By Cozette Laubser |
Thankfully, the time arrived where he was crying less and laughing more and I knew we needed to grab our chance – the time had come to transition from surviving to thriving!
A developing brain and nervous system is evident when a baby reaches each motor milestone in sequence. At the BabyGym Institute motor milestones are viewed as beacons, that indicate progress – Dr Melodie de Jager
This article aims to share development basics, information and practical pointers with those who had a similar start. Keep heart, you’ll find below it really is the little things that make a big difference.
Most parents know massage and tummy time are important. I find however, that parents are not told, that these activities become a lot more challenging (perhaps it is more appropriate to say impossible!) once baby becomes mobile. The first motor (muscle) milestone a baby reaches is the rolling milestone. This happens at roughly four months of age. Thus, for the family who had a rough start, optimising month 3-4 is crucially important!
Activate the different muscle groups from top to bottom (cephalo-caudal) and from inside out (proximo-distal) – Dr Melodie de Jager
If you attended BabyGym 2 Firm Foundations with your little one, you will have a great understanding of how to awaken all the senses and strengthen all the muscles in sequence. For the purposes of this article, I am keeping things really simple and attainable, and will be focusing on the absolute basics.
Strong muscles fight the pull of gravity and help the baby to develop – Dr Melodie de Jager
Good news or bad news first? The good news is… all four areas are significantly developed with massage and tummy time alone. The bad news is… many parents find exactly these two activities the most challenging to master. They are tough at first, no doubt, but they offer your baby a fantastic starting place to move forward from, and reach all future milestones on time and in sequence.
The best way to plug muscles firmly into the brain is through massage and movement – Dr Melodie de Jager
Dr Melodie de Jager goes on to say:
A word of caution: Babies who have experienced ongoing pain and discomfort are apt at tensing their muscles. Be forewarned, they will not like their arms, shoulders and neck muscles massaged. But they desperately need it. Work slowly and gently and purposefully stretch the arms wide open. Similarly, the hands can do with frequent opening and stretching.
A closed hand is a resting hand. An open hand is a learning hand – Dr Melodie de Jager
Dr Melodie de Jager says, “Once born, gravity gives baby a sense of security when he is lying down, pretty much like when mom lies down to feel better when she is dizzy with an ear infection or early morning nausea, but baby was not born to only lie down, baby was born to develop. To develop, baby needs to fight the pull of gravity to gain muscle tone and a sense of direction. Baby also needs to hold his head up, move from lying down to rolling over, to sitting, to crawling, to pulling up and finally, walking.” (de Jager, 2011)
Dr Scott Cohen says, “I usually recommend starting to offer tummy time at least once per day”. He suggests leaving baby on the tummy as long as baby accepts it, whether that’s 15 seconds or 15 minutes. Similarly, registered nurse, Beth M. Lovinelli recommends approximately 30 minutes of tummy time a day, either all at once or broken up into short segments ranging from a few minutes to longer intervals.
The move below works great for a baby who has mastered head control, but whose arms still flop out. You might need to repeat it a few times, it doesn’t matter. Baby will get the hang of it soon enough!
Although you won’t find equipment or product suggestions in any BabyGym resource, I would like to mention how setting up areas for play and development can help the entire family to move to the floor. In our home we used two separate areas. I have named them The Massage Zone and The Play Zone.
We encountered month 3 – 4 during June which was exceptionally cold in Johannesburg, so we had two separate areas simply for the purpose of having one close to a heater. You could have both zones in one area.
These zones should preferably be areas which are ready for use day and night, no daily setup or tidying up afterwards required. The less fuss, the more likely parent and baby will be spending time on the floor – the more baby will play and build strength. These areas should also ideally be in your communal area like the lounge, this way there is a constant reminder, “HELLO, IT’S FLOOR TIME!”.
For The Massage Zone, we used:
One of the biggest challenges with undressing and massaging a young baby is temperature control, some instantly start shivering. Make sure the room is warm enough to keep baby comfortable while being undressed. Avoid a heater that will cause a sudden temperature change or blow onto baby.
For The Floor Zone, we used:
Once baby has mastered head control, you are ready for the BabyGym Medley. Have fun with it!
Month three to four is a magical time. Baby’s senses have now adjusted to life outside the womb and baby is getting eager to move and explore. With a well developed body map and relaxed but strong muscles, the tricky yet exciting rolling milestone is now winking in the not too distant future.
Developing your baby should be fun, not stressful. Remember – keep it simple, involve the entire family, and lastly – slow and steady wins the race.
de Jager, M. 2017. Play Learn Grow. Johannesburg: Mind Moves Institute Publishing.
de Jager, M. 2019. Brain development, milestones and learning. Johannesburg: Mind Moves Institute Publishing.