This blog post is an interview I’ve done with Wendy Rohin, a pediatric physical therapist, specializing in prematurity and infant development for over 10 years! She is the one-woman-show behind the blog everythingbabies.org.  She has recently started offering on-lines services for parents and babies to get help without leaving their living room! In addition to working with over 150 babies in her career, she is also a full-time working mom of a NICU graduate who struggled with severe reflux for the first year, so she gets it! She can definitely relate to the struggles during the first year and really wants parents

She can definitely relate to the struggles during the first year and really wants parents to feel empowered with accurate information on how to help baby get off on the right foot. She’s also super excited to announce her new Facebook group “Preemie Power” which is a place for expecting moms or parents of preemies and infants to get their questions answered by an expert in the field that can also relate to the struggle and overwhelm of parenting a new baby, especially if they’ve just come home from the NICU.

So she’s a physical therapist, an infant development expert, parent-baby advocate, parent/ baby on-line coach, and consultant! She will be your compassionate, empathetic friend who understands that every single baby and parent are different with different needs. You have so many questions as a mom of a newborn, no matter how many children you have! She will give you the answers you need that you haven’t gotten yet from your pediatrician or any baby book in circulation!

What is a pediatric therapist? Why do you call yourself a “baby expert”?

A pediatric physical therapist, in a nutshell, helps children of all ages with any motor development issues they are having. Most people think of injuries, surgeries or birth defects like Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome or Muscular Dystrophy. Preemies, newborns, infants and toddlers come to me with many other concerns or diagnoses including: prematurity, reflux, floppy muscle tone, spasticity, flat head syndrome, torticollis, breast and or bottle feeding difficulties, undiagnosed developmental delays, crappy feet (pronation), weak muscles, blindness, deafness, and so much more. Working with babies and parents for so long has taught me so much than what I learned in PT school or in my continuing education courses.  And I am a lifelong learner, so if I can’t answer a parent’s question with confidence, I will study the information until I know enough to help.  So I literally educate parents on just about anything that has to do with infant development! That’s what makes me a baby expert!

TUMMY TIME: 

First, can’t have a tummy time convo without talking about SIDS and the back to sleep campaign Within 5 years of the launch of the back to sleep campaign, SIDS rates reduced by a whopping 50%. We must always put our babies on their backs to sleep, period. I’ve met parents who have lost a baby due to SIDS, and I promise you, it is the most devastating loss anyone can bare. I don’t want any of you to have to experience. When the ‘back to sleep’ campaign was launched in the early 90s they made a big mistake. The slogan was going to be “back to sleep tummy to play”, but they thought it would be too confusing and that back to sleep was the most important message to deliver.  So now, more than 20 years later, parents are scared of tummy time.  And this is causing big problems, like reflux, delays in development, abnormal development, flat heads, crooked necks, etc. Tummy time is the foundation of child development. We are wired to start with tummy time at birth and every skill we acquire builds off of tummy time, all the way to adulthood. So missing out on tummy time from the beginning has a direct effect on not only gross motor development, like rolling, sitting and walking, but also fine motor skills, handwriting, speech, language, learning,

Tummy time is the foundation of child development. We are wired to start with tummy time at birth and every skill we acquire builds off of tummy time, all the way to adulthood. So missing out on tummy time from the beginning has a direct effect on not only gross motor development, like rolling, sitting and walking, but also fine motor skills, handwriting, speech, language, learning, attention, and memory!

The good news is, it’s never too late to start!  Wherever a child is struggling, we have to go back in time to the developmental building blocks that were missed or built out of order.  A lack of tummy time is like the foundation of a house built on swampland or a hill susceptible to mudslides. You aren’t going to have a strong, sturdy home if you don’t have that solid foundation.

What’s wrong with putting babies on their backs all the time?

Motor development is the same thing as brain development. How you move and how you interact with the environment dictates how your brain develops. Foundational positions and movements are – Flexion, midline, and crossing midline. Newborns can’t flex against gravity, which decreases or delays their midline orientation, which is vital for the brain to communicate information back and forth between the left side and the right side.

TIME ON THE BACK AND TIME IN THE CARSEAT I call “ ZERO LEARNING TIME’

What mistakes do parents often make that interfere with getting enough tummy time?

Overstimulate baby
Rescue too soon
Prop in sitting Containers!
Leaving them in the car seat too much

What are the best products out there that help babies get more tummy time?

A blanket to lay on, receiving blanket to roll up, mirror, tummy time boppy, pillow, baby wearing wrap, texture toys without batteries or busy patterns

What products to avoid and why?

  1. Floor mat baby gym—too much time on the back, very overstimulating patterns and toys
  2. Exersaucers, Bumbos and other “sitting devices”—gives them an artificial sense of support when upright, interferes with the spine development from the C-shape fetal position to the adult spine with 3 curves. If a baby can’t sit with a straight back, they shouldn’t be sitting. Their back gets stronger in tummy time, not sitting.
  3. Jumpers, walkers and other standing devices—if they can’t sit with a straight back and good head control, they definitely are not ready for jumpers or other standing apparatus.  ALSO, IF BABY CANNOT STAND FLAT FOOTED HOLDING ALL OF THEIR WEIGHT ON THEIR LEGS, THEY ARE AT RISK OF TOE-WALKING AND SHOULD ABSOLUTELY AVOID JUMPERS AND OTHER SUPPORTED STANDING EQUIPMENT.
  4. Busy, flashy toys suspended right in front of their faces!!! The number one complaint from parents of babies is poor sleep day and night, right!  Babies that are overstimulated have a hard time settling down for naps and bedtime. Colic is a symptom of babies being overstimulated all day to the point that they can no longer settle or calm themselves, no matter what you do!
  5. DON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING THE MANUFACTURES SAY ABOUT DEVELOPMENT AND THEIR PRODUCT! DO NOT PUT BABY IN SUPPORTED POSITIONS THEY CAN’T GET INTO OR MAINTAIN THEMSELVES! MORE TIME SITTING, IN CONTAINERS, OR ON THEIR BACKS, LESS TUMMY TIME = LESS LEARNING TIMESITTERS, WALKERS, JUMPERS AT MINIMUM ARE ZERO COGNITIVE LEARNING TIME, IF NOT INTERFERING WITH NORMAL, PHYSIOLOGICAL/NEUROLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT.

QUICK TIPS

Do’s 

1. Start tummy time on day one so it feels natural and normal! It only takes 4 days for a baby to become adverse to tummy time.

2. Aim for 90 minutes a day over the course of the day. Once a baby tolerates 15-20 minutes at a time without fussing, you are in the clear! Three times a day and you’ve met your goal! The more often you do it, the faster they’ll get used to it.

3.  Use your face or mirror as the only visual stimulation in the first 3 months, then very simple tactile toys from 3-6 months

4. Elevate head and shoulders above hips to minimize reflux and decrease the influence

5. vary the scene and positions—see an infographic on variations of tummy time. Get down to their level and engage. Get them out of the car seat and onto their tummies! take a blanket, Moby wrap, etc 6. Limit time in the

6. Limit time in the car seat, babysitting and standing entertainment equipment, and on their backs

Don’ts

1. Visually overstimulate
2. Rescue them the second they start fussing
3. Leave them unsupervised on beds and couches, or with blankets and pillows near their face. 4. Let them fall asleep unsupervised
5. Give up! It’s crucial that your baby gets adequate tummy time to prevent delays or difficulties in all other areas of development until adulthood.
6. Limit time in the car seat, baby-sitting and standing entertainment equipment, and on their backs

Gross Motor Milestones Checklist 

Are you are worried about your baby meeting their milestones on time, or do you wonder what they should be doing next? Then this download is for you! These unique milestones checklists include 43 different gross motor skills that your baby will master between birth and walk. “Bridge skills” are the lesser known, but very important, skills that link the major milestones together.

The author, Wendy Rohin, a pediatric physical therapist specializing in preemies and infant development, makes it easy to understand how it’s not about WHEN your baby will reach the next stage of development, but HOW they get there! Skills in these checklists are categorized by position (ie tummy, back, hands, and knees) so you can easily follow the progression of bridge skills that lead to each major milestone.

A solid foundation of gross motor skills leads to better development of fine motor skills, coordination, speech, language, reading, memory and more! By following these unique checklists, you can take comfort in knowing that your baby is starting off on the right foot and will stay on track for the next 18 years of development!

Click Here to Download The Checklist

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