My baby is now six months old and has really got the hang of rolling from back to belly. She does it a lot. Once she is on her belly she has a tendency to go into airplane mode (legs in the air, arms out to the sides slightly behind her) and can get very frustrated. She knows how to roll back, she just doesn’t want to, and resists my attempts to help her. If she whinges (cries) a lot I pick her up, but she often reaches to go straight back down again, so he’s obviously trying to do something with it. I think she’s trying to move forwards, but doesn’t know how to get going. -From a mother in Scotland
DEVELOPMENTAL PLAY FOR BABY’S ARMS
In the airplane movement baby lifts both arms and legs off of the ground at the same time, with the arms straight out to the side. This happens when baby is in tummy time. To teach baby to keep her hands on the floor, and even learn to push up with them, you can try a few exercise with her. Start with her on her back and try bending and extending one arm several times. Move her hand toward the ceiling to extend (straighten) it and bend the arm by bringing the elbow down toward the floor. As you extend her hand toward the ceiling, gradually move her hand so it is more over the middle of her body (her breast bone). She is familiar with the pattern of reaching her arms straight out to the sides as she does in the airplane action on her stomach. This exercise is giving her the experience of moving her arms more toward her center, a less familiar place. As she gets familiar with this place in space it will be easier for her to find it when she is on her stomach.
TRY TUMMY TIME WITH A NEW TOY
Try put her in tummy time and give her a toy that she will want to explore with both hands. This will bring both hands more toward the midline as keep them there for awhile as she plays with the toy. When she does have her hands on the floor you can lightly brush the tops of her hands with your fingers and gently press the palm of her hand down to cue her to push that part of her hand into the floor. This is “grounding the airplane,” helping baby connect to the floor. Baby will learn that the floor is helpful for her, for example, the more she leans on it the higher she can lift her head.
GO WITH HER PATTERN RATHER THAN AGAINST IT
How do we ground the legs? When she is on her back try brushing the legs with your fingers from the top of the hip to the tips of her toes. Make long brushing strokes with your fingers so she develops clear proprioception of the legs. When she is on her tummy repeat this brushing of the legs so she becomes aware that she is lifting them off of the ground. Then gently press her pelvis down into the floor so she feels the contact there. Then try gently moving one leg further away from the floor a few times to go with the pattern she is activating. Then bring her thigh a little closer to the floor and gently press it into the floor so she has the sensation of it leaning on the floor. Repeat this a few times. You are giving her the experience of feeling what it feels like to move the leg further away from the floor and to lean on the floor. Her system will soon choose the more efficient pattern, which is leaning on the floor.
A GAME FOR BABY TO AVOID
Take a moment and ask yourself if you occasionally hold baby up toward the sky like and airplane. If so, observe how her arms go straight out to the sides and her legs go up. This activity can trigger the startle reflex. She may be learning this airplane pattern in this activity. Take a break from this activity for awhile and try some other developmental games suggested in this post.
Tummy Time for two
MOTOR SKILLS & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN INFANTS
Mastering the baby milestone of tummy time provides baby with a comfortable way to spend time interacting with her friends. The skill of lifting the head during tummy time develops strength in the neck muscles which soon allow baby to keep her head upright for a very long time. She learns to enjoy baby play time on her tummy after developing this strength in her neck and back. She has use of her arms and hands to manipulate toys and can turn her head to see what is happening around her. She can watch her friends and her mother from this position. She is on eye level with a friend if she is also on her tummy, as the girls are in the above photo. Tummy time is no longer a tedious exercise, it is an enjoyable activity for engaging with the world around baby. The strength and stability attained through strengthening muscles gives baby the freedom to move around. When baby hates tummy time, try placing them near another baby so they see a friend when they lift their head. Soon you will see a social smile.
TUMMY TIME VS. BABY SITTING UP
Observe the babies in the photo above ages 5 1/2 and 7 months. If these babies were placed in a sitting position, which they are not ready for quite yet, they would be limited in their ability to look around. Often, when babies are put into the sitting position too soon they curl backward a bit into a slouch. This pulls them off of their pelvis enough so they do not feet stable enough to fully use their arms. The slouched position also makes it difficult to fully rotate the head and look upward. In fact, trying to look around may cause them to tip over because of the weight of the head moving on an unstable pelvis. The lack of stability in sitting makes it especially difficult to engage both the focus and the hands at the same time. If the babies did not get themselves into the sitting position they would not be able to get themselves out of it either. The baby girls in the above photo have learned to roll so they are free to move in and out of this position of communication with each when they want.
LEARNING THE MOTOR SKILL OF SITTING
The seven month old baby in the photo above will soon learn how to bring herself to a sitting position since she has developed the muscle strength for stability and excellent posture. She has mastered the motor milestones of rolling, tummy time, and lifting the head. Although there are several ways baby can learn to sit, many patterns of sitting occur through a fluid movement that combines rolling and pushing with the hands. When baby learns to bring herself to sitting she has strengthened and coordinated all of the parts that need to stabilize her body so she can use her hands to play with toys and move her head to socialize with mom and friends. A baby sitting up is more free to engage with toys and people because this posture frees the arms and hands and allows even more movement of the head.
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!
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.
Recently in class a mother of a 4 month old baby was talking about her living room space. She and her husband enjoy watching sports on the weekend and she was wondering where to put the baby while watching the games. I asked her if she had some space on the floor. I suggested she push the coffee table off to the side of the room to make an area for the baby to play. I discussed choosing a quilt or a play mat to cover the area for baby. The mother looked at me with a questioning face and said, “But iI feel bad putting her down like that. Doesn’t she like sitting up better?” I replied, “You might feel that way because we sit up all the time as adults. Many adults are not comfortable on their tummies on the floor, so we fear babies are not either. Your daughter will love floor time if she is comfortable and has some toys. She will have a great time.” The mother smiled and said “Oh. That makes sense.”
During class we explored the motor skill of rolling. The babies were guided from tummy time into a roll onto their backs. Later they were guided from their backs onto their tummy. The parents learned tips for motor skill development to practice at home such as bending and stretching baby’s legs, rubbing the abdomen, and rolling baby onto her side. I explained the importance of floor time for baby to learn how to roll. “In a sitting position it is almost impossible for the baby to learn how to roll because much less of her body is in contact with the ground. She must learn how to shift her weight and move her arm or leg to take her onto her side and tummy/back,” I said. The moms noticed how the babies enjoyed being moved from their backs to their sides and finally to their tummies, and then back to their backs again.
The following week at class the mother who asked questions about floor time was smiling when she arrived at class. “Guess who has been enjoying floor time?!? She is doing tummy time and rolling all over the place. She loves it!” The mother continued to explain that she and her husband were enjoying watching sports and keeping the baby near them on a play mat. All seemed to be enjoying this family time!
TUMMY-TIME AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF A BABY
Mastering tummy-time is a significant developmental milestone for baby. Several skills are acquired during this playtime with her belly on the floor. Lifting the head strengthens neck and back muscles for posture, pressing down with her hands develops a strong upper body for crawling, and stretching the trunk and hip muscles prepare her alignment for standing upright. To guide her from the position of tummy-time to the motor skill of rolling, gently lift one side of her pelvis a little while you bend up the knee of the same side. Turn her slowly onto her back while you guide her with your hands on her leg and hip. Your hands show her where she needs to move her body parts to turn herself. Soon, she will do this on her own.
MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSITIONS
After studying Stellar Caterpillar Tummy-Time Tips, guide baby into some daily play time on her belly. With a few interesting toys within her reach and your supportive instruction, she will gain both comfort and strength while on her belly. She will learn to enjoy this position. Soon, she should learn how to transition herself into and out of tummy-time. Babies are most confident and independent when they can get places on their own. This means they have the skill of getting in and out of tummy-time, sitting, crawling, standing, and any position of rest or play. They learn to go from a stationery position to a movement of locomotion. For example, in the above photos Donna guides five-month-old Zizu from tummy time into a roll. Soon, Zizu will learn to play on her tummy and them roll across the floor to a new location.
A FEW transitions to/from positions FOR baby:
- Rolling to Tummy-Time/Tummy-Time to Rolling
- Rolling to Sitting/Sitting to Rolling
- Crawling to Sitting/Sitting to Crawling
- Crawling to Standing/Standing to Crawling
OBSERVE BABY AND HER TRANSITIONS
Learn to put baby down on the floor (on her back) and and observe how she transitions into the movement she would like to do. Even if she has learned to stand and side-cruise, occasionally put her down on the floor and see how she moves herself from her back into the standing position. If she loves to be on her tummy, how does she roll there? If she is enjoying sitting, put her on the floor on her back and see how she rolls and comes to sit. Independence means the ability to move in and out of these positions. When a toddler has gone through all of her milestones in a skillful way, you can put her down on the floor on her back and observe how she gets up. She will roll to sit to crawl to stand to walk all in a few quick seconds. It is the developmental sequence right before your eyes!