“My daughter, Malia, is 5 days old. Is it too early to start tummy time with her? She doesn’t seem to like it.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting babies on their backs to sleep and their tummies to play. However, it’s not always the easiest thing to put your newborn in the prone (or tummy time) position in the first few days and weeks. It seems they either sleep or fuss when placed in that position! The hips are high in the air, elbows are off the ground and the weight is on the face. It does not look so comfortable and it can be a bit of a tricky start! Continue reading “Newborn: Beginning Tummy Time”
“Jack has had tummy time every day since he was three days old. At first he didn’t like being on his stomach, but now he is happy to play a while in this position. He is interested in lifting his head to get his mouth on his hand. It’s like a game to him.”
In tummy time, we want to see a progression of extension through the baby’s back over the first several months. I’m always in awe and a little surprised at the slow but steady day-by-day progression, especially in the first month. In the first days of tummy time, the weight is on the baby’s face and it is not the most comfortable looking position. Nevertheless, exciting changes are on the way!
Continue reading “1 Month: Starting to Lift the Head”
Fin is 3 1/2 months old and is learning to hold a toy between his hands. He can tuck his chin and gaze at the toy in hands for a moment. Why is chin tuck considered an important early developmental milestone?
Chin tuck is the early building block of core engagement. It happens naturally for most babies at around 3 months corrected age. The active, alert and motivated infant will look toward a favorite toy that is held at their chest level, just above the spot where their hands are able to come together. Simply looking down toward the toy is a good start. Progressing to the baby holding onto the toy with both hands while looking downward builds on this.
In Detail: The three-month-old is discovering postural control in midline. One of the first stabilizing motions is the chin tuck. The baby is able to stabilize the head and trunk in midline and begin to touch his hands together over the chest. He will begin to spend moments looking down toward the hands as they are together. Continue reading “3 Months: Chin Tuck”
“Yesterday was a big day because Zahra sat all by herself! She is so happy! Of course, I had to put her in this position first. She can’t take her hands off her feet because she falls backwards. I keep her safe by putting soft pillows and blankets all around her and sitting with her while she plays.”
Zahra is five-months old and has attained the developmental milestone of sitting independently. Her parents are proud and it is easy to see that Zahara is proud too. What are the building blocks for independent sitting? Continue reading “5 Months: Sitting”
“When Phoebe’s little legs are tucked under her body, I see how she was able to fit into the tiny space of the womb. At first I was concerned because I didn’t know why her legs were positioned like that.”
Babies born at gestational term have a tightness to their bodies called physiological flexion. Space was limited in the final trimester and the baby assumed the most compact position with arms and legs held close to her core. Physiological flexion provides some passive stability for the newborn baby to use for function. Practice will provide an opportunity to decrease muscle tightness through active movement. In turn, active movement provides sensory input and postural control. Development happens gradually, month by month with one skill building upon another. The posts in the milestones category describe the maturation of babies in the first year of life as they begin tightly flexed and learn to roll, sit, cruise and stand.
Continue reading “Why Do the Legs of Newborn Babies Look Bowed?”
“My 6-month old daughter rocks on her belly and moves her arms all around. It looks like she is swimming on land! What is going on while she is playing like that?”
This swimming motion, common during the development of 5-6 month olds, is also known as pivot prone. The first time you might see something like this would be at about 3 months of age during a Landau reaction. This emerges at as a reflex/postural reaction, allowing the baby to use their back muscles to extend against gravity while held at the stomach. However, by 5-6 months of age, the baby has developed the strength and flexibility to play with it in a variety of ways during their tummy time. These new sensations and movement often keep interest in the activity and are a delight to watch. You might see a few seconds of swimming motion followed by a push into the floor or rocking back and forth. In these actions, the baby is strengthening their postural control system to balance flexion and extension in their core muscles. Simultaneously the gluteals are learning to becoming active and the hips are beginning to fully straighten. With practice, the thighs and arms begin to come off the ground simultaneously. Ideally, even though the back muscles are working, the abdominal muscles are still active and slowly lengthening in order to control the motion, and the core is fully engaged.
During pivot prone play, the baby is strengthening and discovering:
Continue reading “6 Months: Pivot Prone”
Q: What happens when a baby brings hands to knees and then weight shifts or looks to the side?
A: Her whole body rolls to the side and she learns to control it and use it for function.
Around 5-6 months, this little one has learned to initiate some big movements like pushing up onto hands while on her stomach and grabbing knees and feet while on her back. She is busy reaching and looking around. Combining foundation skills such as hands to knees and weight shifts, larger movements begin to evolve, like rolling from back to side (otherwise known as supine to sidelying). At this stage babies may enjoy playing while balancing in sidelying. They may also enjoy the sensation of rolling.
What is happening as this baby rolls from supine to sidelying?
Continue reading “5 Months: Rolling to Side”
Life is so exciting for the six month old; once she learns to roll to the side, it is fun to play in this position. Beyond fun for the little one, what special things are happening with development at this stage? After all, play is child’s work.
- Mastering the balance of flexion and extension in the trunk: she is able to play in sidelying without falling forward or backward.
- Increasing shoulder girdle control and stability- allowing propping on one arm to play.
- Emergence/increasing lower extremity dissociation: one foot can prop to meet the ground and stabilize in this position. To do this, one leg must be flexed, the other extended while weight is increasingly shifted to the hip that contacts the floor.
- Foot weight-bearing: bringing the foot to meet the ground and getting some weight on to different parts of the foot in order to prepare for standing.
- Lateral flexibility and of the trunk/rib cage.
- Lateral head righting against gravity.
From this position your little one can grab toys to mouth, providing a whole new level of independence for exploration! All of these movements build the foundation for transitions that come in later months like progressing to side sitting, getting up on all fours and pulling to stand.
Your 5-month-old just learned to lift his feet from the ground and grab them with his hands. What’s next? Putting the toes into the mouth, of course!
This is such a sweet phase of development. Here is a quick review of the amazing things that are happening as your baby pulls her toes to her mouth.
- Activated abdominal muscles! You can see activity in the lower abdominals from the wrinkles on this baby’s tummy. Additionally, the baby’s pelvis is up off the ground.
- Developing and strengthening downward visual gaze/capitol flexion.
- Developing and strengthening balance of postural flexors and extensors, now in advancing to a diagonal motion.
- Grasping and pulling feet with either one or both hands.
- Activating quadriceps muscles as the leg straightens.
- Stretching out hamstrings from the physiological flexion present at birth.
- Stretching the toes into extension.
- Foot desensitization (with the heel pounding that happens when the feet hit the floor again).
- Tactile input from mouthing, grabbing, stretching; preparing the feet for walking.
- Developing general body awareness.
When a baby discovers this position, they are becoming experts at rolling to their side.