You have successfully navigated the first three months. You may feel you are living in a blur and cannot believe how your little one is now babbling, rolling over, and transferring objects from one hand to the other. Where has the time gone? The next four to eight months cover some exciting milestones where your baby is learning to coordinate vision, touch, and hearing as well as mastering important motor skills such as independent sitting, grasping, and rolling over. Just like the previous three months tummy time is still very important. As much as possible allow your baby to be on his tummy so he can develop strong neck and upper back muscles. Your baby may even be getting close to or already crawling at this stage. Crawling is such an important milestone that we will discuss it in detail in next week’s blog.
Anything and everything will be put into the mouth. It is important to keep small objects out of reach to prevent choking. One trick we did in our home with our older children was to use a paper towel tube and test to see if objects could fit through the tube. The older two had fun testing the toys and determining if they were too small for baby. We then placed these items in a separate place out of reach of baby. It helped the older children to be aware of what items were too small for baby.
Your infant should be able to lift his head, push up using his arms, and eventually arch his back to hold his chest off the ground. The goal during this period is to strengthen his upper body in preparation to sit up. You may also find he is kicking the legs and swimming with the arms. These movements are important for rolling over. By month eight he should be able to roll from stomach to back and back to stomach.
It is important to not rely on devices and let your baby “safe” fall and experience the world around them. Devices should only be utilized for short periods of times. They do not allow baby to gain muscle control, move freely, and if used too early can force them into a stage baby is not physically ready for. It will be the only way they will learn how to gain confidence to master the skills independently. Next, let’s break-down the progression of proper sitting. The tripod sit is the first stage of sitting that baby may try from four to six months of age. Baby will prop forward on his arms while sitting on the floor. Placing toys in front of him on a pillow at eye level will encourage sitting up straighter to engage those important trunk muscles. He should also be able to reach forward to grasp the toys with both hands to practice balancing without hand support.
Around this 4 month period as they begin to gain confidence and control in the tripod position challenge baby by raising a toy in the air and have the child look up at the toy and attempt to raise his arms to grab the toy. This progression in movement will activate the core and back muscles. You may keep a hand on him to prevent falling but remember “safe” falling or wobbling is a great way for your little one to gain proprioception or awareness of his body in space.
The final stage is taking the toy and moving it from side to side encouraging your child to reach to the sides, up, down, and forward. You will continue to encourage development of balance and strength. While he is working on mature sitting skills you can introduce them to a “Ring Sit” position. You can place baby’s knees wide apart, but keep the feet touching, making a “ring” formation. This provides a wide base for baby, protects the hips, and allows them a sturdy base of support to sit independently. As baby tips left to right you may notice he is now reaching the arm out to catch himself and then push to center. Sitting with a straight back and using both hands to play is a sign he progressed properly into independent sitting. Continue to move toys further away forcing him to reach further away and move from a sitting position to his tummy safely using trunk control.
In review, things that will help with independent sitting:
- Head control – tummy time
- Body awareness – identifying his own hands, feet, toes
- Wobble Practice – Allow baby when he shows signs of sitting readiness to practice “falling” on a soft/padded surface for a few minutes at a time. Pillows or blankets make a great safe fall zone.
You may have started food introduction at this time as well. It is a great opportunity for baby to practice grasping utensils or food with their fingers and thumb. Fine motor skills are being developed. They may play with their food more than they will eat it or get it into their mouths. It is okay for them to get messy. Don’t be tempted to always feed them by hand just to keep them clean. Eating and trying different textures should be fun. By six to eight months of age they should be able to easily transfer objects from hand to hand, turn and twist them all over. Your baby’s vision is also developing quickly, and he can focus and follow movements, view complex patterns, shapes, and colors. Babbling and looking at himself in the mirror is also fascinating for infants and can help them learn awareness of self and object permanence.
By the end of this period your little one should be able to perform:
- Rolling over from stomach to back and back to stomach
- Sitting up with and without support of his hands
- Reaching for objects with one hand, shaking and banging them around
- Transferring objects from one hand to the other
- Fine motor skills such as grasping objects and putting them in his mouth
- Supporting his body weight when on legs and being held in the upright position
All these skills are setting baby up for crawling and walking. Prepare yourself because when these two skills happen you will be frantically trying to baby proof your home to keep your little one safe. Next week we will focus on crawling and why it is one of the most important milestones your little one should master.
If a delay in your child’s development is suspected please consider being proactive versus taking the wait and watch approach. There are many options a trained healthcare professional can provide to help you and your baby achieve these milestones. I am always here to help at Venture Chiropractic or if an outside referral is needed I will make sure we get you and your baby to the proper healthcare professional for an evaluation. Early diagnosis and intervention is important for future development and learning.
–Melanie Dockter, DC CACCP