Baby Care

October 30, 2015 by Dr. Elsje Meyer

Tummy Time

Why is tummy time no fun?!

IN AN AGE where babies are enrolled in schools before they take their first steps, parents are under a lot of pressure to make sure their children reach their milestones on time (although most parents secretly plan to fly through the milestones way ahead of schedule!)

A lot of parents are told to ‘try tummy time’ or ‘start tummy time’, and suddenly feel pressure to not only keep their newborn alive, but to start on a training program immediately. Parents, and babies, hate tummy time because it can be boring and stressful if you don’t find the right way for your baby. But it can and should be fun! Tummy time is a natural and beneficial part of a baby’s life, and parents often do it without noticing.  I have compiled a short guide on how to make some of the first activities of your baby’s life fun for both of you.

The Why.

The big fuss about tummy time is that babies need to learn to use the muscles that lift their heads and prop up their shoulders so that they can look around and ultimately sit up and crawl. If a baby is never turned on their tummy, they will remain floppy and have a hard time catching up on their milestones. Each child is different, and will reach certain milestones at different times. I want to encourage parents that it is your job to give your child the best chance to learn do things at their own speed, not to speed up the process. Please never feel pressure for your child to develop just like other babies.

Tummy time is also useful for babies who have congenital torticollis, a condition where the baby’s head is turned to one side due to pain or stiff muscles. Tummy time helps to relax and train the neck muscles, and to prevent babies from developing a flat spot on their skulls. If your baby has torticollis, remember to take them to a chiropractor to have it looked at.

The When.

Experts on the subject suggest starting on Day One! And you probably did without noticing right from the start. At first, ten minutes is all a baby needs, and all you will have time between their sleeps. By the time your baby is three months old, you should aim for 1 hour of tummy time spread across a day during their awake time.

The How

There are so many options that you should be able to find something that works for you and baby. Firstly, make sure your timing is sensitive to baby’s mood. While baby is awake and relaxed, or even slightly dozy is a good time. When they seem to get tired of it, take a break and try again later in the day.

Next, find a method that is least stressful for both of you.

Lie down with baby on your chest (You could also breastfeed your baby in this position and it would count as tummy time!)
Put your baby on your lap and very gently move your legs side to side or up and down.
Let your baby’s father lie down with baby on his chest before bath time in the evenings.
Carry baby with their tummy facing down for a few minutes every day. Put your elbow between baby’s legs and support their head with your hand. (This position is also very helpful for gassy or colicky babies)
Before changing their nappy, place your baby on his tummy on the changing mat for a few seconds.
Put baby on the bed and lie in front of her or put her favourite toy in front of her.
Older babies enjoy a play mat with bright colours and toys strewn around. Don’t be discouraged if your baby doesn’t like this at first, they feel isolated on the ground. Get down on the floor with him and keep talking to him.
Carefully rest your baby on his tummy on a pilates ball for a little while. As they get closer to eight weeks, you can slowly and carefully rock the ball a bit. This is a nice activity to do while facing a mirror or a partner, so that baby has something to look at.

Always make sure that your baby can see and hear you during tummy time, and remember not to do it on a full stomach. Also remember to put toys on both their left and right side, so that they will learn to look towards both sides and grasp with both hands. And remember to have fun, playtime is play time after all!

Does my child need extra therapy?

Most babies experience some degree of trauma during birth. If you feel concerned about this, it is a great idea to take your baby to a chiropractor who treats babies to assess and treat their spine.

Resources: A Newborn Workout? Experts Say “Yes!”. Gay Girolami, PT, MS, FAACPDM.

Screaming Babies

Should I Calm or Stimulate my baby?

Most babies experience some degree of trauma during birth. If you feel concerned about this, it is a great idea to take your baby to a chiropractor who treats babies to assess and treat their spine.

We went through the perfect pregnancy and birth, or the toughest pregnancy and birth, and thought it would be smooth sailing from there. Things are getting worse – our beautiful bundle screams when we hand her to granny, screams after feeding, screams, screams, screams! What should we do to connect with our baby?’ I wrote this short article to focus on understanding your baby’s mind a bit better. As a chiropractor I treat babies with various reasons for and patterns of excessive crying. Overstimulation is one of the first things to look at when we want to understand these little wonders.

The transition from being in the womb to living with all the sights, sounds, smells and movements of the world can be overwhelming for babies. Once they ‘wake up’ at between 14 and 21 days of age, they suddenly start to take everything in, with unhappy consequences if babies are not kept calm and secure. For the first six to twelve weeks of a baby’s life, they thrive in a calming and nurturing environment.

Babies are easily overstimulated by the everyday things that happen around them. For newborns, being passed from person to person, being played with loudly or vigorously, being tickled, or having television noise in the background can easily overstimulate them. They have coping mechanisms to deal with this: When a baby has learned or seen enough, look out for the following signs: They might start breathing faster, flinging their head from side to side, avoid eye contact, start to arch backwards, get niggly, and if all else fails, they close their eyes and scream.

Babies learn best when they are calm and rested, and babies rest best when they are calm. We can create a calm environment to prevent overstimulation by doing the following:

For the first 6 weeks, keep your baby in a wrap strapped to you whenever possible. This is especially helpful for family visits – it is best to avoid passing baby around. It is fine to make friends and family aware that your baby will be ready to play and interact when she is bigger and more developed. Carrying your baby in a wrap also prevents reflux and helps to strengthen their back and neck muscles. A newborn has optimal sight at about 30cm – this is the ideal distance to be from your baby for the first 4-6 weeks of their life. This way your baby can calm down by seeing the face that they know best – it brings security to their minds.
Keep your home calm and relatively quiet, especially from the early afternoon to bed time. The later it gets, the more cumulative stimulation your baby carries that will need to be discharged before bed time.

Make sure that your baby’s clothes are not scratchy and don’t have scratchy labels. Avoid touching your baby with light, wispy touches. Babies get very irritable by light touch. It is best to touch a baby with deep, calm touching; gently squeezing their arms and legs would calm them down, while stroking their faces would easily set them off.
Do not wear perfume, and ask family members to do the same – the sharp smells are overwhelming for babies.
Do not watch television with your child nearby, and don’t leave the television on throughout the day. The sound of the static and the noise of the television is stimulating. White noise apps, a fan or water feature, gentle music and singing are all calming to babies. The house doesn’t need to be perfectly quiet, talk around your baby; this will put them at ease.
You may ask ‘What about stimulation and teaching my child?!’ You’re right, your child should be stimulated! How? By being in close contact with a parent, new borns are given the ideal environment to learn and grow optimally. A parent’s smell, heart rate, voice and movements are calming and familiar to a new born. New borns will get to know these sensations and learn new things by comparing the new sights and sounds to the ones they already know. By providing the same things each day for the first few weeks of their life, you help their minds and thoughts to become organised in the best possible way. Most babies are calmed by a walk in the park, on the beach or around the block. Make sure they are covered up, and have fun with your precious little one!

Once a baby is overstimulated, use the 5 S’s of colic to calm your child down:

  • Suck
  • Shh – make a (fairly loud) shh or humming sound
  • Swadde – Swaddle the arms lightly
  •  Side (Hold your baby in the ‘tiger in a tree’ pose: let their head rest on your forearm while you hold them between the legs.
  • Swing – While holding them on their side, swing side to side. Or sit on a pilates ball with your baby upright and bounce firmly but not vigorously.
References:
 
Happiest Baby on the Block. 2015. Dr Harvey Karp
Baby Sense. 2010. Megan Faure, Ann Richardson