As new parents, we always want the best for our little ones when it comes to their emotional and physical development. And that often means following advice given to you by other parents or extended family. Although this advice is well-meaning, it’s sometimes isn’t the best for baby development and can actually hinder it.
You’ve probably heard about the importance of Tummy Time with your newborn. But you may not realise there are many other things you can do to promote healthy development.
In this post, you’re going to learn seven essential tips that lead to better baby development that you may not have heard before.
Tip #1: Carry Your Baby Facing Inwards to Promote Optimal Hip Development
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute recommend you carry your baby facing inwards for the first six months of their life to promote optimal hip development.
When you are carrying your baby in a wrap, a baby carrier, or in your arms, their legs should be wrapped around your torso, their knees should be higher than their hips and their bottom and thighs should be well supported. Essentially their legs should form an “M”shape.
This position has been shown to potentially decrease the risk of a baby developing developmental dysplasia of the hip, or DDH. DDH is when the ball of the femur doesn’t correctly align with the hip joint. This makes it unstable and can result in partial or complete dislocation. If this occurs, medical intervention is usually required, and your little one may need to wear a brace for a period of time to correct the problem.
Tip #2: Use Swaddle/Use Sleeping Sacks That Promote Healthy Baby Development
After you have swaddled your baby or placed them in a sleep sack, they should be able bend their legs up and out to the side to adopt a “M” position. If their legs are stuck in a position where they are pulled straight or pushed together, this increases the risk of hip dislocation or hip dysplasia.
It’s important to select a swaddle or sleep sack that allows for this position, and ensure that you’re not using one that doesn’t allow for it.
Tip #3: Avoid Mittens and Hand Covers
Parents often use mittens to stop their baby from accidentally scratching themselves or to keep their hands warm. But what parents don’t realize is the bluish purplish skin of the baby’s hand is a reflection of their immature circulation system. It’s generally not an indication they are cold.
Wearing mittens can actually result in a fussier baby. There are two reasons for this:
- Babies find sucking on their hands or fingers soothing
If you place a mitten over their hand, it takes away their ability to access their hands and self-soothe. If they are unable to self-soothe, they are likely to become restless and upset because they are looking for you to come and soothe them.
- Babies explore the world through physical touch and mouthing
At birth babies automatically grasp anything that is placed in their hand. They soon learn to open and close their hands to scratch and touch objects, and at 2 months of age babies realize they have hands and they can control them. Mittens stop them from being able to use their hands to explore. This result in frustration and can delay fine motor development because the gloves or mittens prevent them from using their hands as they usually would during their development.
Tip #4: Avoid using Baby Jumpers, Baby Floor Seats, Exersaucers and Baby Walkers
There are safety and developmental risks associated with using these pieces of equipment. As parents, we typically use these items when babies are not yet able to achieve certain positions or skills themselves. For example, using a baby walker before a baby is able to walk. Because the baby is not yet able to achieve the walking position independently, their muscles are not yet strong enough to support them. This leads to them switching on the wrong muscles and adopting incorrect positions and postures. While common belief says otherwise, these toys and tools do not help them develop the skills or muscles needed to sit, stand or walk.
In additional to developmental risks associated with using these pieces of equipment, there are also significant safety risks.
If you’re already using these pieces of equipment, it is important to limiting how often your baby using it and continue to encouraging your baby to engage in activities which will promote their overall development, like floor time and tummy time.
Tip #5 Avoid Baby Shoes and Socks
Shoes and shoes tend to get in the way when babies are learning how to crawl, pull themselves up into standing, cruise and walk. They’re either really slippery, or they tend to be a bit bulky and this it makes it difficult for babies to learn how to move in and out of these positions.
Shoes and socks also provide a barrier between the floor and a baby’s feet, which dulls effective the sensation they’re receive from their feet. This affects their balance and coordination.
Babies should only wear shoes and socks when they’re outside to protect their feet against the elements and sharp items that might be on the ground.
Tip #6: Turn the TV and Screens Off For Better Baby Development
Being responsive and talking back and forth with your baby is really important for their communication development. But research is showing when the TV is on in the background, parents are less responsive and talk less. This has a negative impact on a babies’ communication development.
Also babies tend to stop playing with toys and moving around their environment to watch the TV. This has an impact on their overall development.
The international guidelines recommend that children under two don’t have any screen time at all except for video chatting.
Tip #7: Be Aware of Age-Appropriate Norms and Developmental Milestones
When you know the developmental norms for a baby, you are able to choose developmentally appropriate toys to continue to develop your baby’s skills.
When we continue to give babies toys which are no longer developmentally appropriate we risk hindering their fine motor development.
To help you keep track of the developmental norms in your little one’s first year of life and give you the skills to choose age appropriate toys, click here to download your copy of my free Developmental Milestones Checklist. With this checklist, you’ll know exactly what to expect and when, which will give you extra peace of mind as you watch your baby grow and develop.
As you can see, there’s quite a bit we can do as parents to help promote better baby development. With a few simple changes in your day, you can help avoid potential developmental issues while also keeping your little one safe and entertained.