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!
BENEFITS OF PACIFIER USE
One of the most popular pieces of baby gear is the pacifier. Most often we see parents offering it to the baby when she is crying out of control. Soon after the pacifier is put into baby’s mouth the vigorous action of sucking takes over and mother now has a tranquil child in her arms. This sucking movement calms the entire body.
HOW TO CHOOSE A PACIFIER FOR BABY
There are so many pacifiers on the market today, how is a mom to choose just one? Some designs are adorable, others sparkly, some humorous, and others rather plain. It is recommended to try a variety of pacifiers with different shaped nipples and see which one baby likes best. Some have shorter nipples, others have nubbier nipples, and some have long stems. Try a few and let her choose the one that suits her best. If there is no obvious preference, just pick one and try it a few times and see if you succeed with introducing the pacifier.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE A PACIFIER TO BABY
As soon as those cries get out of control, mom quickly reaches for the pacifier. STOP! This may not be the best time to try and introduce this new item. First, calm baby using other methods. Then, when she is calm you can try and introduce the pacifier. Otherwise she will wonder why you are putting such a strange object into her mouth when she is upset. Plus, she will spit the pacifier out and sabatoge your plan for introducing something that is supposed to comfort her. Instead, try introducing it to her at a later time when she is calm.
HOW TO KEEP THE PACIFIER FROM FALLING OUT
If baby keeps spitting the pacifier back out, try this tip from Dr. Harvey Karp. “When your baby is calm, offer her the pacifier. The moment she starts to suck, tug it lightly as if you were starting to take it out of her mouth BUT don’t tug so hard that it actually does come out of her mouth.” Dr. Karp explains that baby will then tug hard at the pacifier with her mouth to not let it be pulled out. This strengthens the action of sucking. Now baby has learned to keep the pacifier in her mouth. Now repeat this at least ten times as if it was a game. Rest, then pull on the pacifier again, etc. After several times of this game baby will have learned to suck on the pacifier and not let it fall out of her mouth. But, be prepared because the pacifier will fall out of her mouth quite often and need to be cleaned.
Source: The Happiest Baby on The Block, Dr. Harvey Karp, Bantam Books, New York, 2002.
Posted in EATING
Tagged health, reflexes
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.
WHAT IS THE STEPPING REFLEX ?
When a relatively newborn baby is held under the armpits, his feet are placed on a flat surface, and his body weight is inclined slightly forward the stepping reflex is elicited. The baby appears to walk forward by taking a series of steps. Normally present in the first six weeks after birth, the stepping relex is categorized as a locomotor reflex because it resembles the voluntary movement of stepping. The above video from LouisTurcanu3′s youtube channel shows a relatively newborn baby demonstrating this reflex.
BABY WALKING: AVOID FORCING THE STEPPING REFLEX
Many parents who are so excited to see their baby walk create this reflex by holding the baby on his feet and “walking” him forward. They proudly show how strong he is getting and how much he likes to walk. But, what most parents do not understand is that reflexes are involuntary movements, the baby has no control over them. So, they will not get tired and rest. This results is overused muscles and spams. In addition to this, the baby’s bones are not strong enough yet to support his weight. Please do not do this with your baby. This will delay optimal motor skill development. Let him spend time on the floor learning several motor skills such as lifting the head, rolling, and crawling. When his bones and muscles are much more developed he will stand and walk all on his own!
DEVELOPMENT OF BABY HEARING
The fetus in the womb hears sound that is transmitted by liquid, which softens or muffles the sounds to some extent. After birth, babies hear a variety of sounds, yet tend to be disturbed only by the sudden loud noises. These “violent” sounds elicit the startle reflex, seen as a jerking of the head backward, bulging of the eyes, and flexion of the elbows.
ANATOMY OF BABY’S EAR
There are two distinct branches of the auditory nerve. One is the cochlear branch which carries sound information to the brain and the other is the vestibular branch which detects motion and tells us where we are in space. Anatomy books show how closely these two branches are interconnected. We also know that the stimulation of a nerve in a baby travels through the body more than in an adult. For example, if you scratch a baby’s foot, the muscles of the entire body respond. When a baby hears a loud sound, since these two branches are close together and newly developing, the strong stimulus travels over to the vestibular branch of the same nerve. Thus, the baby not only hears the sound (cochlear branch) but physically feels it in his limbs (vestibular branch). His head jerks backward, deepening the physical sensation when the movement of the fluid in the ear further stimulates the vestibular branch. It is possibly experienced as pain, suggests Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais in his book The Elusive Obvious, which examines fundamental physiology patterns in humans.
The above video from oleviasea’s youtube channel is one clear example of this reaction. In this situation, the father’s snoring is staged, but the baby’s reaction is not. The noise is indeed near the threshold of feeling.
WHY CAN BABIES SWIM ?
One of the reasons babies can learn to swim and become water safe, as we mentioned in our article on baby swim lessons, is because of their reflexes. The most significant reflex that allows a baby to go underwater yet not swallow the water is the diving reflex. When the baby goes underwater the epiglottis closes over, blocking water from going down the throat. The baby’s eyes also stay open underwater. Photos and video of babies underwater clearly display this reflex as they swim with eyes wide open and their mouth open at times as well. Just click this link and watch this 9 month old swimmer on youtube!
There may be a very small percentage of the population that do not have this reflex. My sources varied as to when babies lose this reflex, which is involuntary and is triggered by submersion in water. Some sources indicate this reflex disappears at around two months, others at six months, and yet others at eighteen months. What this indicates is that it is very individual. This is why it is important to attend lessons with a professional. Always consult your local infant swimming resource for guided instruction.