Head preference in newborns
Have you noticed that your newborn prefers to turn their head in one direction more than the other? Maybe it's a tilt, where the ear drops toward the shoulder or head turn, when the chin drops towards the shoulder. Chances are one or both of those things are present and I want to take a moment today to talk about how we can help support and strengthen their necks so it doesn't turn into a bigger issue.
So, why do babies tend to turn their head to one side or another? It's simply because they're not strong enough to support the weight of their head in the center of the body and because of gravity it will flop to one side or another. As your baby gets stronger they are able to keep their head more centered, this usually happens around 3 months. If this isn't resolving it can be a red flag for Torticollis. Aside from it turning into something more serious like Torticollis, it is also be the cause of a flat spot or flat head. It's estimated that around 20% of babies will develop a mild flattening while a shocking 47% will develop a flat spot. A flat spot can develop anywhere where your babies head is in constant contact with the floor. Developmental specialists are seeing more and more flat spots in babies because parents are using baby containers (rock and plays, bouncy chairs, swings, etc) more than ever before. I have a feeling this is because with the "Back to sleep" movement parents are worried about SIDS. But babies need floor time desperately! Thats how they discover their bodies. So even once your baby has gained control of their neck (usually around 3 months) a flat spot may still develop because of the overuse of baby gear. A safe time period would be no more than 2 hours a day.
One thing most therapists and developmental teachers know is interconnectedness, this means unaddressed head preference can lead to so many other things. It may lead to decrease use of one arm, decreased visual scanning, unbalanced motor skills and so much more. So what can we do to help our little ones? First its to simply be aware. Look back at pictures and pay attention and see what side your baby prefers. The next things is....tummy time!! You know in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the Dad puts Windex on everything? Tummy Time is my Windex. There are so many different strengths that are developing during tummy time and this big one here is practicing lifting the head against gravity which builds neck strength. While we're at it why not add in some colorful objects (scarves, toys) and/or sounds (shakers, bells, rattles) in front of their eyes (keep objects 8-10 inches away from face so they don't get overwhelmed) so they can track the objects moving side to side and practice not only working against gravity to lift but to turn their whole head in one direction. Tummy time work is the best and fastest way your baby will discover, learn and get feedback about their body.
Aside from Tummy Time (check out my post for tummy time tips!) I have a few other tips that can help strengthen the head and neck muscles:
Remember appropriate play is a babys work and these moves should be apart of your everyday actives. While working it's best to have TV/Radio off and be attentive, encouraging and mindful of the work your baby is doing.
+Rolio - This is a lovely PT move that really allows the baby to freely move their neck from side to side. Baby begins on their back. Bring arms and feet into Happy Baby pose. Guide baby all the way over to one side. You'll wait until baby turns their head and their check touches the floor. Repeat rolling side to side. It's normal to see the head lag in the beginning but the more this is practiced the better baby becomes. Eventually head and torso will move as one.
+Side Plank/Spinal Twist - Baby begins on back. Lift one leg straight up, then across the midline of the body. Move your hands to their hips to help the stabilize on their side. Baby should be laying on the right or left side. Your hand isn't there to be a weight, but to keep them from rolling to their back. Baby may stack their shoulders (side plank) or they may drop the top shoulder back to the floor (spinal twist). Repeat on both sides and allow baby to stay in this position for as long as they are content.
+Lay them the other way in cot/bassinet or move bassinet to a new location in the room. Babies like to look at fixed objects so moving them around the room or laying them "upside down" in their bed may stimulate them to move their head. Moving the bassinet next to windows or paintings is especially stimulating.
+Lay them the other way on the changing pad. Babies love to look at you and interact on the changing pad. A great way to strengthen head and neck is to place them the other way (upside down). They'll have to turn the other way to get a look at you. This is also a great mental exercise for you! You place them the same way each time because it's easiest for you to change a diaper, this new way will force your brain and body to talk.
+Change sides when bottle feeding. We naturally change sides during breast feeding but don't usually think about it when bottle feeding. Take the opportunity to feed from your non dominant hand. This will be sure to stimulate both sides of your babies body and give you another mental workout as well!
Hopefully these are some easy and helpful tips that you can start practicing right away! Feel free to reach out if you feel as though there are larger issue at hand, have any questions or need more support in this area and I can help guide you in the next direction.
Photo: Dr. Monica Wonacott
I have always been interested in using essential oils for my own health, wellness and home. I diffuse oils, I wear them to help support my emotions, I even make my own cleaning sprays using essential oils. I certainly use them in my home and I even use them in my work life too! All of my materials are cleaned and sanitized by using essential oils and I spray Lavender around the room before teaching class. I could go on and on about essential oils and all the wonderful benefits they can bring to your life but I want to take the time today to talk about how to use oils specifically in caring for your baby and toddler. I enlisted the help of my essential oil loving sister-in-law, Sara Packard and asked her to write about using oils on babies and children. She gave me so much great information and I hope you enjoy this introduction to essential oils! A little bit about Sara first, Sara is a Mother of a 2.5 year old, Yoga Teacher and Wellness Advocate for doTERRA. She leads weekly yoga and meditation classes online and several classes a week at Lyons Den Power Yoga in NYC. She has been using essential oils exclusively for the last year and is loving how they help support her and her family's emotional and physical well-being.
I think one of the first questions to answer is “what are essential oils”?
I love to refer to them as plant medicine and with that I quite literally mean medicine for the plants from which they are derived. Because plants are living, growing things, much like humans, they require regular health maintenance so that they can grow and thrive. Just like humans, plants have the ability to be overtaken by fungus and disease, and that is where the essential oils come in. They are organic compounds that help to stave off infection and disease in the plants themselves and keep them growing and strong for the length of their life.
Because we humans are also in the pursuit of growing strong, these oils works beautifully in much the same way and our bodies recognize and accept the power of the oils so much more readily than anything that has been made in a laboratory. This mean that our risk of side effects lessons and that our bodies have the opportunity to find and create its own homeostasis. All of this being said, it makes essential oils the ideal thing to use in our homes and with our little ones.
How do we use essential oils for infants and toddlers?
Aromatically. This is usually done by way of a diffuser. Many parents will diffuse oils in the bedroom as baby sleeps or plays, although it can also be done by simply smelling the oil directly from the bottle. One of the favorite ways that we do this in my house, is to put a drop of the oil in our hands and as we hold our hands up to our nose, we take three deep breaths. I love this approach because it teaches our daughter to use both the oil and her breath as a way to help calm down and recalibrate if she needs it. When a baby explores the world around them they are using their senses, here we can use the sense of smell to help them with transitions. During bedtime you may want to use a certain oil or blend, so when baby picks up the scent they know, "Ok, it's time to wind down". Or vice versa, you may want to diffuse an energizing oil/blend during play time.
Topically. This is one of my favorite ways to use oils on our daughter. Because oils can be absorbed so readily through the skin and into our systems, using oils topically can be extremely effective. You can do a full body massage/touch session, or rub oils on bottoms of their feet, chest or back. When it comes to using the oils on our skin, dilution is ALWAYS important! You can use fractionated coconut oil, almond or jojoba oil. This allows for the oils to be absorbed effectively and also prevents the possibility for some irritation, should the oil not agree with your child’s skin. Oils should also never be used around the nose; stick to the areas mentioned above. On babies, we want to use mild oils only, and avoid some of the hotter more powerful oils until they get a little bit older (2 years+).
Mild/Safe for most children:
* Lavender - 3 months+
* Chamomile - 3 months+
* Dill - 3 months+
* Melaleuca (Tea Tree) - 4 months+ Make sure this is properly diluted and watch for topical reaction.
* Wild Orange - 6 months+
* Geranium - 6 months+
* Fir - 6 months+
* Cedarwood - 6 months+, can cause irritation on skin if no diluted properly
* Lemon - 6 months+, safe for diffusion only. Use Orange for topical application instead
* Neroli - 6 months+
* Sandalwood - 6 months+
* Carrot Seed - 6 months+
* Cypress - 6 months+
* Rose - 6 months+
* Basil - 2 years+
* Sage - 2 years+
* Frankincense - 2 years+
* Clove - 2 years+
* Vetiver - 2 years+
* Ylang Ylang - 2 years+
A few more notes on safety when using essential oils: No essential oils should be given orally to babies, toddlers or children. Introduce oils slowly and one at a time. This way you can observe for any reactions. If your baby is going to have reaction it will appear in the first 15-30 minutes after using. It is also not advised to use oils on babies younger than 3 months old, use even more caution with premature babies, avoiding all oils until 3 months after their due date. Once again, all oils should be diluted, even when being diffused. The maximum amount of essential oils to be used with a 3+ month old baby is 1-2 drops of oil per ounce (2 tablespoons) of carrier oil. Babies 6+ months can use 5-6 drops per ounce of carrier oil. Children 2+ years can use 20 drops per ounce of carrier oil. Also note that ALL eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils should be avoided until 10+ years of age, this includes Thieves or OnGuard Blends.
As I mentioned above, essential oils can be used to support both our children’s physical and emotional health. Beginning with the physical, here are some common symptoms and uses as well as recipes for using essential oils with our little ones:
Combine 2 tablespoons almond oil with 1 drop Roman Chamomile, 1 drop Lavender. Mix and apply to stomach and back
Combine 2 1/2 tablespoons of carrier oil with 2 drops melaleuca, 1 drop lemon. Massage on neck and chest and bottoms of feet.
Combine 4 tablespoons of carrier oil with 2 drops Lavender or 2 drops Roman Chamomile along the jawline as often as every 15-30 minutes to soothe.
Combine 2 tablespoons almond oil or fractioned coconut oil with 1 drop lavender or 1 drop melaleuca. Mix and apply small amount on scalp, massage with fingers to help loosen flaky skin.
Combine 1 drop Roman chamomile and 1 drop lavender with fractionated coconut oil and apply directly to bottom. I have also added melaleuca to this blend and it has worked like magic!
Dilute 1 drop lavender in carrier oil and massage baby or child on the back of their neck, feet, behind the ear.
Diffuse 2 drops of cypress, lemon and melaleuca.
Dilute geranium and frankincense in a carrier oil and apply to the liver area and to the liver reflex points on feet.
Apply 1 drop of basil or melaleuca and fractionated coconut oil on a cotton ball and place on the surface of the ear. Avoid the ear canal.
Lights Out blend!
2 drops of vetiver
2 drops of cedar wood
2 drops of patchouli
2 drops of doTERRA Serenity blend
2 drops of ylang ylang
Blend in 10ml roller bottle; fill remainder of bottle with carrier oil and roll on feet and/or along the spine at bedtime
personal note: I have also had great success using the doTERRA Peace blend on my daughter for both naps and bedtime. I am talking out within minutes!
All of these recipes come from the book The Essential Life, which I also HIGHLY recommend purchasing when you begin your journey into oils! And finally, one of my favorite things to talk about when it comes to using essential oils with our children is how they can support and teach them to practice emotional health and wellbeing. One of the first things that was said to me by one of my friends who is an avid essential oil user is that they help to put our emotions out in front of us so that we can take better care of ourselves and figure out what it is that we need in real time. I didn’t quite understand this until I began using these oils with my every evolving, emotional toddler. Anyone who has every witnessed a toddler in action knows that a big part of their journey in that time of life is dealing with very BIG and very real emotions. When I began to take some action with the oils with her, specifically some of the doTERRA emotional aroma touch blends, I noticed a huge shift in how both she and I interpreted those moments. My daughter now knows that when she is frustrated she can reach for the blue or purple bottles of oils (aptly named console and peace), put some in her hands and take three deep breaths. This is a tool that as an adult, I am just now coming to appreciate and utilize. As she grows into herself, my hope is that she will turn to essential oils, not as a way to fix and solve her emotional moments of need, but rather to help her navigate it from a clear minded and thoughtful place.
Scientifically, essential oils actually effect the different areas of our brain that are directly connected to emotions and memories. When we take in the aroma of an oil, we actually light up the part of our brain that helps us to change the initial response of fight or flight. Instead we can intercept that very primal reaction, and create a pathway to choose how we want to respond to any given circumstance. This is a big concept for little ones and so right now we mostly stick with the question "how do you feel right now?", have her name it and then take action
to calm and connect ie use an oil and breathe. Then we move forward in to what action to take next. This is a simple practice that will have a big impact as she grows and evolves into the beautiful human being I know she is and has to navigate even bigger, real life moments. As a mama, a yogi and a believer in empowered health and wellness, essential oils have been a huge benefit and tool in our home. I have made it a part of my mission to help others find this same practice of empowering themselves and their families in their own journeys caring for themselves and each other. I am always available to answer questions, have a one on one or
to come to your home and share what I have learned and am continuing to learn about using essential oils. Feel free to reach out and connect by emailing me at sara@oneOMatatime.com and find me on instagram. May you be happy, healthy and empowered to live your best and most essential life!
We know it's important for Moms to take care of themselves. Many times self care looks like taking an exercise class...fantastic! Exercising is a great way to improve your mood, get better sleep and take care of your body. It's great for Moms to slip out of the house, go to the gym, take a class, and enjoy time away. But many times it doesn't look like that. You may find you want to take your baby with you, or maybe you don't have any other choice. I hear Moms all over Boston asking about fitness classes where they can include their baby, which results in people rattling off a few places as it all goes in one ear and out the other (mom-brain). So, I've put together a list of my favorite Mommy and Me fitness classes in the Boston area. Check it out and let me know if there's a great class I missed!
Mommy and Me Fitness Classes in Boston:
1. Mommy and Me Yoga w/ me - Hill House (Mondays @ 1:30pm)
Strengthening, Softening and bonding with your body and baby during a grounded yoga class. Playful connection between mom and baby is encouraged while simultaneously nourishing your own self.
2. Babies on Board - Xtend Barre (Monday and Wednesday @ 11am)
Designed to give new moms a dynamic workout. Bring grip socks, blanket and baby carrier.
3. Mommy and Me Yoga- Healthworks (times vary by location)
Muscle conditioning class to help build endurance, cardio may be added. Non- Crawling infants only. They also have childcare at some locations.
4. Mommy and Me Burn - Burn Fitness (call for schedule)
This class is a balance of strength, cardio and restorative exercises for moms postnatal body. Come with or without your baby. Bring car seat, stroller or bassinet. Non-crawling infants only.
5. Flywheel/Flybarre - On site sitters (Tuesday and Thursday 10:30am)
Sensible Sitters watches your baby while you take a spin or barre class. Babies should be in a stroller, as they will hang in the Pru. Cost of childcare is free!
6. Btone in North End - (Wednesday and Friday @ 9:30a)
Childcare is provided for $5 a session. This is pilates done in a circuit training sequencing. Reformer machines are used.
7. One OM at a Time - Online Yoga/Meditation (anytime you want!)
Weekly yoga and meditation classes. You can join live every Sunday morning (yoga) or Wednesday evening (Meditation). You also have access to every video and can access them for a practice at any time or place. $10 a month.
8. Mommy and Me Yoga - Blissful Monkey (Wednesday 9:45am)
This is a gentle class designed to help new moms regain muscle tone, abdominal strength and flexibility while cultivating a loving connection to self and baby. Bring a receiving blanket and any toys your baby may want. This class is taught by Jenny Robberson - One of my Move Baby Move Moms! Yay Jenny!
Image: Breena Rice Hope (@breenanana_)
Creating A Daily Rhythm
I work with Mothers almost every day of the week, spending hours with new and seasoned Moms and theres a theme that spreads throughout the journey of Motherhood and that is, "How do you do everything that needs to get done in day?". This week in my Moms group we talked about our days and all the responsibilities that come with it. And how, during this busy season of life, can we make time for self care. Why is it that Moms feel so guilty taking time for themselves? and How do you make time for yourself when theres so much to be done? You know when you fly on an airplane and you hear the safety instructions before take off? "In case of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others." This gem is given to us every time we fly. A little gift, reminding us to take care of ourselves first. Yet, its hard for all of us, not just moms, to live that reality. . There is lots of juggling happening and feelings of being overwhelmed. Many Moms I work with are balancing life with a baby (or multiple), responsibilities of the home, some are going back to work. It's a lot, I call it the Mom Circus. I'm not saying I have the answers; your life, schedule and self care will look completely different than mine. What I do have are some suggestions to change your perspective, to open up your days, to create a feeling of empowerment, that maybe starts you on a path of discovering how to manage your day while making sure you carve out time for yourself.
First up is a quick change of perspective:
Every day, we each get 1,440 minutes, and every week, we each get 168 hours." -The Little Book of Lykke
Take a moment and think of all the things you still need to accomplish for today, "I have to walk the dog", "I have to do the laundry"...etc. It's probably a big list! You may even feel like a slave to your to-do list. But in the quote above there is a magic word we can use. A word that can help us shift our perspective. That word is, "get". Think of your same list but now use the word get. "I get to walk the dog", "I get to do the laundry". This is the power of positive thinking! Getting to do these tasks turns our time into a privilege that is interwoven with gratitude. Does it change your perspective? Can you give yourself the gift of getting?
Next is, creating a Daily Rhythm:
Everything in life has a rhythm. There are rhythms that have been with us since conception, since birth. The steady beat of our heart. The inhale and exhale of our breath. The arrival and completion of our monthly cycle. The restful pattern of sleep. There are also rhythms in nature. The rise and set of the sun. The changing of the seasons. The cycles of the moon. The seasons of Motherhood.
Our bodies crave rhythm. Children crave rhythm. Creating a rhythm for your day is a wonderful way to establish good habits that help us feel empowered as we move through our day, instead of being bound to it.
A rhythm is really just a starting point. It can be something you visit when life starts to feel too frenzied and rushed, or it can be something you flow through every single day. It shouldn't ever feel like a burden though, just a gentle friend, giving you a nudge of encouragement when you need it most. Once it becomes a habit it can support you on even the most challenging days.
Here are some steps towards creating a rhythm for yourself and family:
1. Segment your day into 3 sections: morning, afternoon, evening. Within each of those segments establish your must do's. Things like eat, shower, work, self care, etc. These are your non-negtionables.
2. Know your and your family's needs: This is probably the most important step.
3. Start to lay it out: What is your day going to look like? Find a starting and ending time. Give yourself large chunks of time to accomplish what you want to do. If things get too close together, it starts to feels strict. It shouldn't make you feel hurried or rushed but actually slow you down, allowing you to find freedom and movement throughout your day.
4. Check for balance: If you notice theres lots give, give, give or go, go, go you'll want to add in some time for rest and rejuvenation, however that looks for you. When it comes to newborns we talk about their need for eat, activity, sleep. You can basically think about this too, but for adults.
A) A time to nourish your body (eat)
B) A time to create and move (activity)
C) A time to slow down and rejuvenate (sleep)
5. Share it: It's important to involve other people in your household. Talk to your partner, involve older children. They may have valuable ideas to offer and are a part of the rhythm of your household.
For me, every day has a different rhythm and I do a fairly good job at letting a rhythm pulse through my days. It doesn't happen every day, some days my rhythm doesn't flow at all, and thats okay. I found it best to create a rhythm for each day because my teaching schedule changes and I find that creating something like this, allows me to reach achievable goals, find balance, manage my time and create healthy habits. Here is an example of my daily rhythm...
6:30am - Alarm. Coffee. Read. No screens. Dog Duty
I like to start my days quietly and slowly. I try not to use screens right away, instead I read or talk with my husband. Around 7:30, I take my dog out for a walk/exercise. During this time I usually listen to a podcast or call my parents/friends.
8:30am - Breakfast. Clean up. Get Ready
Once we get back I'll start making breakfast, after a quick clean up I'll get showered up and ready for my day.
9:45am- Teach Class
This morning I teach 3 classes back to back starting at 10:30am. I leave around 9:45 so I arrive 15 minutes before my classes begin.
1:45pm - Lunch. Commute to next class
Sometimes I'll bring a lunch with me or I grab something on my way to my next class.
2:30pm - Last Class
3:45pm - Errands
I can walk home from my last class so on my way back I stop and run any errands I need to do, usually it's picking up groceries.
4:45pm - Rest. Relax. Restore
Once I get back its time to rest. What this looks like varies..sometimes it's a short nap, sometimes it's watching a little tv, sometimes it's reading. I listen to my body and give it what it needs.
5:45pm- Dog Duty. Dishes or Dinner
My husband and I usually do one or the other. Someone takes the dog out while the other person starts preparing dinner. Usually the person who takes the dog out also does dishes after the meal.
7:45pm - Emails. Create.
This is when I try to do some e-mails, prepare for the next days classes. I think of it as my office hours for the day.
8:30pm - Husband and Wife time. Personal Care. TV time.
If my husband goes back to the office I tend to turn this into self care time. Meaning I'll do a face mask, paint my nails; something that makes me feel good. I also watch TV. If he is around then we usually do something together, play a card game, watch a movie, go play darts or go out for a night cap.
10pm - Bedtime Routine. Sleep
I try to avoid screen 30 minutes before bed. It doesn't always happen, its still very much a goal I am working towards. I would like to incorporate reading or meditation before bed.
I find when I follow a rhythm I am much happier, at ease and feel in charge. My hope is that you are able to create something like this for yourself, where you are running your day and not letting the day run you. When we don't have a plan, or a goal, things can be overwhelming. If you don't make time for yourself you'll never make it happen. I encourage you to try it out, make a rhythm, find your flow. A daily rhythm should invite an intentional balance of work, play and rest. These are anchors that connect and support us as individuals and as a family.
Photo Source: Stocksy
Image source: Essential Montessori on Etsy
There are so many toys on the shelves these days its overwhelming. There are toys that light up, ones that make noise, some require batteries and some entice children with their music capabilities. As a parent you buy these new, exciting toys only to find your baby playing with a water bottle, or banging on kitchen pots and pans. How come these toys don't hold your child's attention like you hoped it would? The answer is quite simple. Children are creative problem solvers. They're scientists, discoverers, they're active. When your child, or baby, plays with simple toys they are in control of the toy and not the other way around. They are able to grow their imagination and learn about their world, while also fine tuning cognitive and fine motor skills.
Roberta Golinkoff, head of the Infant Language Project at the University of Delaware says, “Electronic educational toy companies boast brain development and that they are going to give your child a head start. But developmental psychologists know that it doesn’t really work this way. The toy manufacturers are playing on parents’ fears that our children will be left behind in this global marketplace...kids are not like empty vessels to be filled. If they play with toys that allow them to be explorers, they are more likely to learn important lessons about how to master their world.”
A lot of toys direct children to talk into them, press a button, or pull a lever. But children like to discover things on their own. So what are some things to think about when looking at toys?
There is also a point to be made about the waste that is produced from all these fancy, flashy toys. Buying fewer toys, means we are creating less waste - less packaging, which is better for the environment. We are bringing less chemical laced plastic into our lives, which is better for our bodies. We are acquiring less things that fill our homes - less dust, less surfaces for germs to grow, which is better for our health. We spend less money, which is better for our wallets. Yes, we can reuse lots of materials that become imaginative toys but sometimes, its just easier to buy something. In that case I always recommend high quality toys that are eco-friendly, kid-friendly, easy to clean and ones that will promote play for a wide range of ages. I also recommend to my families to not have every single toy out. I come from a Montessori background and the ideas around toys, or as they call it, learning materials, is that only a few items are in the environment at a time. After a certain amount of time, weeks or months, you simply exchange the 5-6 toys for new ones. This way your child isn't bombarded with too many options and it keeps you from needing to buy, or make, new things. Each time a swap happens they get to play with a toy they may have forgotten about, or discover a new way to play with an old toy. Living in a city and finding space for all of that can be an issue. A great option would be doing a toy swap with other families. Find a group of Moms, big or small, and rotate toys between yourselves!
Here are some ideas for homemade recycled toys...
Toilet/paper towel rolls- megaphone, telescope, a chute for smaller items like cotton balls, Fill with dried beans and tape ends shut for music makers.
Empty egg carton- Place a cheerio in each egg slot and allow children to use pincer grasp to get it out. Can be used as counting practice for older children.
Empty food/water containers- cleaned out bottles can be a big source of entertainment, also great in the tub! Children love to put things in and out. Can also be filled with dried rice or pasta.
Cardboard Boxes- to draw in, climb inside or push around. It's pretty limitless.
Empty Tissue Boxes- different things (smaller toys, cotton balls, tissue paper) can be placed inside and baby can enjoy pulling things out and putting things back in over and over again.
For store bought toys...
Sensory Stacking Hoops
Pound and Tap Xylophone
Wooden Bell Chimes
12 piece rainbow stacker
Infant Montessori Bag
Toddler Chair and Slide
What is a secure attachment?
Stock image by Noam Armonn
Over the last 80 years, developmental psychologist have come to learn that the dynamics that take place between a primary caregiver and infant have a life long effect on us. Having a secure attachment during infancy, and into childhood, sets us up for emotional and social successes in adulthood. There are 3 essential functions in a secure attachment.
1) Provides a sense of safety and security
2) Regulates Emotions
3) Offers a secure base from which to explore from
In spite of years of research on attachment, psychologists have actually done a poor job of communicating what a secure attachment is and how to form one. In the meantime, an entire parenting movement has taken the word attachment and turned it into a modern lifestyle. While intentions have meant well many parents are still left feeling confused, with guilt and stress, when it comes to the word "attachment".
Attachment Parenting International is based on 8 basic principles and centers around breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing and emotional responsiveness. Don't get me wrong, this is all wonderful things to think about and tune in to. It's certainly better parenting advice than maybe our parents, or grandparents had. This is a softer more baby centered approach and I'm certainly all for that. But, as I have found out in my teachings with families all around Boston and New York, is that advice is often taken literally and to the extreme. I have Mothers who think breastfeeding and co-sleeping is essential to attachment. There is no evidence that doing these things will produce a secure bond.
It simply comes down to the quality of interactions that matters. A mother may breastfeed, but be completely tuned out; being very mechanical, or insensitive to what the baby is trying to communicate. A mother may bottle-feed in a very sensitive and loving manner; taking cues from the baby and use the interaction as a way to look, play and talk together. This doesn't mean you have to be attuned to your baby all the time, thats exhausting. Researchers found those with secure attachment were really only synchronized with each other 30% of the time. What is important is that baby develops a trust that the caregiver will meet their needs in a timely manner. And when mismatches occur, its important to repair them. As long as caregiver and baby keep this flow between them; caregiver returning interactions and repairing when they can't, it offers the optimal amount of connection and stress for a baby to develop both confidence and coping, in balance.
The attachment figure doesn't have to be a parent, although it usually is. Babies can form a secure attachment with siblings, grandparents, other relatives, a special adult outside of the family unit and babysitters. Forming lots of secure attachments would be overwhelming for a baby, so they keep their group small and there is a hierarchy. When a baby needs security or safety they don't have time to asses pros and cons of each person, they need to know who is already deemed to be a reliable comfort, with parents usually at the top.
Nothing is more important than a secure attachment. “The emotional quality of our earliest attachment experience is perhaps the single most important influence on human development," says Alan Sroufe, a developmental psychologist at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota. He performed a study over a 35 year period and revealed that the quality of attachment in childhood reverberates well into adulthood, even when temperament and social class were accounted for. A secure attachment in childhood instilled a confident and independent adult. Many parents try to instill independence in early childhood, and while I do agree with age appropriate responsibilities, Sroufe's study found there is no pushing independence. Independence is something that blooms naturally from a secure attachment.
A secure attachment doesn't have to only happen in infancy. It can also be something that is lost, but regained. A child may have a secure attachment in the beginning but something like - death or a divorce, could disrupt that attachment. How stressed or available a primary figure is during that time can help mediate the disruption. Children who have already had a secure attachment have a tendency to rebound more easily. On the other hand an insecure attachment is not a destination either. A great teacher in school may provide a secure attachment and off set any troubles in home life. Therapy can also help, even in adulthood, as it mimics the attachment process. A romantic relationship can be a source of a secure attachment. Growth and change is always possible!
Support matters. Support for both baby and parents. The baby needs to know they are important and parents need a solid social support system in order to form secure attachments. Caregivers should be involved, attentive, sensitive and responsive. "The baby will tell you what to do," Sroufe explains. “They have a limited way of expressing their needs, so they’re not that difficult to read: If they’re fussing, they need something. If their arms are out, they want to be picked up. And if you misread them, they will keep on signaling until you get it right.”
One of the first areas of the brain to develop is the right hemisphere. This is the side that processes emotion and social information. The right hemisphere is developed in the last trimester in utero and a baby is born with having survival functions already developed - like the amygdala and hypothalamus. But the connections happening in these areas develop over the first year (the left brain doesn't start to develop until year 2). You can think of it as the Worlds first roads. They start out small dusty trails but as traffic continues to flow through these streets the road starts to get wider, we realize we need to make the road bigger, stronger. Eventually these small roads become massive highways. When a caregiver is present, attentive, and sensitive to a baby, these pathways in the brain grow stronger and more stable. When we, as caregivers, use our intuition, empathy and feeling to attune to our babies needs we are using our right brains as well! Through “right-brain-to-right brain” reading of each other, the parent and child synchronize their energy, emotions, and communication. Behaviors that most parents are inclined to do naturally—like eye contact and face-to-face interaction, holding and speaking in “parentese” (higher-pitched and slower than normal speech), are all shown to grow the right-brain regions in the baby.
Parenting is hard, there is no doubt about that. It takes time and patience to learn how to read your babys signals. There will be stress, and thats ok. Stress is a part of life, but what we are trying to do is set up a system so baby can learn how to cope with that stress. You'll learn to trust the flow of your right brain and tune in to your babys own unique way of communicating. And babies do their job of drawing you in. They coo, grab on to your finger, gaze up at your face and give you the biggest most sincere smile you have ever seen. Trust in that. Tune in to that. Enjoy that, The sweet elixir of attachment is already underway.
These are questions I hear from parents a lot. I'm seeing more and more babies skip crawling and as a developmental movement teacher this is a bit worrisome. Crawling is an important milestone that, in my opinion, needs to be reached and reached properly. Many things are being organized in the body and brain during crawling, making it essential to development and self esteem continuing well into adolescence and adulthood. Crawling should begin around 7, 8 or even 9 months and continue for as long as...well as long as it takes!
I believe the reason why we are seeing less crawling is because we are seeing less tummy time. Parents are opting out of tummy time because their baby doesn't like it, fear of SIDS or they are just not doing it long enough. The lack of time on their belly doesn't allow for their upper body to develop the way it should. We see this when a child is sitting upright before they are strong enough and their upper body ends up collapsing over their legs. Tummy time is essential and needed to help organize the body on the ground before pushing up on all four limbs and crawling. We can think of it as 3 different times the body needs to organize itself. 1st is tummy time on the ground. 2nd is crawling on hands and knees and 3rd is walking.
Hand and knee crawling requires opposite-side limb movement unlike the belly crawling which emphasis same arm same leg (lizard pose in yoga). This is called control-lateral or cross body movement, and is something we practice in class, during our "hand to your knee" song. Our brains have two hemispheres that are connected by a 'walkway' called the corpus callosum. This is actually a collection of nerve fibers that can be strengthened by doing cross body work. Musicians have some of the strongest corpus callouss due to their hands usually doing different things at once. The cross body movement allows the two side of the brain to communicate with each other. The repetitious movement helps stimulate and organize neurons, allowing the brain to process things like comprehension, concentration and memory.
Another puzzle piece of crawling is learning binocular vision, which is training the eyes to focus on a single object, creating one image. When a baby is crawling they visually determine where they want to be and then move their body to that spot. When a baby is crawling they are looking at their determined spot, and then back at their hands crawling on the floor. This forces the eyes to focus on difference distances which will eventually help with tasks like catching, driving and hand eye coordination. This then plays in to spatial awareness, as a child crawls around a space they discover distance and placement of objects. Through trial and error play they can learn how to maneuver around something in the way, whether thats by climbing over it or creating a new path around it, and voila! They just implanted a fantastic problem solving technique!
Learning and mastering crawling is also a self confidence boost! A baby learns about taking risks and the failures or successes that come along with it. They learn how to make decisions about speed, destination and the joy of reaching those goals. Once they reach their toy or person they were headed for you'll see the instant joy on their face along with clapping! That is a proud baby who just got a major does of self confidence!
So what if you have a baby who isn't crawling? Don't worry, there are lots of way to encourage crawling. Tummy time is always going to be a great place to start and find a way to make it interactive. There's nothing worse than being put down on the floor and being left alone. You can get down on your own belly and talk to them. You can also place a mirror in front of their face so they can enjoy looking at their own reflection. Placing their favorite toy away form them will peak their interest in trying to move and reach that toy. Rolling a ball away from them can also be enticing enough try and crawl after. If you have a baby who is over tummy time, is scooting on her bottom or already trying to walk, then I suggest putting them in situations that give them the opportunity to crawl. Such as, playing with tunnels, crawling under kitchen chairs. You can also get down on your hands and knees as a way to demonstrate what you'd like them to do, babies love to imitate! Keep trying to offer opportunities to crawl instead of standing or walking. Make it fun!
Not all babies who skip crawling are going to have difficulties, but the goal is to give them opportunities to reach these milestones now, instead of needing to work on them later in life. Instead of focusing on what your baby isn't doing, focus on what she is doing! Focus on progress. Babies can only hit so many milestones at once, so maybe your baby is hitting a language milestone? Maybe she is feeding herself with a spoon? Most importantly, stop comparing your baby to other babies. The truth is every baby is different, even your own children. Just because one walked at a certain age doesn't mean the other will. If your baby is continuously not hitting milestones then the best thing you can do is talk to your Pediatrician.
Smell and Taste
There is no stronger bond than one between Mother and child. This has to do mostly with the sense of smell and the release of pheromones. Pheromones are molecules that are used in the human and animal world for a multitude of reasons; non verbal communication, maternal bonding, mating, territory marking, and more! Mother and baby can identify each other by scent alone. They use these pheromones to create a lifelong bong, making it a physical, as well as an emotional connection.
The bond starts in utero as babies begin to recognize their mothers pheromones. While in the coziness of the womb babies start to communicate to the Mother using pheromones, which is basically chemical codes. These chemical links are present after birth, so mother and baby recognize each other and baby can begin breastfeeding. A baby will basically sniff out their Mothers breast so they can start feeding. This is done by pheromones and Montgomery glands. At six days, although some say earlier, a baby will learn and become partial to their Mothers milk. They are able to pick it out among other women's milk, as well as discriminate the difference between their mothers breast and another woman, based on scent alone. Animals use pheromones in breastfeeding as well. A Mother rat will instinctually lick herself as a way for her blind babies to find their way to food. This is why its imperative pheromones are learned.
When a baby nurses they are exposed to their Mothers pheromones through many glands around the breast and underarms. These glands secrete, mixing with bacteria that is living on the skin and creates a persons unique smell. When males are born and come in contact with their mothers pheromones their bodies begin to release Gonadotropin (hormone), which causes a surge of the LH (hormone that affects function of sex organs). This surge helps a male baby pump out testosterone which further masculinizes the brain by breaking down nerve cells and creating male circuits. So, the pheromones are essentially creating humans as distinctively male or female. Breastfeeding can also influence what a child will look for in a future mate. A study found that when rats were nursed with the presence of a lemon scent, they then looked for mates that carried a similar scent. Showing that exposure to odors early in life produces life long preferences for those odors.
Pheromones also benefit the Mother! Mothers will nuzzle their noses into their babies head, picking up their sweet scent, releasing oxytocin (cuddle hormone). When a baby cries, the Mothers body will release oxytocin causing her nipples to erect so she can pass milk easily. Making the mother want to nurse just as much as the baby wants to feed.
The sense of taste is another chemical sense that is present at birth. There are 5 primary tastes. Sweet, Salty, Bitter. Sour and Umami. Upon birth babies can taste everything but salty. It is believed that the salty taste doesn't come in until 4 months, once the kidneys have fully developed. A newborns favorite taste is sweet. When babies are given a sugar substance immediately after a shot or small procedure they tend to cry less. There are many amino acids found in breastmilk with the strongest, being glutamate, at over 50%. Its presence in breastmilk helps the newborn like the Umami taste.
Culture also plays a role in babies sense of taste. Flavors of food eaten by the Mother get translated into the amniotic fluid, which the baby ingests in utero. When the baby is nursing these flavors are also passed through the milk. The flavor of breastmilk is directly effected by the foods, spices and beverages the Mother has consumed. Amniotic fluid and breast milk are similar in their taste profiles which may bridge the experience of a baby transitioning to solid foods. Smell and taste go hand in hand. If you have a baby who can experience complex tastes, like the difference between apples and pears, then chances are they have a well developed sense of smell.
There are millions and million of connections that are being made in infancy. Those connections truly do shape us for the rest of our lives. If a pregnant or breastfeed Mother eats different food, tries different flavors, this can set the stage of child and adult preferences when it comes to eating. In the same way that our Mothers scent influences us when we choose mates. Isn't it amazing?
At around 22 weeks in utero, your baby begins to hear sounds. They quickly start to develop an appreciation for music, talking, singing as well as show dislikes for certain sounds, commonly expressed through kicking. From birth, babies pay close attention to the sounds around them. They recognize the voices and music they heard in utero. Even though hearing is introduced in utero the parts of the brain that respond to complex sounds and attach meaning to what is heard, continues to develop until about age 12. Music ignites all areas of child development, helping the mind and the body work together.
Babies love to be sung and spoken to! When we sing we engage our breath and we stimulate the right side of our brain. This singing leads to babbling and making sounds, which eventually becomes speech, which takes places in the left side of the brain. Your baby will even start singing along with you before they begin talking, as they recognize melody before they understand words. Don't worry about your voice, a baby never cares if you can sing or not, they just love the human voice. Singing and talking is my preferred method of music, but recorded music can serve the same purpose, as long as it isn't too loud.
Babies are sensitive and intelligent little beings and I don't think we give them much credit when it comes to understanding the world around them. While they don't have the ability to talk yet, they have cries that express different needs along with their movement. You may have a baby who starts to throw her body backwards when she's hungry, or maybe your little guy rocks his head side to side when he is stressed or over tired. I always like to explain as much as I can to babies. This is reason as to why we use transition songs in class or nursery schools. "Clean up" is a tradition transition song. This songs helps them figure out that we are moving into something new. Babies won't really be able to understand the concept of cleaning up until around 8 months, but like I said above, they recognize melody before the actual words, so that tune sticks in their mind and helps them cue for the shift. Transitions songs, or activities are also great for going to sleep. Try creating your own little tune or song to start singing when its time to transition into something new!
Talking and reading to your baby helps your baby develop an ear for the cadence of language. Using voices, accents and varying the pitch makes the aural connection to you and your child much more stimulating. You don't need to bombard your child with talking and singing, but if they seem interested tell them what your doing through out the day. For example, if you're getting them dressed, talk about the colors they are going to wear that day. What the garment is that you are dressing them in. How does the texture of that garment feel against their skin. You can also tune in to what your baby hears and comment on that. Acknowledging the sounds they hear helps them learn more about their environment. It's the auditory enjoyment of stopping to smell the roses!
We can also help our babies learn about breathing. They are already breathing perfectly (unless asthma is present), but they are also picking up on our breathing style as we hold them and live with them. Adults are usually not the best breathers. We carry our breath high in our chest. As we multi-task and engage more in mind tasks we start to disconnect from our bodies and our breath gets higher. We forget to breath deeply from our bellies, filling our lungs and body. In this regard, your baby can actually serve as a great reminder to breath deeply! We can still help babies with breathing by taking in full deep breaths, with sounds, as we hold them or have them sitting in our lap (our belly pressed to their back). The sound element is there so the baby feeling hears you breathing, and can learn through the kinesthetic and auditory processes. These full breaths flood the body with oxygen and flushes out stale air that has become trapped in the body. This leads to feeling refreshed and invigorated which is translated to your baby. It's a win-win!!
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The skin is the largest organ in our body and our first sense to develop in utero at 3 weeks. The skin is filled with countless receptors that can distinguish the smallest changes in the environment. Hard? Soft? Cold? Hot? Some of these receptors send pain signals and some can tell us if we have an itch. Each receptor activates a specific part of our brain, making us feel calm, irritated, soothed, angry or hurt, and yet touch is a purely physical thing. The skin is basically the nervous system turned inside out, so stimulating the skin effects the nervous system and consequently the brain. How a baby is touched and the frequency of touch effects their development and well being.
The infant brain goes through incredible growth in the first 3 years of life. In one year the brain grows to 50% of its adult volume and by age three it reaches 80%. During that expansive period of growth the cells in their bodies are changing. Touch plays a major role in cell development. When a baby receives positive and pleasurable touch endorphins and oxytocin (love hormone) are released causing the cells to grow and expand. When stressful experiences occur our cells contract and catecholamines (stress hormones) are released, inhibiting cell growth. Babies in the NICU are often isolated in incubators and deprived of the touch they would other wise be receiving. Research has shown the effects of touch and has led to procedural changes at many hospitals. The study found that infants who were held with skin to skin contact (kangaroo hold), for an hour every day, scored higher in both mental and motor sections in the Bayley Assessment test at 6 months.
Babies now a days are being touched very often and without having a formalized time for this. This is wonderful! We are seeing more babies being worn with wraps, front carriers and slings. These devices create a continuous sense of movement and vestibular work (balance), that is very similar to being in utero. All of that movement and touch is great, but we also want to be mindful of going slow, especially with a newborn. The nervous system of a baby is 10 times slower than our adult nervous system. This means we need to be mindful that we are not over stimulating them. They do a great job of letting us know when they receive too much stimulation. You’ll see them space out, avoid eye contact, blink continuously, fuss, and some babies hands and arms will have a little shake to them. These are clear signs to stop engaging for a while and create a soothing and settling experiences to let the nervous system regulate. Because their nervous systems are so immature, they need our help to help themselves settle. We do this by rocking, swaying, bouncing, swaddling, singing, skin to skin contact, mirroring compassion, using a pacifier, and using “shhh” sounds (this replicates the sounds heard in utero).
Mindful Touch Exercise:
Consider your hands. Look at them and reflect on how you use them. What kind of touch do you like or dislike? What do you want to communicate to your little one? Take a moment to close your eyes and think about all the love you have for this wondrous little being. Place one or both hands to their heart center, this can be accessed either through the front or back of the body. Now imagine all of that love, flowing through your hands and into their body. Letting your heart connect through your hands. This exercise can be done as often as you’d like.
There are many ways throughout the day to add in more thoughtful touch time. Diapering is one of my favorite times to use songs, touch and movement games. Making time for daily baby massage is a wonderful addition as well! Different kinds of touch provide different experiences. Light brushing can be soothing or stimulating. Deep, slow gentle squeezes can be reassuring and grounding. Pointed, quick jiggly touch at the tummy can aid in releasing gas bubbles and moving blocked bowels.
Ansley has been teaching Infant Movement classes since 2013, after studying Developmental Movement with Ellynne Skove. Since completing her training Ansley has taught all over the New York, New Jersey, Boston and now Florida. Ansley is certified in Level 1 Reiki and has completed her 200hr YT. She is passionate about empowering, nurturing and providing care to all families as they encounter the demands and joys of parenthood. Through her work she is able to soulfully fulfil her greatest ambition; to care for others.