Swaddle at Night, but Get Moving During the Day

A correctly swaddled baby that is also using white noise and all the other Happiest Baby strategies can sleep amazingly long periods at night.  But as your baby goes from a 2 week-old to a 2-month-old, they are up and awake for longer periods of the the day.  Nobody wants to swaddle them all day, and nobody should. Parents now have to think about “positioning” a baby who is not yet rolling over by herself, and not sitting independently.  A baby’s daily exposure to sensory input during the day can have a huge effect on their development.  The American Academy of Pediatrics warns of skull flattening if a baby is left in a carrier or on her back most of the day.  Here are some thoughts from a HBOTB educator who is also a pediatric occupational therapist.

*  Babies that get lots of opportunities to look and move at the same time are developing their balance even though they are not even old enough to roll.  And vision is one component of balance. One secret to great visual development is having the opportunity to develop close and distance vision as early as possible, as well as looking at things from different angles and speeds as she is moved around.  Carrying and holding her in your arms or using a wrap/carrier can provide that input.

*  If you use an infant seat or car carrier, use it for brief periods and not for sleep.  if your baby seems to love the enclosure of a carrier, then you might have someone who would be a good swaddle candidate.  Swaddling with a blanket is a skill you can learn, or you can try the swaddle garments.

*  Wearing your baby in a front-facing carrier or a wrap/sling is terrific as long as your baby’s head is supported to keep that airway open, and you move carefully to avoid falls, bumps or burns.  Wrapping babies who cannot hold their head steady or even turn their head to get more air is trickier than carrying a 6 month old.  I have heard stories of people who stand at the stove while wearing their baby.  Take as few chances as you can.   Always bend at the knees when reaching down, and check your baby’s head and neck position as they can slide a bit due to gravity.  Every time you turn and bend your baby will get valuable balance stimulation, as long as she is secure and safe.

*  Young infants can learn to love tummy time, but start early and make it fun.  Temperamentally cautious babies and babies who resist novelty by complaining may need a gradual introduction and some creative approaches.  The reward is that play on her stomach can help the development of head, arm and trunk control for sitting and crawling.  Plus less time with the back of her head pressing into a carrier or mattress.

*  THBOTB uses side lying as a calming position, but when supervised it is a great play position.  Never leave a young baby unsupervised in a position in which the could roll on their stomach and be unable to breathe.  Use rolled towels to support your baby’s back and the leg that is on top, and maybe a folded receiving blanket under her head so that it isn’t tipped downward.  Placing their backside against the firm back couch cushions can work too.  Then put a few toys in front of her to reach for and look at.  Best part:  both hands can work together easily.

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