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Rolling Over – Top Tips

Rolling Over – Top Tips

Article by Dr Lin Day

“How can I help my baby to roll over and when will this happen?”

Rolling over is an extremely important milestone in your baby’s development and the starting point for all other balance skills, including sitting up and crawling.

Going from front to back usually occurs at about 3 to 4 months-old. However rolling over from back to front and vice-versa is usually achieved at about 6 months-old and sometimes sooner. However, parents should not worry if rolling over is achieved later. All babies are different.

The ability to roll over depends on upper body strength (neck, shoulders, arms, and chest) and plenty of opportunities for unrestricted movement and tummy time. Babies who are given plenty of tummy time tend to roll over sooner than babies who lie predominantly on their backs during daytime waking hours.

Although babies must always sleep on their backs, rolling over from back to front may be achieved before front to back. The most important factor is to ensure that the baby does not get tangled in layers of bedding.

Bigger babies can take longer to roll over than smaller babies. Premature babies may reach the milestone later than babies born at full-term. Babies with physical impairments may not follow the normal developmental sequence. They may already be already working with a physical or occupational therapist to help them achieve
developmental milestones. Any precautions or specific instructions that have been suggested should be followed.

How to encourage this essential milestone
The following can help your baby to roll over:

  • Plenty of tummy time during supervised waking hours will strengthen your baby’s upper body muscles in preparation for rolling over.
  • Rolling over can be encouraged through play. If a toy or rattle is wriggled or shaken to one side, your baby may roll over to get it.
  • Put your baby’s arms and legs into the correct position (one arm and shoulder tucked under the body, the other knee bent) and gently roll him over. He will soon get the idea and attempt to roll over on his own.
  • Sing ‘Rock-a-bye-Baby’ and gently rock your baby before rolling him over.
  • Play ’Peek-a-boo’ on one side of your baby to encourage him to roll towards you.
  • Make rolling over an enjoyable activity. If your baby seems uncomfortable, try again when he is rested and ready to play.
  • Some babies find it easier to roll over when their nappies are removed.Rolling over enables babies to get to interesting toys and objects. However, parents will need to be on the lookout for hazards.

If your baby isn’t rolling over by 12 months of age, see your healthcare professional.

Further reading:
Day, L. (2008). The enigma of walking. Early Years Educator 9 (10): 20-22.
Day, L. (2008). In praise of tummy time. Early Years Educator 10 (1): 36- 38.

Baby Sensory © 2011 (updated January 2018)

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Postnatal Depression – Top Tips

Postnatal Depression – Top Tips

Article by Dr Lin Day

Postnatal depression is a debilitating illness that can spoil the experience of motherhood, interfere with the development of the mother-baby bond and put an immense strain on adult relationships.

The postpartum period is a critical time for the health of the mother. In some cultures, it is not uncommon for other women to look after the mother in the first few weeks after the birth. However, many mothers find themselves without support and with little or no experience in the practice of baby care. This puts the sole responsibility of looking after the baby on the mother long before she is ready.

Postnatal depression is a serious condition that can result in a great deal of suffering. It can take a long time to recover from the illness, but early treatment can reduce its severity.

To get the mother through the birth, endorphins, adrenaline and natural chemicals course through her body. The rapid decline in hormone levels after the birth can leave the mother with a strong sense of anticlimax or the ‘Baby blues’. However, the condition usually sorts itself out within a few days and does not require treatment other than reassurance and support from family and friends.

Postnatal depression is much more serious and it can occur anytime within the first year after the birth. It can develop suddenly, it can be mild or severe, and it can happen to mothers with their first, second or last child. Although no one is really sure what triggers the illness, it seems likely that a number of different factors may lead up to it. Factor may include problems with a previous pregnancy, anxiety during pregnancy, bereavement, moving house, marital conflict, financial problems, ill health, poor diet, isolation or loneliness. Even so, postnatal depression can start without any of these stresses.

The symptoms of postnatal depression are very similar to those seen in clinical depression and may include:

    • Fatigue – even a simple task such as getting dressed may seem an
      impossible one.
    • Sleep disturbances – although the mother feels tired, she may find it hard to get to sleep and may wake up very early in the morning.
    • Feelings of worthlessness – the mother may be unable to organise a routine or work out what her baby needs or wants. She may also fail to take care of herself and how she looks.
    • Anxiety – the mother may be obsessed with the baby’s health and concerned that the baby will come to harm if left alone.
    • Despair – feeling unhappy and wretched can be worse at particular times of the day. Good days may be followed by bad days which can make the mother feel tearful for much of the time.
    • Irritability – feelings of irritability are common and may be aimed at her partner or family members, who may not understand what is happening.
    • Reduced libido – postnatal depression can take away the desire for sex. If the mother’s partner does not understand this, he may feel rejected.
    • Guilt – even though the mother has really looked forward to motherhood, she may find it hard to love the baby, which increases her sense of guilt.
    • Appetite changes – although the mother needs all the energy she can get, she may lose her appetite. Some mothers may eat for comfort and then feel bad about putting on weight.
    • Panic attacks – headaches, stomach pains or heart palpitations can make the mother fear that she is going to have a heart attack or a stroke.
    • Social withdrawal – the mother may lose interest in activities that she enjoyed before the birth and may not want to go out at all.
    • Delayed attachment – the mother may be unable to respond to her baby’s need for love and affection. This is an important concern because emotional availability in the first six months of life is crucial to the baby’s overall health and future development.
    • Thoughts of suicide – the mother may feel that suicide is the only way out of her problems. This should be taken extremely seriously and help should be sought straight away.

The first stage in treatment includes good nutrition, plenty of rest, and regular exercise. All are important for emotional and physical health. Regular meals, adequate intake of protein from meat and eggs together with omega 3 fatty acids from fish and vegetables can make a real difference. Hydration is also important. The recommended daily intake is about ten tall glasses of fresh water. Massage, yoga, aromatherapy, acupuncture, walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, getting out and about and having fun can also play an important part in the mother’s recovery.

If the depression is severe, or has gone on for a long time, antidepressant drugs can be used safely while breastfeeding. However, antidepressants can take up to four weeks to start working, so it is important that the mother keeps on taking them or the depression may return. About 60 percent of women with moderate to severe postnatal depression feel better within a few weeks of starting medication, but they are not an effective method for everyone.

Evidence suggests that sharing experiences, anxieties and feelings with others is one of the best cures for postnatal depression. For mothers who do not have anyone to confide in, self-help groups and supportive networks such as the Association for Postnatal Illnesses (www.apni.org), Parentline Plus (www.parentlineplus.org.uk) and the National Childbirth Trust (www.nct.org.uk) can provide the help, support and reassurance that the mother needs.

Parent and baby classes, such as Baby Sensory, also provide a social setting where mothers can share their experiences with others who have gone through the same experience, and send quality time with their babies.

Further reading:
Day, L. (2011). Postnatal depression. Early Years Educator 11 (10): 31-33.
Day, L. (2010). Food fuel for the brain. Early Years Educator 12 (3): 32-34.
Day, L. (2010). Fresh air and sunshine. Early Years Educator 12 (4): 28-30.
Day, L. (2012). The science of laughter. Early Years Educator 14 (2): 35-37.
Day, L. (2014). Vitamin D and sunlight. Early Years Educator 16 (4): 16-18.

Baby Sensory © 2012 (updated January 2018)

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Tummy Time – Top Tips

Tummy Time – Top Tips

Article by Dr Lin Day

Tummy time is an essential aspect of development from birth.

It promotes:

  • Healthy development of the central nervous system and brain
  • Strong neck, back and upper body muscles
  • Balance, coordination, stability and postural skills
  • Flat hand development, which increases precision finger and thumb
  • Rolling over
  • Visual development
  • Crawling – an essential developmental milestone not to be missed.

If your baby finds being on his tummy physically uncomfortable, introduce tummy time gradually, two or three times a day for a few minutes. It will eventually become part of your baby’s daily routine and he will learn, play and practice essential head control movements in this position. Make sure your baby is safe and attended.

How to make tummy time fun:

  1. Keep your baby company on the floor. Coo, sing or make funny sounds to encourage him to lift up his head.
  2. Roll up a towel and place it under your baby’s chest. Extend your baby’s arms forwards over the towel. This supported position allows your baby to lift up his head and look around, which improves focusing ability and strengthens neck muscles.
  3. Place your baby on his back. Slowly pull your baby up to a sitting position (hold your baby under his arms). Hold him there for a few seconds and then ease him back down again.
  4. Place a safety mirror or favourite toy in front of your baby and draw his attention to it. The object will encourage your baby to lift up his head to get a better look.
  5. Shake a rattle or bell to one side of your baby to  encourage him to turn towards the sound.
  6. Encourage creeping movements by placing interesting toys out of reach.
  7. Lie on your back and put your baby on your tummy or chest. Say your baby’s name to encourage him to raise his head to get a better look at you.
  8. Place your baby on his tummy across one arm. Your baby’s head will rest in the crook of your arm, but his legs will dangle free. Rock your baby in this position.
  9. Place your baby across your legs and pat his back. Patting will encourage your baby to lift up his head and straighten his legs.
  10. Place your baby on your lap facing your knees. Draw up your knees so that he can see what’s going on. He’ll probably love the new view.
  11. Put your baby on the edge of the bed and sit on the floor with your face next to his. From this position, you can interact and play together.
  12. Put your baby on his tummy over a beach or gym ball and hold him firmly while you gently rock the ball back and forth. Your baby will learn to shift his body weight, which improves balance and coordination.
  13. Roll a ball over your baby’s back, legs and arms. It’s a great way to stimulate his skin and relieve tension.
  14. Place a ball in front of your baby and within easy reach. As soon as he touches the ball, it will roll away. Your baby will either ‘swim’ or on his tummy or lift himself up on his forearms in an attempt to reach it.
  15. Exercise or massage your baby while he lies on his tummy.
  16. When your baby can sit up unaided, place an interesting toy in front of him. He
    may end up on his tummy when he tries to grab it. In this position, he make may
    crawling movements, which is good for his brain development
  17. Avoid putting your baby in a recliner or restraining device unless absolutely
    necessary. Your baby needs to be able to move and coordinate his movements
    without restriction.
  18. Spending time with your baby and giving plenty of praise and encouragement will
    soon make tummy time a pleasurable habit.

Tummy time is an essential aspect of development because it leads on to crawling. Crawling fires groups of neurons (brain cells) in different parts of the cortex responsible for visual processing, sensory perception, conscious planning and prediction. It also activates eye-teaming, a crucial skill in learning to read.

Crawling is a key period in your baby’s physical and intellectual development and it only takes a few minutes of daily tummy time to start seeing results.

Babies who spend most of their waking hours on their backs may experience delays in developmental milestones. If you have any concerns about your  baby’s development, see your GP.

Further reading:
Day, L. (2008). In praise of tummy time. Early Years Educator 10 (1): 36- 38.
Day, L.(2009). Solitary confinement (baby containers). Early Years Educator 10 (12): 41-43.

Article by Dr Lin DayBaby Sensory © 2011 (updated January 2018)

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