Archive for the Developmental Category
Learning to sit on her own gives your baby a new perspective on her world. Once her back and neck muscles are strong enough to hold her upright and she’s figured out where to put her legs so she won’t topple over, it’s just a matter of time until she moves on to crawling, standing, and walking.
When it develops
Most babies start to learn to sit independently at about the same time they’re manage rolling over and holding their head up. The muscles they need to use develop gradually from birth, finally getting strong enough sometime between four and seven months. By the time they’re eight months old, 90 per cent of babies can sit well without support.
How it develops
While you can prop your baby in a sitting position almost from day one, true independent sitting doesn’t begin until your baby has head control. Starting at about four months, your baby’s neck and head muscles strengthen rapidly, and she’ll learn to raise and hold her head up while she’s lying on her stomach.
Next she’ll figure out how to prop herself up on her arms and hold her chest off the ground, like a mini-pushup. By five months she may be able to sit momentarily without assistance, though you should stay nearby to provide support and surround her with pillows to cushion a possible fall.
Soon she’ll figure out how to maintain her balance while seated by leaning forward on one or both arms, and by seven months she’ll probably be able to sit unsupported (which will free her hands for exploring), and she’ll learn how to turn when sitting to reach a desired object. At this point she may even be able to get into a sitting position from lying on her stomach by pushing up on her arms. By the time she’s eight months old, she’ll likely be sitting well without support.
Once she figures out that she can lunge forward from a sitting position and balance on her hands and knees, your baby will be almost ready to crawl, a skill most children master completely by the time they’re a year old. She may get the hang of moving forward (or backward) on all fours as early as six or seven months old; once she does, she’ll be very mobile and very curious, so get your childproofing done well in advance.
Most paediatricians also recommend waiting until your baby is sitting with minimal support before starting her on solid foods.
You can help your baby get ready to sit by encouraging her to play face-down on the floor and then prompting her to look up. Lifting her head and chest to see toys or your face helps strengthen her neck muscles and develops the head control necessary for sitting up. Using a bright toy or one that makes noise is a good way to also make sure her hearing and vision are on the right track. Once your baby can sit fairly well, put toys and other intriguing objects just out of her reach — they’ll hold her attention as she learns to balance herself with her arms.
As always, and especially when she’s just learning to sit, be sure to stay close to your baby in case she falls — or wants to show off her new skill.
When to be concerned
If your baby isn’t able to hold her head up steadily by the time she’s about six months old and hasn’t started learning to prop herself up on her arms, bring it up the next time you talk to your doctor or health visitor. Babies develop skills differently, some more quickly than others, but head control is essential to sitting independently, and sitting is key to crawling, standing, and learning to walk. Keep in mind that premature babies may reach this and other milestones later than their peers.
Crawling helps your baby strengthen her muscles enough to walk and is her first way of getting around efficiently on her own. In the traditional crawl, she’ll first learn to balance on her hands and knees. Then she’ll figure out how to move forward and backward from this posture by pushing off with her knees.
When it develops
Most babies learn to crawl between six and 10 months. But some children never crawl, instead opting for bottom shuffling, slithering on their stomach, or moving directly to pulling up, standing, and walking. It’s getting mobile that’s important, no matter how your baby does it.
How it develops
Crawling typically comes after a baby is able to sit well without support, which most children can do by the time they’re six or seven months old. After this point, she can hold her head up to look around, and her arm, leg, and back muscles are strong enough to keep her from falling on the floor when she gets on her hands and knees.
Over the next couple of months, your baby gradually learns to move confidently from a sitting position to being on all fours, and she soon realizes she can rock back and forth when she’s got her limbs straight and her body parallel to the floor.
Somewhere around nine or 10 months, she’ll figure out that pushing off with her knees gives her just the boost she needs to get mobile. As she gains proficiency, she’ll learn to go from a crawling position back into a sitting position. She’ll also master the advanced technique of cross-crawling: moving one arm and the opposite leg together when she moves forward, rather than using an arm and a leg from the same side. After that, it’s just a matter of practice making perfect — look for her to be a really competent crawler by the time she’s a year old.
If your baby crawls backward, is a bottom shuffler (scoots around on her posterior using a hand behind her and a foot in front of her to propel herself), or skips the crawling stage in favour of walking, don’t worry. As long as she’s getting mobile — no matter how she does it — she’s fine.
After your baby has mastered crawling, the only thing standing between her and complete mobility is learning to walk. To that end, she’ll soon begin pulling herself up on everything she can reach, whether it’s the coffee table or grandma’s leg. Once she gets the feel of balancing on her legs, she’ll be ready to stand on her own and cruise while holding onto furniture, and then it’s just a matter of time till she’s walking, running, jumping, and leaping.
As with skills such as reaching and grabbing, the best way to encourage crawling is to place toys and other desirable objects — even yourself — just beyond your baby’s reach. You can also use pillows, boxes, and sofa cushions to create obstacle courses for her to negotiate. This will help improve her confidence, speed, and agility. Just don’t leave her alone — if she gets stuck under a pillow or box, she’ll surely be frightened and may be in danger of smothering.
A crawling baby can get into a lot of mischief. Make sure your house is childproofed, and put a special emphasis on stairway gates. Your baby will be drawn to stairs like an explorer to Mount Everest, but they can be dangerous, so keep them off-limits until your baby has really mastered this skill (usually at about 12 months) — and even then, supervise her expeditions.
You don’t have to invest in shoes just yet. Your baby won’t need to wear footwear regularly until she’s mastered walking.
When to be concerned
Babies develop skills differently, some more quickly than others, but if your child hasn’t shown an interest in getting mobile by some means (whether it’s creeping, crawling, rolling, or scooting), worked out how to move her arms and legs together in a coordinated motion, or learned to use both arms and both legs equally by the time she’s a year old, bring it up at your next doctor’s appointment. Keep in mind that premature babies may reach this and other milestones several months later than their peers.