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Baby Milestones

Crawling through hoops

Babies are born very immature and helpless, but they develop very quickly and their individuality emerges in fascinating ways.  Parent’s role in this development is very important and there are many ways in which you can help stimulate your baby and bring out the best in them.

Understanding this development and knowing when your baby passes important milestones helps equip parents better in their supportive role. The more information a parent has the more they will be able to recognise these growth spurts and help their babies cope with these new and stimulating skills and sensations. However, parents should be aware that every baby is in an individual and may not reach milestones exactly on schedule. Genetics and personality can influence when your baby reaches a milestone.

Some babies develop more quickly than others.  It is not clear why rates of progress differ; trends can run in families: a toddler who is late in becoming dry at night may have a parent who was also later than the average. Even so, all babies acquire skills in the same sequence; for instance, your baby will sit before he can stand.

Parents often think that passing a milestone is a measure of intelligence, but this is not the case.  Intellect has little bearing on, say, walking.  In reality, a child’s personality is more important than his IQ.  To learn a new skill a baby must practice perfecting this skill over and over again (practice makes perfect). How your baby reacts to failure during this acquisition stage can have a significant bearing on how quickly they pick up the new skill. Some babies may try the new skill, find they can’t do it, become frustrated and leave trying again for a few months.  Another may try, fail, become frustrated but are still spurred on to try again until they have mastered the skill. If your baby is placid and laid-back, they may not practice new skills with the same enthusiasm as a baby who is determined to be independent.

Parents need know that their baby will only acquire a new skill when they are both ready and interested in doing so. However, environment can also have a large bearing on your baby’s development and providing the right amount of stimulation is important:

  • too little stimulation means that your baby might not develop to their full potential. Poor environment leads to poor learning.  The stimulation a baby gets must match their needs.
  • too much stimulation can be bewildering and a ‘hot-housed’ baby will not learn new skills any faster, because his brain is not ready to take in so much information.

A baby’s physical growth is inextricably linked with their intellectual, social and emotional development. Babies will not learn a new skill until the cognitive development required for this action has been achieved. Brain development always happens before the physical development can happen. Social and emotional factors can then exert their influence. Babies learn best through play and imitation and your positive feedback is essential in this process.

Bending to touch the floor (down dog)

Gross Motor Development Milestones (per World Health Organization data)

Sitting without support                 5.9 months

Hands-and-knees crawling           8.3 months

Walking with assistance                 9 months

Standing alone                                  10.8 months

Walking alone                                   12 months

These are averages and to see the complete length of the window of achievement for all the above follow this link to the WHO chart: http://www.who.int/childgrowth/standards/mm_windows_graph.pdf?ua=1  For example, the average for sitting with assistance is 5.9 months but the full window is from approx. 3.8 months to 9.2 months.  As you can see there is quite a spread!

To find out more visit one of our classes www.babycollege.co.uk

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Your Baby’s Balance System

Upside down fun
Vestibular stimulation at Baby College

Your baby’s balance system is very important to their overall neurological and physical development and we at Baby College are very aware of its importance and the problems that children can face with an immature balance system.

How does your balance system work?

Your balance system helps you stand, walk, run, and move without falling. Your eyes, inner ear, and muscles and joints send signals to your brain. These signals help you stay balanced. This system of signals is your vestibular system.

Visual system: Your vision helps you see where your head and body are in relationship to the world around you and to sense motion between you and your environment.

Proprioceptive input: Special sensors sensitive to stretch or pressure in your muscles, tendons, and joints help your brain to know how your feet and legs are positioned compared to the ground and how your head is positioned compared to your chest and shoulders.

Vestibular system: Balance organs in the inner ear tell the brain about the movements and position of your head. There is a set of three tubes (semi-circular canals) in each ear, and these sense when you move your head around and help keep your vision clear. One canal senses up-and-down movement. Another canal senses side-to-side movement. The third canal senses tilting movements. Each canal has hair cells and fluid inside. When you move, the fluid and hair cells move. The hair cells send messages to your brain through the acoustic nerve. Your brain uses this information to help you know where you are in space. There are two further structures in each ear called otoliths (the utricle and saccule). They tell the brain when the head is moving in a straight line (when you are riding in a car or going up or down in an elevator) and sense the position of the head even when it is still (if it is upright or tilted).

Information from your vision, muscles, tendons, joints, and balance organs in your inner ear are all sent to the brain stem. The brain stem also gets information from other parts of the brain called the cerebellum and cerebral cortex, mostly about previous experiences that have affected your sense of balance. Your brain can control balance by using the information that is most important for a particular situation. For example, in the dark, when the information from your eyes is reduced or might not be accurate, your brain will use more information from your legs and your inner ear. If you are walking on a sandy beach during the day, the information coming from your legs and feet will be less reliable and your brain will use information from your visual and vestibular systems more.

Balance functions in our subconscious and we only become aware of it when it is not working correctly: dizziness brought on by a severe cold, sea sickness due to rough seas, air sickness as a plane banks in for landing. These problems occur when there is a breakdown in communication between the three systems. Nausea occurs because the body mistakes these symptoms for those of having been poisoned!

Balance and Children

Playing with hoops

The vestibular is the master of our movements, but it can only be properly trained through movement. For a child the development of the balance system is linked to the development of its postural control. As this comes from the visual, proprioceptive and motor systems the training of the systems along with the vestibular is a slow process which will take at least 7 years, and will continue through puberty. The process of balance maturation starts as soon as the baby is born. A baby is only able to hold its head up once it has developed some muscular strength gained through repeated movement opportunities in its first few months of life. The strength it has acquired in its neck, shoulders and arms is then used to combat the force of gravity.

For babies and children movement and repetition are vital to help their balance system develop so that even very complex movements become nearly automatic over a period of time (and this includes learning to sit still) For example, when a child is turning cartwheels in a park, impulses transmitted from the brain stem inform the cerebral cortex that this particular activity is appropriately accompanied by the sight of the park whirling in circles. With more practice, the brain learns to interpret a whirling visual field as normal during this type of body rotation and the child can become a cartwheeling expert!

At Baby College we recommend that parent’s use movement as part of their everyday play with their babies and children

Activities to try at home:

Babies:

  • Tummy time games
  • Crawling
  • knee rides,
  • rocking chairs
  • spinning
  • swinging
  • dancing
  • rolling

Babies and children over one

  • Crawling
  • Playground fun: swings. roundabouts, see-saws
  • Encouraging them to jump, skip, and walk along straight lines
  • Running to and fro
  • Starting and stopping
  • Playing with hoops
  • Spinning
  • Rolling and cartwheels
  • Yoga
  • Climbing

We encourage many of these activities during our fun classes to help inspire our parents and encourage our babies and children

http://www.babycollege.co.uk

Teething

Teething

Your baby’s first teeth (known as milk or deciduous teeth) normally develop while they are growing in the womb. These teeth will usually start to emerge through the gums when your baby is six to nine months old, however this can start from as early as two months (quite rare) or even after twelve months. This process is known as teething can be quite painful and distressing for babies.

Symptoms of Teething

Interestingly when teeth emerge through the gums they do not cut through the flesh, instead, special chemicals are released within the body that cause some cells in the gums to die and separate, allowing the teeth to come through. The pain is caused by movement within the developing jaw bone, as teeth start to make their way through the gums. Some babies do not experience any pain during teething, while others are more severely affected.

  • A raised temperature (but not a fever, which is a temperature of 38C or above)
  • Reddened cheeks
  • Reddened gums.
  • Excessive dribbling (this may cause a red rash to develop on their chin)
  • Poor appetite (your baby may not want to eat as a result of the pain in their gums)
  • Chewing or biting (fingers, toys, objects, your breast whilst feeding!)
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Night waking

Some people attribute a wide range of symptoms to teething, such as diarrhoea and fever. However, there is no research to prove this, and it is important to be aware that not all symptoms are the result of teething.

Teething Timeline

Teething chart

  • baby’s bottom front teeth usually come through first (incisors) from 6-9 months
  • followed by their top front teeth (central incisors) from 8-10 months
  • and then the top and bottom incisors either side (lateral incisors) from 9-13 months
  • the first molars (back teeth) then start to come through at approximately 12-14 months of age
  • followed by the canines (next to the lateral incisors) at 16-18 months,
  • and finally, the second molars at 18-30 months.

Your child will normally have a full set of first teeth by the time they are two-and-a-half to three years of age.

Ideas to help relieve the pain of teething

Gum massage – using a clean finger gently massage your baby’s sore gums

Flannel soaked in water, wrung out and then kept in either the fridge or freezer (can be soaked in breast milk)

Cold spoon kept in the fridge

Chilled foods such as yogurt, chilled fruit or frozen mashed banana

Chilled teething ring

Teething toys

Wearing teething jewellery

Teething gels

Pain relief medicine

Chilled unsweetened drinks (they love chewing on the cup too)

Comforting your baby or distracting them

Breastfeeding your baby

Breastfeeding and Biting

One question we get asked a lot at Baby College is will my baby bite when they get their teeth and what do I do if my baby bites me whilst I am feeding?

While feeding, assuming the latch is good, any teeth are tucked away under the tongue, and nowhere near the nipple.  Most of the time you won’t be aware of a change when teeth make an appearance. Sometimes the top ones *can* chafe when the teeth are new, usually a bit of tweaking positioning and attachment / breast shaping can sort it.

However, in much the same way as they’ll bite down on anything while teething, sometimes when babies are at the breast but not actively feeding, they do take a nip. It is usually at the end of a feed when the milk has slowed and they’re getting bored, and many mums find they can get clever at spotting when it might be time to break the latch slightly before the danger point!

Breastmilk contains a slight analgesic, and the action of feeding can help teething pain, as well as being soothing generally. It is normal for babies to suckle endlessly, especially at night, while they’re teething, and you can  look into safe co-sleeping options around these times if you haven’t already. But if biting is a big problem then you might want to look at other options for relieving your baby’s discomfort.

If a baby does bite, many mothers find it sends a clear signal to end that feed there and then and say a firm “no”. Other verbal instructions like “wide mouth” , and “gentle” can also help. There are other ideas in the articles below. If a mother screams it can cause nursing strike and become even more stressful.

It must be stressed that teething pain comes and goes and this is not forever. And once the teeth are through, any biting behaviour usually passes quickly.

https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastfeeding-and-teething/

https://www.laleche.org.uk/help-baby-bit/
 

http://www.babycollege.co.uk

 

Visual Development

Group Tummytime

At birth infants are first “listeners” rather than “lookers” as they have all the structures needed to see but haven’t learnt to use them yet. They spend the early months of their lives learning how to see, and develop skills such as focusing, using both eyes together to form one image, depth perception and developing eye-hand co-ordination to be able to make spatial decisions. As they grow the more complex skills develop such as visual perception, so the child can understand and cope with the world around him.

Young babies must use heads to move their eyes, they can’t move them independently. To move their eyes, young babies need to move their heads. Their heads are heavy and the baby needs to develop the musculature of the neck, shoulders and back to be able to use their eyes sufficiently to begin with. It is hard work and why tumytime can be exhausting for very little babies. At first babies do not like being on their tummies but can be helped by you attracting their attention and giving them lots of encouragement. Make it fun a fun activity, get down on the floor with them and give lots of encouragement. It’s no fun just being put down on tummy and not being able to see what is going on. Once the baby has strengthened their head and neck and can lift it up with ease, the world becomes a bigger and much more interesting place than the ceiling they previously saw. Being used to playing on their tummy on the floor, allows your baby the opportunity to reach and wriggle towards an object. This is the start of crawling, the first independent movement.

Newborn babies see patterns of light and dark and shades of grey. The rods of the eye being more mature than the cones. Whilst the rods are used for the reception of geometric shapes and the light and dark shades, as the cones mature so too does the baby’s perception of colour and irregular shapes. As newborns can only focus at 8 to 12 inches everything is blurred. They learn to focus by looking at faces and then at objects brought near to them. That is why is sitting with your baby in your arms and just staring at them, smiling and talking to them is so worthwhile, if not a little bit heavenly.

When they begin to follow moving objects with their eyes, tracking and eye teaming (yoking) skills start to develop and they learn to co-ordinate their eye movements. Eye/hand co-ordination begins when the child first reaches out for an object.

Visual Development from birth to 12 months:

Visual Development

  • At birth, your baby sees only in black and white and shades of grey. Within a few days after birth, infants prefer looking at an image of their mother’s face to that of a stranger. Your baby’s eyes are not very sensitive to light in the first month of life.
  •  One week after birth, they can see red, orange, yellow and green. But it takes a little longer for them to be able to see blue and violet. This is because blue light has shorter wavelengths, and fewer colour receptors exist in the human retina for blue light.
  •  By three months Infants develop sharper visual acuity (the sharpness or clarity of vision that enables one to distinguish fine details and shapes) during this period, and their eyes are beginning to move better as a team. Infants at this stage of development are learning how to shift their gaze from one object to another without having to move their head. And their eyes are becoming more sensitive to light
  •  A four-month old can see full colour
  •  By six months significant advances have taken place in the vision centers of the brain, allowing your infant to see more distinctly and move his eyes quicker and more accurately to follow moving objects. Colour vision should be similar to that of an adult. Babies also have better eye-hand coordination at 4 to 6 months of age
  •  Between seven and twelve months: Your child is now mobile, crawling about and covering more distance than you could ever have imagined. They will be better at judging distances and more accurate at grasping and throwing objects. At this stage, infants are developing a better awareness of their overall body and are learning how to coordinate their vision with their body movements. Your infant’s eyes maybe beginning to change colour.

How to stimulate your baby’s visual development

During the first 4 months:

• Use a nightlight or other dim lamp in your baby’s room.
• Change the cot’s position frequently and your child’s position in it.
• Keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby’s focus of about eight to 12 inches.
• Talk to your baby as you walk around the room.
• Alternate right and left sides with each feeding.
• Hang a mobile above and outside the cot.

Between 4 and 8 months:

• Help your baby explore different shapes and textures with his or her fingers (treasure basket)
• Give your baby the freedom to crawl and explore.
• Hang objects across the cot.
• Play “patty cake” and “peek-a-boo” with your baby.

Between 8 to 12 months:

• Don’t encourage early walking; crawling is important in developing eye-hand-foot-body coordination. Roll balls, use tunnels, put toys slightly out of reach to encourage crawling
• Give your baby stacking and take-apart toys.
• Provide your baby with objects he or she can hold and see at the same time

http://www.babycollege.co.uk

 

 

Motherese and why it’s so important.

Lisa & Alistair

Babies start cooing very early on in response to parent’s motherese (infant-directed speech) and by the time they are about six or seven months they start to babble.

What is Motherese

This “silly” language is not just restricted to mums, you’ll find any adult interacting with a baby (or an animal!) will adopt the same intonation, babbles and playful style.

When you talk using motherese you are animated and pitch it higher than normal conversation (babies love high pitch and melodious sound and they demonstrate this with their musical preferences). Babies love motherese and react positively to it.

Research shows that babies love to listen to motherese rather than mums talking to other adults. Nothing to do with the choice of words – it’s all in the delivery. It’s a language of comfort and research shows that even adults feel comforted by it.

How: pitch rises by an octave or more, it has a melodic intonation almost song like, with slow and elongated vowels. This helps babies to start sorting out the language puzzle. When talking in infant-directed speech you automatically start using short simple sentences which you repeat often.

Research shows that infant-directed speech provides babies with well-formed, elongated consonants and vowels giving clear examples of speech. Parents pronounce words properly and clearly when they talk to their babies. This is the perfect way to talk to your babies to really encourage their early language development.

Why Do Babies Babble?

During the cooing and babbling stage, scientists believe that babies are making mouth-to-sound maps so that they know exactly where their lips, tongues, mouths and jaws are during the production of sound (mouth mapping).  Whilst they are cooing and babbling babies often have their fingers and hands in their mouths too so that it can be a tactile experience.  Language development is a sensory experience using auditory, visual and tactile stimulation to understand the language puzzle.

Babies make six babbling sounds b, d, m, g, k, p with an “ah” from whichever language they are talked to in until 12 months. Your baby will start to make a string of consonant/vowel combinations: dadadada, adadad, babababa (so no wonder that many baby’s first word is dada or daddy; coincidence or  design?!)

At Baby College we teach these basic sounds that baby will naturally speak and during the classes parents work closely with their  baby with plenty of eye contact, intonation and encouragement. Motherese is encouraged, as is repetition, smiles and lively and interesting conversation.  Not forgetting nursery rhymes which replicate the use of motherese: simple, melodic, high pitched repetitive lyrics which really encourage the development of those early language skills.

http://www.babycollege.co.uk

 

Can You Recognise Your Baby’s Infant Reflexes?

Moro Reflex

Moro Reflex

As an adult we all know the reflex reaction of the doctor hitting our knee with a hammer or of the “gasp” reflex ─ the sharp intake of breath when a warm shower suddenly turns cold. It’s an automatic response that you cannot control.

Infants have reflexes too. These are automatic, are in-built, and are designed to ensure they survive the important first months of life and they have about 70 (yes 70!!)

Here is a guide to some of the more obvious reflexes that you may have already spotted.

Rooting Reflex and Sucking Reflex

The Rooting reflex causes the baby to turn his head and therefore his mouth towards the nipple to feed. This is why midwives tell new mums to brush the nipple at the side of the baby’s mouth – the automatic rooting reflex ensures that the baby will turn their head towards the nipple. The sucking reflex makes the lips purse and therefore creates a seal around the nipple. These two reflexes work together to ensure that your newborn baby feeds (and therefore survives!)

As your baby becomes stronger these reflexes become overwritten with more mature adult responses so that they can move their heads independently and decide for themselves when they want to root and suck.

The Palmar Grasp Reflex

The Palmar or Grasp reflex is first apparent 11 weeks after conception and is fully present at the birth of your baby. It develops from an involuntary grasp to a voluntary release and pincer grasp by the time they are around 32 weeks old. It is essential for developing fine motor skills and enhancing the ability to recognise an object only by feel and for sensory input. The Palmar reflex may possibly be an evolutionary hangover which allowed our very distant ancestors to cling to their parent’s fur. This is the reflex that allows babies to hang on a clothes line (allegedly! Do not try this at home!!). Your baby’s grip is strong but unpredictable; though they may be able to support their own weight, they may also release their grip suddenly and without warning – so it remains a theoretical argument and not something to be tested!!

Grasp reflex FB

As motor control improves through proper neural development, the Palmar reflex matures into the pincer grip. You can help this process by doing lots of activities that involve playing with your baby’s fingers (massage, singing and doing the actions for This Little Piggy Went to Market, stroking the back of their hand etc.)

The Moro Reflex

If your new baby is startled by a loud noise, a sudden movement, or feels like they’re falling, they might respond in a particular way. They might suddenly extend their arms and legs, arch their back, and then curl everything in again. Your baby may or may not cry when they do this.

This is an involuntary startle response called the Moro reflex. Your baby does this reflexively in response to being startled. It’s something that newborn babies do to let you know that they may be in danger and that you should rescue them. This reflex should be replaced by an adult startle response within a couple of months and you will notice this transition when you do fun movement games with your baby. When the Moro reflex is still present your baby my squeeze up their face and arms may shoot out to the side, as the months pass this look of ‘terror’ this will be replaced with smiles and squeals of delight.

The ATNR Reflex

The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) emerges in-utero at around 18 weeks after conception and normally remains until around 6 months after birth (though it can be seen for longer when babies are asleep). The reflex is initiated when the head is turned to the left or the right whilst the baby lies on its back. You may have noticed that when your baby turns their head it causes the arm and the leg on one side to extend, whilst the limbs on the opposite side flex (curl) – this is the ATNR reflex. It is often called the “fencing” reflex because if your baby’s head turns to the right, their right arm and leg will automatically extend whilst their left arm and leg both flex and they will look like they are holding the classic fencing position.
ATNR Reflex

The purpose of the ATNR is to provide stimulation for developing muscle tone and the vestibular system and helps with hand-eye co-ordination. Interestingly it also assists with the birthing process by inhibiting limb movement and slowing it down so that the baby uses a “corkscrew” movement through the birth passage.

Spend some time playing and moving your baby and see if you can spot one of these reflexes.

http://www.babycollege.co.uk

 

 

Nature vs. Nurture

116

The Nature vs. Nurture argument is an age-old discussion that has occupied many academics in the field of child development and beyond. Are we born with our intelligence, ability to learn, and personality traits pre-destined?  Or does our environment, the method in which we are raised and educated, have the ability to make drastic changes?

The underlying question of this debate is, whether genetic factors (nature) or environmental factors (nurture) are more important in determining child development. Nature refers to biological or hereditary information that affects child development and learning. Nurture refers to the day to day interactions children encounter in their environment.

Whether one sides with “nature” or “nurture” makes a tremendous difference in the way we, both as parents and a society, raise our children

During large parts of the 20th century “behavourism“ dominated the field of psychology.  It proposed that all our actions, from the simplest smile to the most sophisticated chess move, are learned through reward and punishment, trial-and-error interactions with other people and objects in the world. Babies, according to this view, are born as “blank slates,” without predispositions, and infinitely malleable through parental feedback and tutoring.

Towards the latter part of the century huge leaps were made in the field of molecular biology and these advances have led many to believe that parents and society make little difference. A child’s fate, according to this view, is largely determined by heredity, leaving little we can do to improve matters.

Neuroscientists find it hard to fully accept this position. Of course genes are important, but anyone who has ever studied nerve cells can tell you how remarkably plastic they are. The brain itself is literally molded by experience: every sight, sound, and thought leaves an imprint on specific neural circuits, modifying the way future sights, sounds, and thoughts will be registered. Brain hardware is not fixed, but living, dynamic tissue that is constantly updating itself to meet the sensory, motor, emotional, and intellectual demands at hand.

The effect of nature and nurture working together is most critically important in the earliest years of the child’s life when the growth of the brain is at its highest. The brain’s plasticity and the child’s predisposition to learn are shaped by environmental influences and stimulation of physical, emotional, social, cultural and cognitive nature in creating new pathways in learning and development. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge that nature is inseparable from nurture and that both nature and nurture are sources of human potential and growth.

That is why attachment and how parents/caregivers respond to the child play such an essential part in building firm and positive foundations for the child’s success in life.

At Baby College we believe in the importance of early experiences and environment and the influence they will have throughout a child’s life.  If parents or caregivers agree then they will also be keen to provide stimulating activities for their children at this early age.

http://www.babycollege.co.uk

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