Having a newborn baby can be just as equally thrilling as it can be equally exhausting. Adjusting back to home life can be overwhelming at times as you are healing and beginning to learn all about your new bundle of joy. Understanding that all newborn babies are very different from each other, here are five tips that I found helpful as both a new mom and pediatric occupational therapist:
First and foremost remember to breathe and smile. This time of your life is both wonderful and stressful. Deep breathing has been proven to be very beneficial. The many benefits include a reduction in stress and blood pressure. Deep breathing releases natural “free-good” hormones in our body. Learning a few techniques and tuning into your body for just a few moments can help. If you can force a smile on your face. A smile can be enough sometimes to turn any situation into something to find humor within.
Use your tribe and forget as much as possible about modesty. Your tribe, or your support team, doesn’t care what you look like or that you haven’t showered in several days. They love you for who you are and not anything else. Those first weeks can be challenging, especially if you have a children with medical needs. Let them help so you can a little rest to keep yourself going strong.
Talk to yourself. It might feel funny at first but it can help. It doesn’t matter what you say. I often find myself talking about anything and everything- the plan for the day, what is happening right now, about my son’s family, etc. The added benefit of talking to yourself is your child also gets to hear your voice.
Try to develop routines early. It’s really hard the first weeks adjusting and even thinking about routines. I’m not even sure most newborns have routines aside from eat, sleep, and diaper changes; however, if you can try to establish some routines it will help your sanity and also help your newborn develop. For my little one, we try to follow a little routine of eat, quiet alert/play if he stays awake, and sleep. I try to use similar songs and even sing the same song over and over when he is trying to sleep. You can even plan to take a stroller walk around the block the same time every day. Having routines help signal to our bodies a sense of calmness and can provide a little bit of organization when things are crazy.
Sensory strategies can be your best friend. Some ideas include the use of auditory input such as white noise, talking softly, or singing, movement and swings, and deep pressure or swaddling. It was crazy what a little bit of white noise did for my son. It was enough to calm and quiet him. Now I use it at bedtime to help him get back into a deeper sleep. I use one with a timer so it doesn’t run continuously. I also talk a lot to my son. It was amazing how fast he learned to recognize my voice and respond to a calm voice, if he wasn’t too upset. I was never someone who spoke aloud but now I found myself telling him all kinds of things. I think the soft melody of my voice must have some calming property for him. Also deep pressure and movement can help a newborn in those early months. When a newborn enters this world they are in a position called physiological flexion which they slowly work out of over the next month or two. Swaddling provides physical boundaries much like the womb which allows your child to feel secure. When they wiggle within the swaddle believe it or not they are learning very early about where their body is in relation to this great big world they entered. Along with swaddling you can also try massage. Infant massage has shown to be a wonderful bonding time for newborns are their parents. Movement is the next sensory strategy. I was very lucky my son loved his swing from the very beginning. I don’t know if this had anything to do with how much I moved around on my job, but back and forth movement is one of the best ways to help calm a child. Rocking chairs and swings can be your best friend.
If you find this newborn phase to be very difficult or think you child may not be reaching his/her milestones, talk with your pediatrician and schedule an evaluation. Many parents find physical, speech, occupational or nutritional therapy for short or long periods provide much needed support and growth for their infants. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org.
Seems to recognize your voice and quiets if crying
Makes pleasure sounds (cooing, gooing)
Cries differently for different needs
Smiles when sees you
Moves eyes in direction of sounds
Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including p, b and m
Vocalizes excitement and displeasure
7 Months – 1 Year
Begins to respond to requests (e.g. “Come here” or “Want more?”)
Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as “tata upup bibibibi”
Uses gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms to be picked up)
Has one or two words (hi, dog, dada, mama) around first birthday, although sounds may not be clear
Here are 8 tips to help meet these milestones, engage, and expand your child’s ability to communicate.
Child-directed communication. The amount and quality of language has a huge impact on your child’s communication development. Research has shown that babies benefit greater from child-directed communication rather than language that is overheard (e.g., asking your child a question vs. listening to the TV in the background) Take the time to smile and enjoy your child through communication exchanges.
Imitate your child’s sounds and actions. Imitation is a very important skill for your child to learn. Imitating your baby encourages him/her to notice you and even imitate your actions and/or words. This skill is vital for expanding babbling to initiating first words (e.g., “Mamama”, “babo”, etc.).
Put the child’s message into words. When your child sends you a message by reaching, pointing, looking, or making a sound; put into words what you think he is trying to tell you. Be repetitive, children learn through repeated exposure to target words. (e.g., Do you see the ball? Ball, Here is the ball.).
Talk with your child during every day routines and activities. When your child hears familiar words and sentences in the same contexts every day, it helps to build his understanding of language. This is one of the best ways to learn more difficult concepts as well such as verbs, prepositions, etc. (e.g., Look the dog is running. He is running so fast!)
Be face to face. When playing with your child, get down to his/her eye level. Sit facing him/her when he is in his high chair or while playing on the floor. This way, your child can see and hear you better fostering communication and imitation attempts. During this time, use gestures such as pointing, and imitating daily routines (e.g., washing hands, stirring spoon, kissing babies, etc.)
Offer your child choices. Hold up two objects and show each object as you name it. You can ask, “Do you want crackers or bananas?” Observe how your child communicates his/her choice-looking at the one he/she wants, reaching toward it, pointing to it, making a sound or saying the word. As soon as your child lets you know what he/she wants, give it to him/her which will allow him/her to experience the power of communication!
Pause during a familiar routine to tell your child it’s his turn. When you and your child are doing something repeatedly (e.g., swinging, tickling). Pause during the activity from time to time. For example, after you have tickled your child, stop the game and WAIT for him/her to let you know that he/she wants more. Don’t say anything-just look expectantly. See if your child will tell you to continue in anticipation for that desired activity.
Sign Language. Sign language is the use of a gestural system to communicate. Signs can be used to reduce frustration and give the child a way to communicate his wants and needs while he/she is still coordinating their speech production system. (My personal favorites are “more”, “all done”, “milk”, and “up”).
In summary, the best way to foster speech-language development with your child in their first year of life is to: TALK, PLAY, READ, and SING! If you have any questions or need additional support, please contact a speech-language pathologist for more information.
The Back to Sleep campaign rolled out in 1994 as an initiative to decrease the risk of SID, or sudden infant death syndrome. While this campaign has been successful in decreasing the incidence of SIDS, most people forget to finish the full sentence. Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play!
Placing your infant on their back during sleep times is safe practice, having your infant on their belly while they are awake (and being monitored) is very important for development.
Tummy time can promote:
Strong muscles in the trunk, arms and back, including strong neck muscles resulting in good head control
Development of appropriate spinal extension and rotation, which are both pre-requisites for walking
Initiation of exploring one’s environment, starting with vision and leading to reaching out for objects, rolling and eventually crawling
If a child remains on their back for a majority of their day it can lead to complications such as torticollosis, plagiocephaly or brachicephaly. These issues can lead to developmental delay, including asymmetries with crawling and walking.
What if my child hates being placed on their tummy?
Use some technique to make it a little easier for them!
You lay in a recline or semi-reclined position and place your child on your chest. Being in a reclined position eliminates some of the resistance of gravity, making it easier for your child to lift their head. This can also be used as great bonding time with your infant.
Have your infant lay over a boppy pillow, so the pillow is under their chest with their arms and shoulders in front. This position is similar to having them lay on your chest, decreasing the resistance of gravity.
Making tummy time fun!
The more time your child spends on their tummy the more they will enjoy it.
Get down on their level! Position yourself to be in line with your child’s eye site
Place different toys on the floor that are motivating for your infant to play with, such as music toys or light up toys. The toys can be placed to either side of your infant’s head or directly in front of them.
Babies love looking at themselves! If you have a mirror or a toy with a mirror attached, place it on the floor in a position where they can see themselves.
Make sure you have enough space for your baby to explore. It starts with just lifting the head and will progress to turning 180 degrees on their bellies to crawling!