It is important to keep your baby’s head straight in midline as much as possible however, this does not mean your baby should always be laying flat on their back. Babies who are not given the opportunity to be nursed, carried and positioned in a variety of ways are at risk of developing flat spots on their head (plagiocephaly). This can be prevented by;
• For sleeps, position your baby on their back and alternate the side their head is facing. For some babies they may naturally be more inclined to turn their head to one side if there is a stimulus of interest in that direction (eg their parents bed, or the door). If this is the case for your baby, you can alternate the direction they are sleeping in the cot/bassinet each sleep.
• There are a variety of safe and suitable positions to carry and nurse your baby to encourage even head shape and muscle development. These include; on their tummy with the top of their head resting on your shoulder, in side lying (facing out), on their tummy across your knees, sitting up facing out and the standard nursing position.
• During awake times, ensure your baby has the opportunity to engage and play in a variety of positions including on the floor and on a carer. Positions for floor play include supported side lying, laying in prone on their tummy and on their back with suspended toys to look at and reach for. Towels are a great way to nest and support your baby when laying on their tummy or in side lying. You can also use several previously suggested carrying positions, along with laying your baby on its back propped on your knees to engage using songs with your baby.
• As your baby grows, offer toys, dummy’s and objects of interest (including yourself) from different sides and positions. This will encourage your baby to use their eyes and ears to locate you before moving their arms and body.
Nappy changes are also a great opportunity for visual and muscle development. Put down and pick up your baby in different positions including on their side, tummy and back. As your baby grows you can also encourage head and neck strength development by supporting them to come into a sitting position. Stroking your baby’s chest or tummy will encourage them to bring their hands towards the middle of their body. You can also bring your baby’s arms across its chest to give themselves “a cuddle”.
Some helpful tips:
⇒ Swaddle your baby with their arms tucked up towards their chest. This will not only prevent the startle reflex but also replicate the tucked up tight sensations they experienced whilst in the womb.
⇒ Always supervise your baby, particularly when using props such as towels and alternative positions (eg side lying).
⇒ Talk to your baby about what you are doing. This can be during everyday routines such as changing their nappy or when out and about in the car or pram.
⇒ Avoid contraptions and equipment such as walkers or bouncers that will not allow free range of movement, and refrain from positioning your baby in ways it may not be developmentally ready for.
This is such a special time for you, your partner and any other family members in your house. Please contact the office if you would like additional information or pictures that complement the information provided in this post.
Author: Kim Elter – Occupational Therapist