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Back to Basics with your Baby: 10 ways to Nurture your Moving Baby

March 14, 2011

  1. Turn off the TV, the computer and your cell phone. (at least for a while each day!)
    As a parent, your baby needs your attention throughout the day. It is important to set aside some uninterrupted time to connect and interact with your baby. The simple aspects of your voice, your touch and your body movements provide perfect stimulation and learning for your baby’s developing brain. Additionally, your love and attention develops your baby’s emotional and social bonding.
  2. Tummy time!
    You may have heard the slogan, “back to sleep, tummy to play”. Babies need tummy time. Even if you only start with 5 minutes each day and gradually build it up, you will be supporting your baby to discover and explore their bodies in relationship to gravity – first yielding to it and then learning to push away from it. The absence of tummy time can lead to weakened body musculature and missed developmental movement milestones such as belly crawling. Like any other animal, the experience of learning how to move independently on the ground, without guidance, provides the necessary foundation for all further locomotion. 

  3. Ditch the swing, jumpers, walkers and fancy baby seats.
    Toy, furniture and car seat manufactures love to make bright, colourful and cozy devices to hold your baby. These are like “baby containers” which can restrict and constrain your baby’s natural movements. While car seats are a vital part of keeping your baby safe and secure in our modern society, they were not intended to keep your baby immobile for long stretches of time outside of a vehicle. Take your baby out of the “container” and put them on the floor with a few toys scattered around them. 

  4. Get on the floor with your baby.
    When you get down on the floor and move along with your baby, it allows you to observe, listen and learn alongside your baby from the same level in space. By moving together at the same level on the floor, you are both able to activate and move using similar parts of your brain. Moreover, babies make vital brain connections through their body movements at these different levels. When your baby is lying on their back or tummy, the lower brain is active. As your baby shifts weight and is able to sit up or crawl, the mid brain becomes active. Once your baby can stand, the higher brain functions are activated. Development of all three parts of the brain is important during the early physical development of your baby. 

  5. Don’t rush developmental movement milestones.
    We can inadvertently push our babies along, trying to facilitate the movement milestones (such as walking) by using seats and toys that prop our babies upright before they have the strength and efficiency in movement in order to support themselves in a sitting or standing posture. A child who is rushed through the developmental sequence may have to compensate too much in their bodies which can affect their muscle tone as an adult and their ease in transitions from lying to sitting to standing. Allowing your baby to sit up and learn to crawl and walk on their own time schedule can greatly assist in the correct wiring of the brain.
  6. Invite more skin contact with your baby.
    Babies need their skin touched in nurturing and respectful ways every day. Research studies have shown that without human touch, babies cannot thrive and develop fully. Practice singing songs or nursery rhymes while you caresses or massage your baby. Take a few extra minutes during diaper changes or bath time to really express your love through your touch. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby lying on their tummy on top of you while you are lying down is another simple and loving way to get some tummy time in! This is a particular good activity for Dads who may not always have as much skin-to skin contact with their baby. 

  7. Find places in your community to join with other caregivers and babies in social activities.
    Babies are naturally very social creatures and love to be around other babies. There are often many classes and activities for caregivers and babies. Find something that feels good to you. Music classes, parenting classes, baby yoga and baby dance classes may all be good options at a local community center or dance studio. Even just finding a drop-in center to meet and chat to other parents can forge new friendships and also be a welcome break from feeling isolated with your baby. 

  8. Find creative and fun ways to stimulate your baby’s senses. Look around your house for interesting objects to explore and play with your baby. Items to use for tactile (touch) stimulation directly on their skin could include different textures of fabric, feathers, scarves, bumpy plastic toys, metal spoons and wooden blocks. Items to use for auditory (hearing) stimulation can be played out of sight of your baby so that they orient their bodies to the sound. You could include a variety of musical instruments, home made shakers (dried beans in a plastic container), recorded music and other gentle but unusual sound makers (look around your house for interesting items to make sounds with). Stimulation of taste and smell will occur gradually as your baby is able to taste and eat age-appropriate foods.
  9. Take care of yourself.
    Healthy and happy caregivers make for healthier and happier babies. Giving yourself much needed time to rest, exercise, meditate or just unwind with a good book and a cup of tea are all simple ways to maintain balance emotionally and physically.
  10. Set up a routine and stick to it.
    Our busy lives revolve around schedules. Setting up an established routine with your baby not only helps you, it helps your baby to learn what to expect and when. Working with the natural rhythms of your baby’s energy, you can devise a sleep, eat and play schedule that allows for your baby to get what they need and also the structure that you need in order to get your work done and take care of yourself. Finding ways to be flexible within the schedule is necessary and may shift as your baby grows. However, sticking to the overall sequence of activities in your baby’s cycle is important so that you don’t confuse the “I’m hungry cry” with the “I’m totally exhausted meltdown”. Also, as you become aware and focus on your own energy cycle during the day, you can plan your baby’s activity to support your self-care.
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