I have a 4 month old baby and I don’t feel like we have been doing a good job of allowing tummy time. He has great head control and is starting to do much better with tummy time. He has not great interest in rolling over yet, but has shown some signs that he may start to. When we pick him up to put him in our lap he extends his legs and assumes a standing position which he seems to enjoy quite a bit. I have been able to hold his hands while he maintains his standing position, is this something that I should start discouraging or is it OK as long as I allow him to dictate whether or not he wants to stand? On several occasions he will seemingly stand from a supported squatting position. I just worry that I am doing more harm than good.
-From a concerned father
Stellar Caterpillar Answers: What a great question you have asked! Thank you. It is good to hear that your baby has strong neck muscles for head control and is learning to enjoy tummy time. At his age, these are two of the most important motor milestones he could learn and practice. They develop baby strength and prepare the body for motor skills to come much later such as crawling and standing. What is important to understand is that every baby has a reflex that makes them put their feet down in the standing position when they are held over your lap. By “reflex,” we mean that baby does not want to stand, he has no choice but to stand.
Please read the following two posts to learn more about baby reflexes:
Often, the baby smiles when put in standing on his feet while in your lap. This is because they like being on eye level with you. If you put him on his tummy and get down on the floor on your tummy too, he will enjoy looking at you when he lifts his head. And this is a better choice developmentally. Please keep in mind that baby needs to strengthen his bones as well as his muscles before he can stand. At 4 months old it is too soon to stand. Thanks again for your question. There is so much to learn about their development!
Question from a mother in class:
My 3 1/2 month old baby is getting more used to tummy time, but she still does not love it. Do you have any ideas?
Stellar Caterpillar answers:
Try baby’s tummy time in different locations in your home so she has different environments to stimulate her vision. Sometimes place her facing a big window such as a sliding glass door. This is wonderful because at this age babies see light very well. If you have a pet you might place them where they can see the pet moving since babies also see movement very well. I highly recommend to all mothers to get down on your tummy in front of your baby so that when she lifts her head she can see your face. The different environments to stimulate her curiosity through the sense of sight which will motivate her to keep her head up a bit longer.
One week later, the mother returned to class and said “Changing the environment definitely helped. She seems to stay with her head up a bit longer and is enjoying it.” (Some tummy time solutions may be more simple than you think.) Even if baby is enjoying her tummy time you it can be interesting to place her so she has changes of scenery when she lifts her head. The motor skill of lifting the head is one of the earliest skills baby develops. When she is intrigued by the fact that when she lifts her head she can see something interesting or someone she knows, she will want to keep her head up longer. The action of lifting her head strengthens her neck and back muscles and prepares her for many motor skills down the road. It is worth the effort to try and get baby to the point that she not only tolerates tummy time, but she enjoys it!
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.
RUBBER DUCK BATH TOY
One of the classic baby toys is the rubber ducky. Babies love them. Why? Maybe babies like them so much because of their adorable face, or their small size is easy to manipulate with just one hand, and they float on top of the water. These 2 inch long toys are easy to hold in one hand and chew on. The wind-up bath toys have parts that may break off, are very heavy, and baby can not learn to manipulate them on her own. Developmental toys such as the rubber duck invite the participation of the child in creating the activity.
RUBBER DUCK AT BABY SWIM LESSONS
Bring the rubber ducky to infant swim lessons. It provides baby with a simple way to entertain herself when she is waiting for her lesson or resting during the lesson. This is one of the best pool toys for baby because it floats, is easy for her to hold, and can be put in her mouth. If you have two or three different colors or styles it is beneficial for the swim time. They float on the water near her as she learns to paddle with her arm. Then you pick her up to rest while handing her the duck.
BATH TOYS FOR BABY GIFTS
These adorable rubber ducks come in different colors and even different costumes which make for fun baby gifts. These simple and inexpensive bath toys make great stocking stuffers for babies and can be tied on to the top of a baby shower gift in place of a bow. Swimming pools offering infant swimming lessons often have quite a stock of these animals. The variety include the cowboy rubber duck, mermaid rubber duck, firefighter rubber duck, and the princess rubber duck. Visit Partypalooza.com for pages of variations on these two inch bath toys. A unique baby shower gift would be a collection of six different ducks. This is one gift where moms are happy to receive more than one!
THE MOVEMENT OF BABY’S HIPS DURING CRAWLING
When baby learns to crawl, whether it is on her belly or on her hands and knees, she is very happy. She is now able to explore the entire room on her own! Her curiosity motivates her and she travels around the room exploring toys, shoes, books, musical instruments, the family dog, and any other object left at her eye level. What development in her muscles and bones has occurred to launch this new skill? Although a few significant developments must occur in order for the major milestone of crawling to occur, one of the most important is the new movement of the hip joint. While in tummy time, one side of the pelvis lifts a little bit up into the air so the knee on the same side can bend up toward the ribs. The coordination between the pelvis and the ribs allows the knee to bend up quite a bit. Soon, she will learn to push the bent leg down into the floor to propel herself forward in space. This action of bending the leg is very important for baby to learn. It is the key to learning the skill of crawling.
TIPS FOR TEACHING THE SKILL OF BELLY CRAWLING
When baby is about five or six months old, place her in tummy time. Gently squeeze the sides of her pelvis and lift one side up toward the ceiling and then the other side up toward the ceiling. Try doing this movement at a very slow pace. Go from side to side lifting one hip up toward the ceiling followed by the other hip. Next, when you lift the right hip up toward the ceiling try and bend the right knee up toward toward her side ribs. Repeat this by alternating from one side to the other. This teaches the coordination of the movement. If her legs are stiff, spend some time every day with her on her back bending and extending each leg several times. The muscles will soften and make it easier for you to bend her leg when she is on her stomach. And remember to avoid using equipment that puts baby on her feet such as an exersaucer or jumper. Her bones and muscles are not ready for her to be on her feet. Remember that she has the rest of her life to be on her feet, but only now to play on the floow.”
HOW DO YOU HELP A BABY WITH CONSTIPATION ?
One of the most common dilemas I see with new moms is how to solve the problem of baby constipation. Some people suggest that mothers who breastfeed should remove dairy from their diet or add papaya to their diet. Recently I spoke with an experienced doula on the topic and she advised moms to just be patient since sometimes constipation is a sign of developmental change in baby’s digestive system. She mentioned that it is common for babies to have constipation around the three month age. I recommend that mothers learn a few hands-on exercises to practice at home when baby has constipation. These hands-on skills help improve circulation and stretch the muscles surrounding the area of pelvis and hips. Since constipation my bring tightness in the muscles around the abdomen and hips, movements to improve circulation and stretch the muscles in these areas may provide some relief. And of course, always check with your pediatrician when you have concerns. Try the following three baby exercise moves, in the order presented, to relieve infant constipation discomfort and improve digestion and elimination.
BABY EXERCISE #1: MASSAGE THE ABDOMEN
Begin with baby on her back. Gently rub your hands along her abdomen in long strokes moving from her pelvis toward her head. Take your time and brush slowly! This can be done with baby clothed or with her bare skin. Brush with a bit of pressure, it your touch is too light you will effect only her skin. With just a bit more pressure this massage stimulates both her lymphatic system and nervous system. The nervous system will feel which muscles are being tightly contracted and then relax them. Your constipated baby may be sensitive to the touch if she is experiencing internal discomfort, so gage your pressure by her response. Lighten your pressure if she looks uncomfortable with your touch.
BABY EXERCISE #2: BEND AND STRETCH THE LEGS
While baby is on her back, take one leg and bend it in toward the chest and then extend it toward the straight leg position. Repeat this several times with one leg and then repeat several times with the other leg. The hand that is holding her leg should gently squeeze the leg so she feels the movements more clearly. This baby exercise will gently stimulate circulation and stretch muscles in the lower abdominal and hip area. A baby with constipation will benefit from this exercise which may help release gas.
BABY EXERCISE #3: TUMMY-TIME WITH THIGH LIFTS
Put baby in tummy-time with a favorite toy as in the above photo. The position of tummy-time gently stretches the abdominal area. Place one hand under her thigh and close to her knee. Place the other hand on her ankle. Gently lift her thigh off of the floor just a little bit. Make sure the hand near the knee is doing the lifting and move very slowly, pausing for a moment before returning to the starting position. This elongates the muscles in the front of baby’s hip joint and abdominal area.