Baby Gear & Toys Through Development
By now, you may have started to realize that babies require with A LOT of gear. It’s true, your itty bitty tiny human comes with an enormous amount of stuff. And every parent has an idea of what items are essential and what you can probably leave off the registry. But getting around with baby safely and comfortably is key.
Whether you’re traveling by car or by foot, here a few baby transport basics to keep in mind:
When it comes to strollers, you’ll probably start with something a bit more heavy-duty until baby approaches 3 years old, and then you may want to switch to an umbrella stroller for another year or so because it’s lighter (and therefore also works well for travelling before the 3-year mark).
You’d be in great shape to start with an UPPAbaby VISTA Stroller (which includes a detachable bassinet that clicks into a stand for the house), and add the lighter Bugaboo Bee for convenience later on.
Car seats 101
Choosing a car seat can be intimidating and overwhelming-there’s a ton of information and a lot at stake. You’ll be using car seats from the time your little one comes home from the hospital until they are about 7 or 8 years old, so choosing the right one is essential.
Below are a few basic car seat types. Keep in mind that it’s important to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible-some experts agree on at least 2 years. For even more information on car seats, check the guidelines in your province:
1. Infant Car Seats (aka “Bucket Seats”):
Designed to protect little ones from day 1, they’re always rear-facing and can typically carry babies up to 22-35lbs or 29-32 inches (typically year 1). These seats have a handle for easy carrying and usually snap in and out of a base that stays in your car, ideally with just one hand. They also often fit directly into your stroller when used with the appropriate adapter. Most parents find them easy and convenient for transferring baby from car to stroller or home (and vice versa) without too much disruption.
2. Convertible Car Seats:
These are larger and heavier than infant car seats. They can be rear facing at first and then turned to forward facing (hence the name). They carry babies from birth (in some cases) up to 40-80lbs or 50 inches. These car seats always stay installed in the car and have a five-point harness system. A fan favourite is the Clek Foonf. Besides being built like a tank with some awesome safety features, this seat is ridiculously easy to install (even I could do it!) and its sleek design and fun colours are a bonus!
3. Booster Seats:
Once your child outgrows the convertible car seat (according to the height and weight limits), they graduate to a booster seat. Boosters use the car’s seat belts and are designed for children who are at least 4 years old and 40lbs. A popular booster is the Diono Monterey XT, designed to fit growing children from 40-120lbs. A simple-to-use dial adjusts the width of the seat to fit a child’s shoulders, and the adjustable headrest is comfortable enough for nap time on-the-go.
Babywearing describes the age-old tradition of carrying babies using long fabrics wrapped around mother’s body. And here’s the thing – it’s super easy once you’ve got the hang of it! You can even babywear your newborn with an infant insert for babies from 7lbs. Get some easy-peasy tips and tricks for getting started in this detailed post.
Babywearing offers parents practicality and freedom to multi-task while attending to their little one – a more “hands-free” approach. Plus, it’s been shown that infants who are carried are generally calmer because skin-to-skin contact is maintained, and constant motion and rhythm have a balancing and soothing effect. As if that weren’t enough, babies who are properly carried have a better natural development of their cranium, spine and postural muscles.
Tummy Time with Baby
If you’re a new parent, chances are the term “tummy time” has crept its way into your vocabulary, but you might still be unsure of the details-here they are!
What is it and why is it important?
Tummy time is an essential part of baby’s muscular, skeletal and nervous system development. Spending time lying on their belly helps baby develop the neck, back and shoulder muscles they need to meet gross motor milestones such as rolling, crawling and sitting up. It also helps to balance out the extended length of time most babies spend on their backs sleeping (due to safe sleep guidelines), or even time spent in strollers or car seats.
When should it start and for how long?
Tummy time can start as early as when baby comes home from the hospital, but many parents wait until the umbilical cord stump has fallen off for baby’s comfort. The current recommendation is at least 20 minutes per day of supervised belly time, gradually increasing in duration as baby gets older. Remember, this doesn’t have to be all at once and can be broken up into shorter sessions starting from just a few minutes. Work up to longer stints-there’s no such thing as too much tummy time!
How should it be done?
Here are 3 activities that will make tummy time fun for both baby and you:
1. Use an activity gym or mat:
Bright colours and interesting textures and sounds make belly play entertaining and enjoyable for baby, so play gyms are extremely useful. This one from Skip Hop is an all-time favourite, and it also comes with a cute supportive tummy time pillow to help keep baby comfortable.
2. Rock and roll on the ball:
Now there’s another reason to get that exercise ball out of the closet! While keeping a firm grip on baby, gently place him tummy down on top of the ball. Once you’re both comfortable, you can begin to slowly roll the ball forward and back, side to side.
3. Get creative:
Get creative: Doing tummy time with baby often means getting creative! Sing songs, play peekaboo, and use props such as mirrors, books, and rattle toys to keep baby engaged and distracted while playing on tummy. This may even include some belly play for mommy and daddy too!
Baby Play for Development
Welcoming a new baby into your home is an exciting time! But let’s face it, all your baby ever seems to do is eat, sleep, poop and cry. But it’s never too early to start engaging and playing with your wee one-in fact, early play and interaction with their environment and their caregivers is one of the most important ways babies grow, develop and reach their milestones.
By choosing activities and toys that give baby opportunities to learn and practice new skills, you will set the stage for encouraging exploration and early learning. Here’s your step-by-step activity and toy guide for babies:
Newborns (0-1 month):
No one loves a cozy swing or bouncer like your new baby. However, it’s also important to include opportunities for movement throughout the day. One of the biggest developmental milestones for your new baby is to stretch out of the curled up fetal position they spent the last 40 weeks in. This is where tummy time comes into play.
Before learning to grasp objects or sit up, your baby will most appreciate things she can look at and listen to. Vision is a bit fuzzy at first, but facial recognition occurs as early as 1 month. As you continue with tummy time, your baby will begin to hold her head up for brief periods of time-she may turn her head to find your face or a nearby high-contrast object, or she may turn toward the sound of shaking rattle or a familiar voice. You’ll also notice big changes in arm and hand movements as she becomes more outstretched and active-toys that dangle may help encourage more hand exploration, such as:
- High contrast mobiles
- Musical toys and brightly coloured rattles
- Overhead play gyms keep those hands moving and exploring
When on his tummy, your baby will now be able to raise his shoulders and chest and possibly even prop himself on his arms. He may even roll over a few times accidentally! To get in some extra rolling practice, try putting baby in side-lying position. He’ll soon discover how much fun his hands are, and grasp toys placed in his hands or reach for interesting objects. Try placing objects just out of baby’s reach to help him explore. Babies also begin exploring with their mouths, and some may even begin the teething process (ouch!). At this stage, try:
- Easily manipulated toys to grasp and crinkle books to keep baby captivated
- Mirrors to delight babies as they discover themselves (perfect for tummy time fun!)
- Soft (and safe) teething toys for easing discomfort
Baby Massage for Development
Grownups aren’t the only ones who love getting a relaxing massage now and then-as it turns out, babies also find gentle strokes and a soft touch relaxing and therapeutic. There’s even research to suggest that massaging your baby will help bolster their immune system and boost motor skills and brain development. Not to mention, more of that precious skin-to-skin contact!
Whether it’s to soothe your little one to dreamland or to ease a gassy belly, a gentle massage can work miracles for your baby – and it’s all in your tender touch. Here are 3 easy massage moves that your baby will love:
1. Tummy circles:
Place your hands at the level of your baby’s belly button. In a clockwise motion, rub your fingertips gently over her tummy in a circular motion and continue for as long as needed. Massaging baby’s tummy is a great way to relieve gas, constipation and soothe fussiness. Be careful of that healing umbilical cord!
2. Foot strokes:
Using the gentle pressure of your thumb, stroke the bottom of your baby’s foot from heel to toes in an upward sweeping motion, uncurling and stroking the toes. Be careful not to pull any toes but instead light massage each toe to the tip. Reflexologists believe that gently massaging feet stimulate nerve endings and may help to soothe and relax baby.
3. Chest opener:
Put your hands together over baby’s chest. Gently stroke your hands outward from the center. Repeat several times to help encourage calmness and relaxation before bed.
Before you start, here are a few more tips that will set you up for massage success:
- Try massaging baby around the same time every day- before bedtime often helps them to wind down and get ready for sleep
- Find a room that’s comfortable and quiet without too many distractions
- Use a massage oil that’s edible and unscented-good options include coconut, grapeseed, or avocado oil. A favourite is the Penny Lane Organics 100% Natural Mommy and Baby Massage Oil with coconut oil, jojoba oil, and sweet smelling orange essential oil
- Don’t forget to follow your baby’s cues – no one likes to be massaged when they’re not in the mood and that’s true for baby too
Dr. Aliya Visram is a chiropractic doctor, acupuncturist, doula, and health advocate. She’s also a wife, mama of 2, runner, yogi and chronic multi-tasker. She is on a mission to balance her career, motherhood and a healthy inspired life one day at a time.