Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Home from the Hospital

With all the possibilities out there, what do I really need for my baby when I go home. From a developmental point of view there are 3 things that are important to have right away.

1. A foam mat
2. Light weight baby rattles
3. An easily activiated toy 5-8 inches high

A foam mat such as a puzzle-like reversible floor mat give you a safe but firm surface to get started right away with tummy time. It can be used either alone or initially with a blanket or quilt. Tummy time works best with a firm surface so that the baby has something to push against. The earlier you start tummy time the easier it will be for you and your baby.

A light weight baby rattle such as the "Babie Rattle" from Magical Innovations provides an opportunity to develop grasp and to begin working on arm strengthening. Allowing your baby to get the rattle to their mouth will give them comfort. The soft sound will not startle them.

A toy with some height is great to facilitate tummy time. 5-8 inches puts the toy at babies eye level when they are on their tummy. It gives them something interesting to see.

In summary, these 3 tools will go a long way in getting your baby off to a great start developmentally. These are good ideas for baby shower gifts as well.

Please write back with other ideas you have found that work well for babies just getting home. I would also like to know if there are topics that parents or therapists want to discuss.

Thank you.

Vickie Dakin PT

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Hidden Danger of Baby Chairs

There are some wonderful baby chairs available on the market. The chairs allow even a young baby to sit fully supported in a nearly vertical position. Very often a mom can sit with her child in the chair right by her feet, so that she can touch the child or sooth them if they get fussy. How could these comfortable chairs cause any problems for a baby?

There are 2 major issues. The first is that the baby is so well supported that they do not need to use their own muscles to hold themselves up. The second problem is that when a baby is sitting in a chair, they are missing out on floor time, where development really happens. Floor time, especially tummy time, is critical for a baby to develop their motor skills.

My suggestion for the use of baby chairs is to minimize their use to 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Another idea is to use the chairs is during low energy periods for the baby, such as, when they are tired or not feeling well. Save high energy times for floor time.

I would love to hear any feedback from parents and therapists, pro and con on baby chairs and any other related topics.

Thank you,


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tummy Time Rocks

I have been asked very often what is the one thing I could do for my baby that would make the most difference in their development. The answer is easy, tummy time. The earlier you start putting your baby on their tummy the easier it will be. Since the "Back to Sleep" program started very few babies are getting enough tummy time.

Why is tummy time important? The tummy time position with the elbows under the body and the head up works the muscles in the neck, back and shoulder blades. The shoulder blade muscles allow our arms to move freely and are very important as the basis of many sports, especially ones requiring throwing and using bats, clubs or racquet's. It is the shifting of the body from side to side that works those muscles. Another benefit to tummy time is that the weight on the ribcage helps to stabilize it, which ultimately leads to better breathing. This is especially important in premature babies.

Why does my baby cry or fuss when I put them on their tummy? In my opinion, it is a combination of boredom and hard work. This is even more likely true of former preemies. The longer they were in the "exciting" atmosphere of the NICU the more easily they get bored. Looking at the floor is not too exciting. If your baby fusses on their tummy, try to think of it as complaining rather than distress. Be ready to provide as much entertainment as needed to keep them happy on their tummies.

Suggestions: Tummy time is so important to your babies development it is worth going the extra mile to make it happen. One piece of equipment that every baby can use is a Multipurpose Reversible Foam Mat, available at Sam's club and a few other locations. This mat is firm but provides some cushion, it doesn't "bottom out" and it isn't slippery like many mats. Best of all it consists of squares that fit together like puzzle pieces so you can arrange them to fit your room. The mat along with a few toys that are at eye level with the baby when they are on their tummy will help greatly.

I would love to hear from parents and therapists about their experiences with tummy time. If you would like to hear more of my tummy time ideas, please contact me.

Thank you,

Vickie Dakin PT

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

An Open Invitation To Parents

My name is Vickie Dakin. I have been NDT trained and a specialist working with babies for years. I have been a physical therapist for 30 years and have worked with hundreds of children and their families. Because of this extensive experience, I look at development from a different perspective. I created this blog to share my knowledge about babies and development with parents and other therapists and to encourage others to share what they know.

I am available to answer questions. I will be writing articles on various topics with the emphasis on babies and children from 0-3 years old. I personally invite you to share your thoughts with me as we grow together.