#BabyBrain: Rocking and Rolling

Rocking and rolling exercises for babies

The balance system is located deep within the inner ear. A well-developed balance systemforms the basis for healthy brain and body connections.   Stimulation of this system is needed in order for baby to be able to cope successfully with gravity. Activities that cause this stimulation are essential for the inhibition of primitive reflexes and development of balance. They will impact on development of posture, movement, and a sense of position in space, motion, depth and self. Rocking and rolling movements can contribute to the development of balance.   Studies show that infants given regular vestibular stimulation in the first few months of life show accelerated development in motor skills as a result of increased sensory stimulation.

  • Cradle the baby in a cellular blanket with a person holding either end of the blanket. Now sway very gently and slowly from side to side. The slower the better. This slow movement will get the fluid in the inner ear moving which will in turn activate and stimulate the balance system. You may even find that he/she is soothed and calmed and may even fall asleep during this.
  • Put your baby in a seated position holding them securely under their arms. Rock him/her from side to side, gently and slowly and make sure not to go more than a 45 degree angle. This will help to develop the muscles in the neck and shoulders while causing the fluid in the inner ear to move and stimulate the balance system.
  • A variation on this is while in the same position as above rock your baby forward and backwards. Very gently and slowly and not more than a 45 degree angle. You may need to adjust your grip slightly to support baby at the front and back. Be mindful of supporting their head, the aim is to get them to support their own head but if they cannot do this then you will need to, until they can.
  • A floor time rock & roll session  when your baby is lying on his/her back will also provide good stimulation for the balance system and will provide some movements that help to inhibit primitive reflexes. Hold the baby’s hands and gently rock him/her from side to side, the head will turn accordingly.   Do not turn them more than 45 degrees.
  • As your baby gets bigger and older introduce plenty of rough and tumble play, not just for the boys. It gives so much stimulation to the brain and plays a huge role in building your baby’s brain.

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here

#BabyBrain: Massage

5 ways to promote crawling2d

The sense of touch begins to develop in-utero. So mum, all those patting and swirling movements you draw on your pregnant tummy is going to benefit your baby’s brain. When you drink that glass of ice-cold water and feel your little one move around vigorously, you are building their brain through developing their sense of touch and feeling.

The sense of touch, although not fully developed at birth, it is one of the most advanced abilities at birth. They can feel at birth a lot better than they can see, hear, or even taste. Early experiences  of being touched and touching are incredibly important.   It develops motor skills and an understanding of the physical world. It also contributes to good health and emotional well-being for the future.

Early touch experiences play a hugely important role in the overall quality of brain development. Baby massage gives the brain so much sensory information which helps to develop an awareness of body parts (body-mapping). This is important because at birth the baby does not know what parts belong to them. The have come from a warm fluid filled environment to a world with gravity where everything is a completely new experience.

  • Start as soon as possible after birth
  • Do it rhythmically and slowly. The brain is getting so much sensory input from this that it needs time to absorb this information.
  • Follow your instincts
  • Sing and smile while massaging
  • Have baby naked and lying in a warm room on a warm towel/blanket, after bath time is usually a perfect time
  • If using a lotion or oil, warm it in your hands before rubbing on baby’s skin
  • Use circular clockwise movements – start on the stomach and move gradually out to the limbs, tell your little one the names of the parts of their body that you are touching – this really helps with left and right and body awareness
  • Be gentle and support the head when turning baby over.
  • From two months of age onwards you can vary the materials massage and introduce tapping with the fingers, vary intensity and strokes etc.

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here

#BabyBrain: Feeding

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What Can You Do to Help Build Your Baby’s Brain?

In this next section I am going to give some age appropriate movements that you can do with your little one in order to help inhibit some of the primitive reflexes and allow for your child to pass through those milestones sequentially. The key with building your baby’s brain is: HAVE PATIENCE –  DO NOT RUSH IT. Try not to compare your child’s development to a friend or family member’s child.

I am a firm believer in getting back to basics when it comes to parenting, or as I call it ‘Retro-Parenting’, less gadgets and more natural movement.

Become that ‘MacGyver Mom’ – use what you have in your house, do not go spending big money on products that have no function or in fact might inhibit your child’s progress. Examples of this are the walkers & door bouncers – they are actually banned in New York and Canada. Early or prolonged use of these actually inhibits the crawling stage and contributes to learning difficulties.

Feeding

While breast feeding is nature’s plan, both you and I know that this does not always work out for various reasons so if you are bottle feeding your baby you should use both your left hand and right hand for holding the bottle and swap the baby’s position to suit this. During breast feeding the baby is changed from the left breast to the right breast and this allows for a lot of sensory stimulation for him/her.    It also allows the baby to grab at clothing etc. with their free hand. This stimulates the corresponding parts in the brain and that is why it is important when bottle feeding to mimic nature and allow for stimulation of both sides of the brain too. This is quick and easy to do and really benefits the brain.

Omega oils are essential for development of the brain and should be included in baby’s diet. There are many varieties available on the market, you need to look for one that is age appropriate and has the purest form of the oils (www.shieldhealth.ie).

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here

 

#BabyBrain: Creeping and Crawling

5 ways to promote crawling2a-1

I mentioned previously that hearing of children skipping the crawling stage causes my heart to sink, because the action of crawling inhibits particular primitive reflexes. Not only that, crawling develops the three main systems in the body (seeing, feeling, moving) and actually gets them to work together for the first time to perform a deliberate task. Crawling also develops a sense of balance, it gets both sides of the brain talking to each other as the opposite arm and opposite leg move at the same time, and it develops muscles in the shoulder, chest and neck that are absolutely essential for good posture for sitting at a table eating or writing & reading. Crawling also develops hand eye co-ordination because the eyes follow the leading hand and this promotes tracking and focusing and the re-establishment of binocular vision, this is crucial for reading. It is vital to develop these as they make learning in the school environment easier.

The following will help to encourage crawling:

  • MacGyver mom into action – get cushions, pillows, soft toys and anything else you have around the house and create an obstacle course in your living room. Your baby will be more encouraged to participate in this fun if you get down and play with them too. Show them what you want them to do and show them that it is fun. As they get older you can introduce a variety of heights too. Never leave your little one unattended.
  • If your baby is bottom hopping: encourage them to crawl, use the obstacle courses, enlist the help of older siblings and crawl around the floors, also encourage them to climb the stairs – going up and down the stairs is a great way to get them to perform the crawling movements.5 ways to promote crawling2e
  • Use a soft ball and lay your baby over it and support them at the hips. They will put their hands out in front of them and encourage them to walk on their hands while you gently roll them forward. Make sure their hands are flat on the floor.
  • Limit the use of walkers & door bouncers – ideally these should not be used until your baby is a proficient crawler. These products develop muscles that your baby is not ready to use yet (think about it, we do lunges and squats to develop and tone the muscles in our legs.  That is what we are doing for our little ones before they are ready for it. It is the job of crawling to develop these muscles.)
  • Avoid early sitting – if you have to prop your baby up in order for them to sit, then they are not ready to sit and by doing this you are developing muscles that they are not ready to use yet.
  • If you have wooden or tiled floors, remember these are very slippery surfaces and can inhibit crawling.   There are crawl suits available on the market now and these are a very effective method of helping your baby to crawl successfully (www.creepercrawlers.com).

If your baby has skipped the crawling stage, never fear, it is not too late.   You can also play the games listed above with them. This should help to recreate the movement. In addition to that you could try the following:

  • If you have a little play ladder, lay it down flat on the floor (or in the garden in the summer) and encourage your little one to climb the rungs using the opposite hand opposite leg movement. This simulates crawling.
  • Swimming can also provide an opportunity to recreate the stage and movement of crawling.

So mum & dad, I hope I have given you a little understanding of brain development along with some practical games and strategies for use in order to help to build your baby’s brain.

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here

 

 

#BabyBrain: What is the Moro Reflex?

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Lets take a look at some Primitive Reflexes in a little more detail.

The Moro Reflex:

This reflex always fascinates me. It seems such a simple reflex, but it has such a profound impact for the developing baby.

It is the first reflex to develop, emerging around 9 weeks after conception. It describes the baby’s response to sudden and unexpected events especially when the head support is lost (i.e the head is lowered below the level of the spine).

The Moro Reflex is characterized by the arms and legs of the baby, opening outwards along with a sharp intake of breath. The baby tends to freeze in this position momentarily. Then the arms and legs return to original position, followed by the baby crying.

 

Functions of the Moro Reflex:

The Moro Reflex is believed to assist in the taking of the first breath of life.

It is the primitive response to change in balance or position, and activates a ‘Fight or Flight’ response. It is also used to alert caregivers to the need for assistance.

 

As babies develop, the Moro Reflex should evolve into the Startle Reflex and eventually, into the Adult Startle Reflex. This evolution indicates higher centres in the brain gaining control over the body.

However, if it remains as the Moro Reflex, it is associated with increased sensitivity and reactivity to sudden unexpected stimuli. The system is continually primed for ‘fight or flight.’

Symptoms of residual Moro Reflex:

  • Over reactivity
  • Hyper sensitivity
  • Vestibular problems – e.g: motion sickness
  • Poor balance and co-ordination
  • Difficulty in catching a ball
  • Easily distracted
  • Insecure
  • Anxious / Fearful child
  • Dislike of change
  • Dislike of sudden unexpected events
  • Like to control
  • May have a tendency to be overbearing
  • Tend to be highly intelligent

 

What We Can Do to Assist:

To help diminish the Moro Reflex and facilitate its progression into the more mature version – the Startle Reflex – plenty of exposure to ‘rough & tumble’ play and experiences is key.

Play that involves rolling from side to side and down gentle slopes, swinging in blankets, rocking over a large gym ball/therapy ball/beach ball on their front and back,  and playing games like row row row your boat and dancing and spinning around both left and right while holding baby tight all work wonders and activate the balance system.

A retained Moro Reflex can really impact on the emotional health and well-being of the developing child.

 

NOTE: Do NOT leave your child unattended in any position for any length of time. If at any stage you feel that your child is uncomfortable or disliking the movements, then cease immediately.

 

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here

 

 

#BabyBrain: Building Baby’s Brain

5 ways to promote neurological development

Have you ever heard a parent proudly state ‘Oh my child didn’t need to crawl, they went straight to walking!’?

Well, when I hear this statement my heart sinks. As a Neurological Developmental Therapist I know that skipping a crucial stage in development actually does nothing to benefit the child. In fact, it may well result in learning or behavioural problems.

Neurological development is how the brain develops and builds connections throughout the body, going from basic brain stem functioning to the more complex higher brain functioning. This process is sequential and from the moment of conception the brain is being constructed. However in order to have good healthy brain development each stage must be transitioned before moving on to the next stage.

I always say that building the brain is like building a house. The foundations must be firmly established in order for the rest of it to be stable and successful.

Remember, there is a reason for every stage of development. Every movement has a learning function for the child and helps to build their brain in preparation for the next stages yet to emerge. Movement is the key to learning.

What does this mean? Well, to give an example of this, and one that we are all familiar with, when an object is placed in the palm of an infant they will immediately close their fingers around it and grasp it. This movement helps to ‘wire’ the brain. Doing this many times allows baby to understand and learn how to control the muscles in their arm and hand.

The closing of the fingers and grasping of the object is caused by a ‘reflex’. A reflex is an involuntary response to a stimulus. Developmentally, there are two main types of reflexes, primitive reflexes and postural reflexes.

Primitive reflexes begin to develop at nine weeks in utero. They are the survival reflexes and should be fully finished with by the age of twelve months. They help baby to go through the early developmental milestones by causing movements in response to certain stimuli.

Once they are inhibited (switched off) the Postural Reflexes emerge. Once these reflexes emerge it is said that higher brain functioning has begun. The postural reflexes allow for control over the body and are long term retained reflexes. We need these for day to day functioning such as; playing sports (kicking, catching, throwing, swinging etc.), riding bicycles, running, writing, reading, balance and many more activities. However, these cannot form correctly if some primitive reflexes are still present or if they were never developed properly in the first instance.

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here

 

#BabyBrain: Tummy Time

5 ways to promote crawling2a-1

Tummy time encourages movement so that the brain pathways are stimulated. Lying babies on their backs all the time prevents early movements and inhibits the use of both sides of the body. Development and learning occur when the nerve endings in the muscles and ligaments of the body are stimulated. It also encourages drainage of the tubes between the ears and nose which can cause blockages and ear infections. This allows for the development of muscles needed for crawling and also begins to facilitate the inhibition of primitive reflexes

  • Place new-borns on their front as soon as possible after birth.
  • If your baby is very small and you are not over confident about their ability to deal with this position then you can lay them on their tummy down along your forearm while supporting their head from under their chin with your hand. This is a lovely way to introduce tummy time. At the newborn stage a few times a day for about 30 seconds will be plenty.
  • Once they start to develop some muscle control you can increase the duration and frequency.
  • Get down on the floor at their level and get playing with them. Babies love this and this tummy time is so beneficial for them, it inhibits primitive reflexes and develops muscles needed for crawling.5 ways to promote crawling2e
  • Be mindful not to place them on their tummy just after a feed! You will see the feed again!!
  • Try not to do it when they are tired or poorly either, let your child be the guide.
  • Most importantly, do not leave them unattended at any time.
  • And have FUN.

Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here