Motherly Collective

When it comes to trying to help your baby reach milestones, like rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking, the advice you get can be confusing and contradictory. Nevertheless, you’ve bought the gear, downloaded the apps and waded through countless Facebook groups attempting to learn what you can to help your baby reach these goals. You’re doing an amazing job, mama, but it’s time to clear out the noise and trust your instincts. 

In my pediatric physical therapy practice, I’ve seen so many infants come in with flat heads, head-turning preferences and awkward movement patterns. What I notice more and more is that the baby gear, unhelpful apps, and social media tips are actually a big part of the problem. As a solution, I’ll share five simple tips to help your baby thrive when it comes to movement milestones—and they’re all about going back to basics. Here are the new habits I recommend to support your little one’s healthy development and growth. 

5 tips on how to help baby reach milestones

1. Use baby gear sparingly 

I’m going to be blunt: None of it is beneficial. The swings, bouncers, standers, jumpers…  they exist to help you, not your baby. And I totally get it—when you have to cook or take a shower, do what you have to do! But when possible, choose flat surfaces like the floor or a Pack ‘n’ Play instead (the bathroom rug is a great option for pee breaks). 

Vary your baby’s position when you place them down for a few minutes, such as on their back, on their side, and on their tummy. Babywearing is also a great alternative that helps to promote head and trunk control while leaving you hands-free. 

2. Show your baby how 

Think about it like this: Your baby doesn’t even know that rolling exists, much less how to do it. Try physically rolling your baby over when moving them from back to belly or vice versa  (rather than picking them up and placing them back down). 

Same goes for physically lifting their arm up to reach, stepping their foot out to cruise, and everything in between. When your little one is ready for that next skill, take them through it a few times and watch how quickly they  catch on.

3. Pay attention to symmetry 

When your baby achieves a new milestone (congrats!), try to observe if they are doing it on both the right and the left sides. If you notice a strong preference for one side, there is a reason for it (and it’s not that they just like that side better). Purposefully position toys in the opposite direction to encourage symmetry. 

This will help to optimize brain development, coordination, balance and stability. If the asymmetry doesn’t improve after a few weeks, consult a pediatric physical therapist to learn exactly what’s going on and how to best help your little one. These asymmetries don’t typically go away on their own.  

4. Trust your gut

The second your baby was born, you were gifted super-human instincts. If something is concerning you but you keep hearing advice like “just wait and see” or “they’ll do it when  they’re ready”, trust yourself. Keep looking for answers and advocating for your baby. 

If it turns out to be nothing, you’ll feel so much better once you know. And if it turns out to be a sign of something bigger, you’ll be glad you caught it sooner rather than later so it can be more easily addressed. 

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

If your baby is having a difficult time with something, don’t be embarrassed to seek the help  of a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist or any other qualified  practitioner. Pediatricians are not typically trained in the specifics of gross motor milestones, and requesting more help simply shows that you want what’s best for your baby. 

A note on reaching developmental milestones 

There is a wide range of what is considered “normal” when it comes to infant development. But mentalities such as “my baby will do it when they are ready” may be somewhat limiting. Each skill is linked with the development of your baby’s brain, nervous system, sensory system, coordination, and even the regulation of emotions and attention. Speak with a pediatric physical therapist to make sure you’re aware of how your baby is doing with developmental milestones and to see what you can do as a parent to help them reach these important goals.

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