelvis and pull her knees under her, yet remains with her forearms on the floor, her back will “cave in” or have a large arch to it. Once she strengthens the muscles of her arms and shoulders she can push down into the floor and get into the hands and knees crawling position. Now her back is arched less. This crawling position will build even more strength for baby as she supports all of her weight on only her hands and knees. She may need to pull up to this position and not move for a while. She has to develop strength in this position before she can move. Over the next several weeks, hands and knees crawling develops much strength in her arm and legs muscles which prepare her for the motor skill of standing up.
Dear Donna: I’m from South Africa, and enjoying your site so much. Wondering if you can help. My 8 month old baby boy started to belly crawl from 6 months and it seems like he is stuck there. He makes about 4 regular crawling movements but then returns to his belly. What can I do to help him? Thanks so much for your site!
3 COMPONENTS OF THE MOTOR SKILL OF CRAWLING
When do babies stop belly crawling and begin the hands and knees crawling? There are a few developments of a baby that need to occur before he masters the motor skill of crawling on his hands and knees. First, he must be stable in the hands and knees position. Some babies get onto their hands and knees and their knees are wider than their hips. It takes time for the to find the placement of their knees underneath their hip joints. Second, his hands must be able to support some of his weight and allow him to shift his weight forward on them. This is difficult if the fingers are still curled under. A baby who has learned to press his open hands down on the floor in tummy time in well-prepared for this part of the skill development of crawling.
Third, this hands and knees position marks a significant achievement for baby. This is the first time he has been supported only on his hands and knees. Prior to this achievement, baby has had much of his body in contact with the floor through the motor skills of kicking, rolling, lifting the head, tummy time, and belly crawling. It takes time for baby to develop the strength in this hands and knees position before he can move forward for long periods of time. This is why babies often hands and knees crawl for only and few paces and then drop back down onto their belly for the familiar pattern of belly crawling. They can get where they want to go much faster and they need more time to build in the hands and knees position.
Photos or video footage of your baby crawling will help me give you specific exercises for your baby. Please send some in if you can, and thanks for writing! We also need to remember that babies born early may need more time to strengthen their muscles since preemies usually have lower muscle tone. And some babies just want to take their time. I like to remind the mothers I work with that if I could be a baby again, I would spend a lot of time belly crawling. It develops a lot of strength, opens up the front of the hip joints, and powerfully teaches the coordination used for crawling, walking, and running. As a dance student for many years, these skills are an advantage as they are for athletes in many sports.
A week after receiving this email, the mother contacted me to tell me that the baby just began perfectly hands and knees crawling on a regular basis! He just need a bit of time! Congratulations to our Stellar Caterpillar in South Africa who has just mastered the important baby milestone of crawling!
My baby will soon be crawling. We have wood floors, so I am wondering how to make it easy on his knees/toes and how to soften any falls on his face or chin. Do you have any suggestions or should I not worry about it? Thanks. You have a great website!
BABY CRAWLING AND BABY FALLING
Many mothers ask this question as their precious baby begins to rock back and forth on all fours. The precarious shifts of weight while gaining the strength to crawl forward on the hands and knees may include occasional falls. This is part of the learning process. Many mothers would like the ground to be as soft as possible for those moments where baby begins to crawl and soon falls down. Homes with carpet work just fine as do homes with wood or tile floors. Babies learn to crawl on wood and stone floors all over the world. Just think about the floors in countries with hot climates and where carpeting is not practical such as Mexico, Israel, Italy, and Indonesia. Babies learn all of their motor skills on these hard and often uneven floors. Avoid using baby knee pads which are not great for the development of a baby. If you would like to “soften” the floor a bit, try placing a quilt on the ground or buy some interlocking foam to create a large play mat. It is thick enough to provide some softness yet still firm enough to provide stability. And remember, fortunately the ground is not far away.
BABY FALLS DOWN INTO A FAMILIAR MOTOR SKILL
When baby learns to meet each of his motor milestones, it benefits him when he falls down. Baby will fall out of one movement into another. For example, a baby that walks will fall down and land in the hands and knees crawling position. A baby that is hands and knees crawling will fall down into the belly crawling position. The motor skill of rolling is a pattern that a baby who is walking or crawling may land in after a fall. However, baby will only land in these positons or actions if he has learned them well and repeated them many times. The motor skills that baby has learned become very strong patterns of movement in the brain. These are called movement habits. This means that the body will automatically transition from a quick fall into one of these familiar patterns which include rolling and belly crawling. In the motor milestones of crawling and falling, I suggest that what is most important is not whether or not the floor is too hard, but whether or not baby has mastered the earlier motor skills of rolling and belly crawling.
A QUESTION FROM A READER
[Baby] shakes his hands at the wrist like he is revving up a motorcycle. He does this a lot. He is 8 months does not sit up well or hold his bottle much. Should we be concerned? Thank you.
STELLAR CATERPILLAR’s REPLY
Today I hear many parents and grandparents expressing concerns about baby’s development out of fear that something that is happening or not happening may indicate a neurological condition such as autism. With the number of babies and children diagnosed with autism on the rise, it makes sense that many are concerned that their child or grandchild may be one of those babies. Although hand shaking is an early sign of autism there are many babies who shake their hands yet do not have autism. Take time to learn some hands-on playful activities to facilitate motor skill development with baby at home. For the baby in the above question, learn some activities for developing motor skills such as lifting the head and improving the use of baby hands. If your baby has autism, it may not show until later and he will be much better off from these lessons. If your baby does not have autism, these lessons will teach him to move with much skill and coordination and he will emerge from infancy with a strong self-image.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PEDIATRICIAN
The most important point I can express to a parent is that it is important to always express your concern to your pediatrician. If the pediatrician sees something of concern in baby’s development, he or she may refer baby to physical or occupational therapy. In most states this service is free for babies under the age of three. Some babies are absolutely healthy, but for whatever reason they just need extra work. The key here is that the sooner they get the work the better off they will be for the rest of their life. Remember that expressing a concern does not invite a diagnosis that is etched in stone. It is a dialoge that evolves as the child grows and develops and is adjusted accordingly.
MOTOR SKILL LESSONS BENEFIT ALL BABIES
When they are young they are establishing the patterns of how they move and use their body and it is extremely effective to work with them during this time. In fact, all babies benefit from movement lessons, especially during their first year when their motor habits are forming so clearly in their brain. Healthy babies develop tremendous skill in their movement and become very coordinated and graceful from movement lessons. If a baby has autism which is undiagnosed, motor skill lessons may improve their use of their body and minimize some of the signs of autism. If you are a grandparent, you may want to take a virtual lesson with Stellar Caterpillar to learn how to work with your grandchild when you spend time with him. If you have a doll or a stuffed animal, you can learn baby developmental tips from a virtual lesson.
EARLY SIGNS OF AUTISM IN BABIES
Autism is typically not diagnosed until around the age of three. However, today there is an increasing success in diagnosing autism at an earlier age. According to the Mayo Clinic, some babies may develop rather normally until they reach their third birthday and then the signs are more prevalent. The Mayo Clinic categorizes the areas of a child’s development that is affected by autism as either social interaction, behavior, and/or language. Here are a few early signs of autism as identified by the Mayo Clinic:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Disliking the touch of a parent
- Not making babbling or cooing sounds by first birthday
- Repetitive movements such as hand flapping, rocking, or spinning (age 1-3)
Baby Safe Disposable Feeder
BABY GEAR TO ASSIST WITH EATING SOLID FOODS
A teething feeder is a very simple and inexpensive baby product for parents with babies who are refusing solid foods. Just take a small piece of food and place it in the mesh container which has a ring on it for baby to hold. Baby will place the mesh surrounded piece of food into her mouth and suck on it. She will receive much of the nourishment of the solid food by sucking on it. When baby is having difficulty chewing and/or swallowing solid foods, this is an excellent option. The baby milestone of eating can be challenging for some babies and this feeder helps them through the transition. It is also great for introducing new flavors to baby’s diet and these feeders come with a convenient storage cap for travel.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS TO BABY
Recent research shows the best time to introduce solid foods to baby is at age six months. It is important not to introduce solid foods before baby is ready to sit up, chew and swallow the food. Foods that are a bit soft such as strawberries, banana, watermelon, or cooked zucchini are best to use with this feeder. Keep the food temperature not too hot or not too cold. Remember to always check with your pediatrician to see what foods are best for your baby.
FEEDING BABY ON THE GO
Parents are always looking for ways to feed baby when traveling. The teething feeder comes with a cap which allows moms to prepare the food ahead of time by placing it in the mesh container and covering it with a cap until it is time for baby to suck on it. This mesh cover also prevents choking hazards as you feed baby solid foods. The mesh keeps the solid part of the food from getting into baby’s mouth which can possibly cause choking. Sometimes both parents and child are easily distracted especially when outside the home environment, so always keep your eyes on baby when when she is eating.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS TO BABIES
This week the New York Times published an article which clearly identifies the best time to introduce solid foods to babies. “Infants Are Fed Solid Food Too Soon, C.D.C. Finds,” was published on the heels of a research study published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers discovered that many parents are feeding their baby solid food long before the infant’s system can handle it. Some parents fed their infant solid food as young as early as 4 weeks. The recommended age for feeding babies solid foods is six months, states the New York Times article.
MYTHS ABOUT FEEDING BABY SOLID FOODS
Researchers found some common reasons that parents feed babies solid food before they were ready. The article identifies the following myths which are not reasons to feed babies solid food: to help improve sleep, because they are hungry, baby is growing rapidly, it helps baby put on weight, or because it is easy to feed them a small portion of the meal prepared for the family. In fact, studies show problems such as obesity can result when babies are fed solid food too soon. It is very important for parents to understand not to feed baby solids until he is 6 months old.
BABY DEVELOPMENT FOR EATING SOLID FOODS
The development of a baby includes the achievement of certain milestones which prepare baby for the milestone of eating solid foods. These important developmental skills enable a baby to sit and chew food that is taken from a fork or spoon. These skills include:
- ability to sit
- ability to keep his head lifted or upright
- ability to chew
- ability to close the mouth when food is put into it
- development of gut bacteria in the intestines (not a motor skill)
Once a baby has acquired these abilities and is 6 months old, check with your pediatrician to confirm that it is time to start feeding him solids. Remember to ask the pediatrician for a list of recommended solids to feed baby and a list of foods to avoid feeding baby.