Sensory Needs of Infants

Newborn babies learn about the world through sensory experiences and parental guidance. In thinking about all your infant’s sensory needs, consider that sensory input can calm or stimulate your infant. If you want to soothe or calm your infant, the notion of “recreating the womb space” would be best. For example, white noise or a rhythmic sound like a heartbeat; a dark room or dimmed lighting; the deep touch pressure provided by swaddling; bouncing or swaying movement; and finally, sucking a pacifier, your finger or their own thumb.

If you want to provide sensory input that stimulates and enriches your infant’s development, think variety. Touching is a key sense for infants. Books and toys that have rough, smooth, bumpy and crinkly parts are great to use. For all babies, infant massage has many benefits.Just simply being held has tremndous benefits.

 Movement is a struggle for some infants, while some crave it, others are frightened by it. Rocking, bouncing and swinging are all activities that can be introduced gradually to help overcome sensitivity to movement. Wearing or carrying your baby while going for walks or doing light chores can provide movement, deep touch pressure and sound (your heartbeat) all together!

Infants also need a variety of visuals to look at. Infants respond to bold patterns and bright colors at first. Point things out in your home, the community or in nature. People’s faces are another fascination for babies. Hold your baby's gaze during feeding time and speak softly to capture her attention.

Music and singing can be combined with all of the above activities. White noise or ocean waves are soothing while drums and high-pitched sounds are alerting. Mimic your baby’s sounds back to them to encourage language development. By combining sensory inputs you are further enhancing their development. However, recognize that "multi-sensory” input can be too much for infant’s that are sensitive or at certain times of the day (i.e. when tired or hungry).


Tummy Time – Why and How?

Now that the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to put babies to sleep on their back and babies spend time on their back in car seats, swings and bouncy seats, babies are spending less time on their stomachs. Therefore, they are not as use to or comfortable being on their stomach and they tend to be more comfy on their back, often crying or fussing when on their stomach.

Why is tummy time so important?

The experience of being on their tummy helps babies learn to push up, roll over, sit up, crawl, and pull to a stand. These are all important developmental milestones in a baby’s first year.

How can we help babies to get the experience of tummy time?

Once you place your baby on his stomach, distraction can help until he gets used to it. Join your baby on the floor. Get face to face and encourage him, sing to him, shake his rattle, make funny faces and play peek-a-boo. You could place a favorite toy or new toy within reach or use a tummy time gym with mirrors, lights, music and toys attached. Another option is to lay your baby tummy-down on your tummy, either on the floor, in a recliner, or even in the bath.

If your child has some neck strength and head control (usually by age 3 or 4 months), try propping him on a rolled towel or nursing pillow. Place the towel or pillow under his chest and armpits, with his arms in front of it. Another idea is rolling your baby on a big exercise ball. Hold him on it tummy-down while you gently rock the ball back and forth.

For safety reasons, be sure to supervise your baby during tummy time.

More Tummy Time Tips

Tip: Make sure your child's sitter or daycare provider knows about the importance of tummy time when your baby's awake as well as the importance placing your baby on his back to sleep.

Tip: Make sure your baby isn't hungry or tired when you set him on his tummy. On the other hand, don't place him on a full belly, which might be uncomfortable or worsen reflux. When he starts to cry — even if it's only been a minute — try to coax him a bit longer by talking with him or playing with him. When he's had enough, pick him up and try again later. His tolerance for tummy time is likely to increase gradually with experience and a bit of coaxing

Tip: Try to figure out if there's anything in particular about tummy time that your baby finds distressing. Maybe his blanket gets too scrunched under him or the carpet is too scratchy. Maybe it's too cold on the floor, or too slippery. Maybe he needs his thumb, hand or pacifier to suck on.

What are your tummy time ideas? Please share!


Products That Work Well Together

Sometimes a parent’s question leads to a search for a relevant solution. Or sometimes, weeks after I’ve been asked the question, I just come upon a product that would be the perfect solution. I thought I would share with you one such product.

Recently, a few parents have asked me how to swaddle their baby while using the Baby Stay Asleep. There are many benefits to swaddling a baby for sleeping. It helps a baby feel warm and secure; it can help prevent a baby from throwing his arms up and waking himself, or even scratching his face. Swaddling is an old and common practice. It is mentioned in the popular parenting book "The Happiest Baby on the Block" which I would also recommend!

Anyways, the product I came across is called the SwaddleBuddy Suit. I have not tried this product myself, but it looks like it solves the problem of how to swaddle your baby while using the Baby Stay Asleep. So check it out!



Today was the first day for my son’s summer camp at his new school. We moved to California from New Hampshire four days ago. My son has always been pretty good with transitions. The first day of Preschool he gave me a kiss and a hug, said good-bye – did not shed a tear. The first day of Kindergarten he got the bus with smile on his face and did not look back!

So, I was really caught off guard when Luke refused to get out of the car and cried and told me he was not going to like this school! Talk about unexpected! I took a deep breath and tried to reason with him, that did not work. So I tried humor- what we call in our house “the-upside-down-tickle-treatment” and thankfully that did work! I ended up staying at school for two hours before leaving him. I went back to the car and cried myself. At that moment I wanted to go back to New Hampshire, back to what was comfortable. I had underestimated the impact this move would have on my son and on me. I am happy to report that when I picked him up in the afternoon, he told me he liked summer camp. 

Six years ago, I had also underestimated my transition to motherhood. I was someone who had always worked with kids of all ages. I thought – I’ve got this motherhood thing, no problem! Well, I was so wrong when a few weeks after my son was born, he was crying all the time, not sleeping well and not eating well. He was finally diagnosed with infant acid reflux. Talk about unexpected! You can read more about my experience as a mother bonding with a newborn with reflux in a previous blog. 


When and How Should I Introduce Solid Foods to a Baby with Reflux?

A mom on twitter asked me about how to introduce solids to an infant with reflux. So here are my thoughts….

When to start? It most often recommended to start at 6 months, although some pediatricians will recommend as early as 4 months. Sometimes pediatricians may recommend putting baby cereal in your baby’s bottle to help with reflux. This has not been shown to be effective and some babies are actually sensitive to rice or oatmeal cereal causing gas, bloating, or constipation, which will further contribute to their discomfort. 

How do you know they’re ready? Your baby can sit up with support, can hold his/her head steady when sitting and shows interest in your food. It is often recommended to start with cereal. However, there is no reason not to start with fruits or vegetables. Try introducing one new food every 4 – 7 days. Look for signs of food sensitivity or intolerance, such as eczema, increased fussiness, rash, diarrhea or constipation; or signs of a food allergy, such as hives, swelling or difficulty breathing.

If your baby seems not to like a food – don’t give up! On average it takes introducing a new food 10 times for a baby to get used to it.  Remember to have fun with them- babies learn through play!

Finally, I wouldn’t expect all babies to eat large quantities. Most babies with reflux and children with reflux will eat small, frequent meals. My five-year still does!

 For more information: 

Introducing Solid Foods to a Baby with Reflux

Babies and Solid Foods: What to serve when

Food Allergies