Tips for Healthy Physical Function in Babies
No, your baby doesn’t need to hit the gym or the yoga studio! But babies do need to interact with their environments in specific ways to help establish healthy movement patterns. Establishing healthy movement patterns not only prevents physical delays and deficiencies, but neurological ones as well.
So grab that mini sweat-band and let’s get started!
Position One: Tummy Time!
Placing your baby on her back is the safest position for sleeping. But what about when your baby is awake? In one recent study it was found that only 22% of mothers regularly give their babies time on their tummies (ref1). The association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists in the U.K. recommends that mothers give their babies regular tummy time as research suggests that babies who sleep on their backs but are placed on their tummies for extra time while awake were able to roll, crawl, sit, pull to stand, and walk earlier than those who predominantly were left on their backs (ref2). This position position encourages the development of head control, neck and shoulder stability, coordination, balance and postural control.
Workout Routine for Position One:
Introduce your baby to tummy time. Starting at birth, give your baby time on their tummy two or three times a day for a few minutes – or longer if your baby remains happy.
- For newborns you can start by laying the baby on your chest while you lie back in a reclined or semi-reclined position.
- Entice your baby to lift his head to look at you.
- As your baby gets stronger, place him on a firm surface and use mirrors or toys to encourage him to lift his head. You could place objects out of his reach so that he will have to stretch for them, or you could lie on your belly and have him reach out to you.
- Do not leave your baby unattended, and ensure your baby remains awake.
Remember: ‘Back to Sleep & Tummy to Play’. As your baby develops they will benefit from experiencing additional positions as well: try side-lying too.
Position Two: Crawling Time!
Your baby will typically begin to learn to crawl between 6 and 10 months, and will be proficient by 12 months. Crawling is very important not just for physical development but for neurological development too. Learning to control both sides of the body at the same time (as is observed in “cross-crawling” where a child moves an arm and the opposite leg at the same time) is vital for establishing strong communication patterns between both hemispheres of the brain. This neural connectivity is vital for learning advanced skills such as reading and writing.
Don’t become stressed if your baby takes longer to develop crawling skills, or prefers to get around by scooting or rolling. Coordinated movement of arms and legs is the real goal here, and may take some time to develop. Also, don’t try to rush past this stage and into walking. Crawling is a healthy activity for your baby, and walking will develop in time.
Workout Routine for Position Two:
- Free your baby from jumpers and seats. Place your baby on the floor and set objects of interest outside of her reach to encourage crawling.
- Once she gets moving make crawling fun and challenging! Place pillows and other safe objects in her path to create an obstacle course. This will improve her speed, strength and agility.
- Create safe structures such as cardboard boxes to crawl through as well to keep her stimulated. But keep a close eye! Your strong and confident crawler may get into mischief if left unattended.
Position three: time to walk!
And run! Sometime between 9 and 12 months many babies begin to take their first steps. By 14 to 15 months many are proficient at walking. Your baby may not be ready to walk by this time. It can be normal for some babies to take a few months longer to begin to walk.
Workout Routine for Position Three:
- Baby Boot Camp gets easier at each stage. By this time your baby has developed enough confidence, strength and curiosity to develop this skill on his own. Encourage him to develop the prerequisite skills: bouncing, pulling to stand, and cruising by holding on to objects.
- If he feels like moving around, give him floor space and put him near objects that he can use to pull himself up and practice standing.
Keep it up! Lots of physical activity will keep your child healthy both physically and mentally. Good luck!
1. Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID)
2. The Association of Paediatric chartered Physiotherapists (APCP)