As new parents we eagerly await our newest addition taking their first steps. But as the saying goes, you must first learn to crawl before you can walk. In the first several months of life, babies begin exploratory movements while interacting with parents, caregivers and their physical world. While these early interactions and movements might not seem like much, infants are in fact mastering foundational skills. One milestone builds on another but we don’t all know how best to support that development. We have provided some suggestions below on how you can help your newborn learn and grow.
In the first few months, newborns are busy trying to figure out how to control their body. Movements at this stage might seem to have little purpose, but each movement provides feedback to the baby, and over time this feedback leads to control. And, of course, every movement helps to build muscle which is also needed for the next more complicated movement. But let’s start at the beginning.
When not spending time in Mom or Dad’s arms, infants spend most of their time lying on their back. This position is called supine and here kiddos can activate their abdominal and other flexor muscles by lifting them against gravity. They may start reaching toward a mobile or face placed in front of them. And after a few months practice, kiddos will often start to lift their legs up in the air in this position and may even reach their hands across to their toes. If you don’t see your child reaching for their toes around 6 months old, you may want to put a little rolled up towel under their bottom while lifting their legs in the air, then help them bring their feet toward their hands. All of this is great for strengthening the tummy muscles that will eventually be used all day long.
As part of a kiddo’s growth, it is important to offer them different positions from which to see and move within the world. One of these different positions is prone, known to most parents and caregivers as “tummy time”. The prone position helps kiddos stretch out their body after spending nine months curled up into a ball. It also gives them a chance to activate the muscles along the back of their body, generally called extensors. Many parents think this can only be done on the floor after a month or more but one of the best ways and times to start tummy time is on a parent’s chest within the first week or two of life, once the umbilical stump has fallen off.
On their tummy or back are not the only positions important for infants. Side lying is a great position for bringing hands together and beginning to reach forward to explore toys, books, or even parents’ faces. Infants can find this a challenging position, as it’s easy for them to roll onto their back. A rolled-up towel, blanket, or even a pool noodle placed behind their back can provide support to help them maintain this position. After spending more time in side lying, you may start to see your kiddo reaching forward and rolling onto their tummy or pushing against the surface in an attempt to learn to balance. These are wonderful transition skills to help them move from one position to another.
If your kiddo is struggling with tummy time, if you think they should be rolling and they aren’t, or if you have any other questions about how to support your kiddo’s growth and development reach out for an evaluation. Our therapists at Kid Physical have over 34 combined years experience offering specialized, holistic healthcare for children of all ages. Our top priority is providing support for both caregivers and children so that they can reach their highest potential.