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).
singing is AN ACTIVITY FOR A NEWBORN BABY
At the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC) in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, babies receive a very warm entry into the world. Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja, MD, FACOG, welcomes babies into the world through song as he delivers them. “Happy Birthday to you!” rings through the delivery room lead by Dr. Carey-Andrew’s powerful baritone voice, communicating much warmth and security to the newborn baby. The above video from UPMC’s youtube channel shows him in action. Although the baby is not able to sing yet, the singing engages his attention and he feels what is communicated through the voice. Singing is a wonderful way to engage with your newborn baby.
Dr. Carey-Andrew’s practice of singing to the newborn baby immediately following birth in the delivery room and during his visits to mother and baby in the hospital room were inspired by a colleague. An older OB-GYN on staff at UPMC had a habit of singing to the babies and one day as he was nearing retirement he asked Dr. Carey-Andrew if he sang to the babies. He said, “They love it!” That was the moment the baton was passed to him to sing to the babies he delivers. And he has delivered thousands of babies, welcoming each one into the world through song.
Dr. Carey states that he thinks “I am singing to a future important person” and “it is a beautiful world we live in.” He describes this as a moment where he forgets about all of the tragedies in the world around us and focus on the beautiful moment occurring in his presence. Maybe singing lessons can be added to the roster of OB-GYN courses required in medical school?
INCREASE IN PREMATURE BIRTHS
One out of every nine children born in the United States is born premature, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Premature babies often need to remain in the hospital for awhile to have their breathing monitored and to be closely watched for a period of time. Research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that live music benefits the development of premature babies. Researchers found when the music is either played or sung live rather than played from a CD or radio it reduced the stress response in premature babies. Theoretically, this allows more energy to be directed toward healthy infant development such as growing and eating. The research was conducted in 11 hospitals, led by the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and followed the benefits premature babies received when music therapists worked with the mother and baby. Watch the above video from TheNewYorkTimes youtube channel to see a baby and mother working with a music therapist while in the hospital.
BENEFITS OF LIVE MUSIC FOR BABIES
- calms breathing
- facilitates sleep
- improves sucking
- slows heartbeat
- promotes the “quiet alert” state
Researchers clearly emphasize the benefits of music for babies when it is played or sung live. This is because the music can be changed or adapted to the needs of the baby. For example, if baby is falling asleep the music can be sung more softly. The field of music therapy teaches practitioners to observe baby and adapt the music being played so the baby improves one of his developmental rhythms such as sucking, breathing, or sleeping. The therapist is trained to observe the minute changes in baby and adjust the music accordingly. Ideally, the parent is learning to do the same.
MUSIC INSTRUMENTS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF BABIES
Although several instruments may sound interesting to newborn baby, a few were used regularly by the music therapists because of their effects on vital signs. The external musical rhythm influences one of baby’s internal rhythms. Music therapists are trained in this technique and favor a few particular instruments for their beneficial effects. The Gato Box replicates the mother’s heartbeat while the Ocean Drum coordinates with the rise and fall of the breathing. Singing while strumming a guitar also was effective at changing the stress response of babies. Often parents chose a song they liked and slowed down the tempo while they sang rather than singing a traditional lullaby song.
ALL BABIES BENEFIT FROM MUSIC
There is one important difference between music played from a CD versus music played live. The live music is played in response to the rhythms of the infant. Tempos should be coordinated with the vital signs of the baby such as the rise and fall of the breathing, the movement of the eyes, or the rise and fall of the chest. For example, the ocean drum can be tilted one direction as the chest rises and then tilted the other direction as the chest falls so the sound of the drum will be harmonious with the breathing pattern of baby. The New York Times article states that it is not important for parents to necessarily buy these instruments, but to learn to mimic them as they observe their babies. We suggest that the practice of playing music and singing to your baby should be embraced by every parent. If research proves that it benefits premature babies it most likely provides the same benefits to babies carried full term. And don’t forget, the music also calms the nervous system of the parent.
Source: “Live Music’s Charms, Soothing Premature Hearts,” by Pam Belluck, New York Times, April 15, 2013.
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.
FIVE DEVELOPMENTAL STOCKING STUFFERS FOR BABIES
This holiday season, choose simple toys that invite motor skill development. Sometimes the most simple objects require the most use of baby’s body parts which facilitates the development of motor skills. That is the real DIY! Skip the expensive and space-consuming jumper and exersaucers and choose to “keep it simple and developmental.”
1. BABY RATTLES
For Newborns: Maraca Baby Rattle and Pewter Dumbell Rattles The maraca is the perfect first baby rattle. The simple stick handle on this maraca rattle is perfect for their tiny hands to hold. They can hear the swoosh of the grains of sand inside as they develop the coordination of their hand and arm for the motor skills of grasping and reaching.
Classic Dumbell Rattle-made of pewter Prices vary depending on material. The simple stick handle makes it easy to hold and the added weight of the pewter or silver develops baby’s strength. This classic endures and makes a lovely family heirloom.
2. BABY’S FIRST BALL
An excellent toy for the motor skill development of cruising. At under $10, the O-Ball is our favorite first ball for baby. It is lightweight and the small bars are easy for baby’s tiny fingers to grip. Available at many baby toy retailers.
3. BABY’S FIRST DOLL
Waldorf Blanket Doll
A Waldorf blanket doll. $22. Part doll and part “blankie,” this is a perfect first doll for baby. Approximately 11 inches long, it has a face and hands that are made of non-toxic materials safe for teething. The “blankie” makes it easy for an infant to carry and manipulate. (Most dolls are not easily managed by baby until she is a toddler.) From bellalunatoys.com
4. LOLLACUP: BEST SIPPY CUP
A baby drinks from a Lollacup, a sippy cup with a straw.
Lollacup, which retails for about $16, is a new and improved sippy cup. This is the newest and smartest sippy cup on the market. It is made of BPA free materials and has a weighted straw so parents can teach baby to drink through a straw. This skill is an important one in the development of a baby…and made in the USA! Available from amazon.com or directly from lollaland.com
5. JINGLE BELLS
Babies enjoy bells
Bells, bells, bells. Babies can not get enough of them. They come inside a baby rattle, on a stick, or in a box. You can find them in a music store in the toddler section, in baby toy selections, or make one yourself with a small box and a few individual bells. At every stage of development you can find a baby toy with bells that she will enjoy ringing.
Enjoy baby’s first Christmas!
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