This is one of the key points in my mind. A baby will reach its milestones in its own time. There are guidelines for when your baby should have head control, when they can sit up, when they can crawl and walk. Each baby is different and will reach these milestones once they have achieved the required neurological and motor pathways and development. The point I want to make here is, your baby will reach these milestones when they are developmentally ready. Trying to bring these forward before they are ready can lead to problems. Take walking for example. A baby will start walking when they have the gross motor and fine motor control and when their hips are ready to bear their weight. Holding a babies hands and walking them, may be fun, and the baby probably likes it, but is it the best for their developing body? The same goes for sitting and devices that sit a baby up before they are ready. Is having a baby sit before they are ready a good thing? There are things you can do to help with the development and make sure they are reaching their milestones, and that’s what the next few points discuss. If a baby is delayed in their development, it is very important to have them assessed, and see if there is a reason as to why.
Giving your baby tummy time is very important. They may not like it initially, but it is vitally important neurologically. Holding the head up stimulates the back of the neck and the cerebellum (part of the brain) which has important roles in motor development and learning. Try tummy time after each nappy change or sleep. The more you do it, the more the baby will start to like it and improve.
This is even good for adults. We spend a lot of time in a flexed position during the day, so extension based exercises are a great way of counterbalancing this. If you have a baby doing tummy time, get on the floor and do it with them. Superman exercises over an exercise ball can also be a good way adults can achieve this.
Don't use shoes where possible
We all know the 5 main senses: touch, taste, vision, smell, and hearing. There are 2 more important senses in the body that are vitally important for developing babies, especially as they begin to coordinate movements. The first one is called the proprioceptive system and the second one is the vestibular system. I will discuss the vestibular system in the next point.
Proprioception is the ability to perceive motion and where we are in space. There are receptors in our joints, muscles and connective tissue that when activated, tell the brain where we are in space. I can here you asking, what has this got to do with shoes? Well, the feet have one of the largest concentrations of proprioceptors in their joints and muscles. In fact, it has the second most behind the upper neck area. As our little babies are learning to move and walk, it makes sense that their feet should be free to move and give the most feedback possible to the brain. If we put shoes on their feet all the time, it will be limiting the sensory input that the feet are sending to the brain. The more input the brain has, the better it will be able to coordinate movements.
This is a problem adults should also address. We wear shoes all the time, so we are also limiting the proprioceptive information our brains are getting. So, wherever possible, take off your shoes and walk around in bare feet. In older kids and in adults, balance training can be an effective way of stimulating these proprioceptors. It can also help improve foot function which is always a good thing. Here is how to do it:
A simple balance training exercise
- With bare feet, stand in a good postural position looking straight ahead.
- Lift one foot off the ground so you are balancing on one foot.
- Maintain your good posture for 20 seconds with eyes open and then 10-20 seconds with eyes closed. You can then swap feet.
- Once you start to get comfortable standing on the ground, you then stand on an uneven surface, such as a small pillow, some foam or a wobble board.
Exercise balls, swinging and spinning
The second important sense I mentioned in the previous point is from the vestibular system. The vestibular system helps create balance and coordination while our center of gravity, posture and head position moves. The vestibular system develops in gravity. You can help stimulate this system in your babies by rocking them on an exercise ball (face down), helping them learn to roll, spinning movements, using swings. By doing these activities, not only is the baby having fun, but you are also helping to prime their vestibular systems and helping with stimulating some spinal pathways that help with general muscle tone. We have been doing this with our baby, and had fantastic changes.
Let them play
The last point to help boost your baby’s development is to let them play and explore and learn new movements. Children are like sponges in their first years of life. Getting children to run and jump and move, does wonders for their neurological development. It helps build strong neural pathways and strength. It stimulates the proprioceptive and vestibular systems and helps improve coordination and balance. As adults, we also need to move more, so get out there and run around with them. It can only be a good thing.
These 5 simple tips will hopefully give your baby a great start in life. As I mentioned earlier, if you have any concerns about your baby and their milestones, make sure you get them checked out. The sooner you can start corrections, the better. I believe chiropractic care can have a great benefit for children. Of course, techniques on baby’s are quite different than those used on adults. It is very safe and gentle. I also do cranial work on baby’s which can have dramatic effects. I know it has made a big improvement with my little girl. If you would like to find out more about chiropractic care for babies, please contact me. I am happy to answer your questions.