Having a new baby at home is an exciting time for your growing family. There are many steps you can take during this transitional time to keep your baby safe and to help your baby’s posture and movement development, starting with taking them home from the hospital in the well-fitting car seat.
Little Ones (0-6 Months)
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep at night and during naps. Ensure that the baby’s head is turned to the alternate side during each nap to prevent a flat spot from forming on one side of the head (this is called flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly).
- Remember that tummy time is critical for a baby’s development and should be implemented when the baby is awake as much as possible given their age and tolerance (aim for 3 times a day). Tummy time helps the baby to get stronger and promotes their gross motor development. It also prevents flat head syndrome.
- When holding your baby or placing in the carrier, make sure to center their head and body. Encourage your baby to look to both sides. This will help to prevent a condition called congenital muscular torticollis. If you notice signs of congenital muscular torticollis, consult your pediatrician and start physical therapy as soon as possible.
- Keep toys, blankets, sleeping positioners, and bumpers out of the crib. Consider having your baby sleep in a sleep sack to keep their mouths and noses free and clear of any obstruction.
- When bathing your new little one, always keep at least one hand on your baby. Remember, the baby may be very slippery when wet so lift them with caution!
- A two inch guardrail on all sides of your changing table will keep your baby safe and secure. Alternate the baby’s position on the table to promote looking to both sides. Babies can get very squirmy when on the changing table. Always keep one hand on your baby when reaching for wipes or fresh diapers. Store diapers out of your baby’s reach. Babies love putting things in their mouths and could potentially swallow a tiny piece of diaper if torn off.
- Remember to have your baby’s hearing screened early. Language skills start to develop early in the first year of life and hearing and language are closely linked together. If your baby has hearing loss, it is critical that a referral to a speech language pathologist is made to determine an appropriate plan of care for your baby.
Bigger Ones (6-12 Months)
- Continue to promote your baby’s development by placing the toys to the side or just slightly outside their reach so they have to problem solve on how to retrieve the toy.
- When your baby starts crawling, make sure all cleaning products and hazardous materials (including house plants) are placed above their reach. Babies are faster than you think and love exploring new things.
- Cover all electrical outlets with protective plastic pieces. Secure your toilet seat! Some babies love to go splashing in the toilet water and we don’t want them to go for a swim in the bowl!
- Cabinet stoppers are essential so their cute little fingers won’t get pinched when searching for those pots and pans to drum on and climb in and out of!
- Vacuum your rugs and floors carefully before your baby vacuums them for you! Older babies love to pick up tiny pieces that could be easily be swallowed.
- Lower the mattress in the crib once your little one starts to attempt to pull to standing, it will prevent baby from climbing out or, worse, falling out of the crib.
- Install gates near the stairs and kitchen because babies are so quick when they move! Avoid using hazardous baby walkers. Instead, use stationary activity centers that will entertain your baby as well as keep him or her safe and away from stairs, hot liquids, pools or bathtubs.
Congratulations again on your new little one and have lots of fun with your baby as he or she grows and develops!
Updated September 4, 2019
Magdalena Oledzka is a pediatric physical therapist and clinical supervisor at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion at Hospital for Special Surgery. She has a PhD in Pediatric Science, and is board certified as a Pediatric Clinical Specialist and is trained in Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT) in the management and care of children with cerebral palsy and other neuromotor disorders.