Motor development from 0 to 6 months

During the first year of life, the baby’s brain and various areas of development change most rapidly. The developmental domains are interdependent, so successful motor development will lead to successful and smooth all-round development.

A newborn baby is the first month of life in this world. This period is dedicated to the body’s adaptation to the change in environment: temperature, visual and auditory stimulation. So it is important to provide your baby with the security, warmth and touch he needs to start developing confidence in his environment and in himself.

1 month baby development

Movement in the first months of life is based on reflexes, so it is normal for a newborn to spontaneously kick or move its legs and arms involuntarily. Eventually, he slowly discovers the parts of his body and his movements become voluntary. Normally, in the absence of disturbances, the baby’s knowledge of himself and the world and his movements develop in a certain sequence. Here it is important for parents to contribute to successful growth by carrying correctly and changing lying positions. In the first months, horizontal carrying positions such as “Cradle Pose”, sideways or belly-down should dominate, but it is also possible to sometimes change positions to vertical ones such as “Shoulder Carry” or “Face the World”. It is important to change both the carrying position and the carrying sides when carrying your baby. The scientific literature and practice show that parents often have a preferred carrying position, side and hand comfort. This can lead to greater activation of the muscles on one side of the baby, and later to asymmetrical movement (rolling, crawling, crawling).

According to the American Paediatric Association (APA), babies should be placed on their tummies from the very first days of life. It should only take a few seconds at first, but it is important not to be afraid to practise lying on the tummy, as this will gradually strengthen the head control, and then the muscles of the neck, shoulder girdle and back. These are important for the smooth further development of the movement. Here’s a look at how a baby develops in supine and prone positions at different ages.

Development of a 2-month-old baby

Second month: lying on its back, the baby should be able to find its midline and hold its head upright for at least 10 seconds, the baby’s arms are still moving spontaneously and not very coordinated, the legs are slightly bent over the hips and knees, and there is still some spotty kicking. We can notice that the baby is holding attention for longer and longer, and is able to fix his gaze. Lying on its stomach, the baby holds its arms bent at the elbows, is able to lift its head and hold it for a few seconds, and has a 45-degree head angle. In the second month, it is important to monitor whether the baby is too tense, too relaxed, or turning his head more to one side.

Development of a 3-month-old baby

Month 3: This month is particularly important as a starting point for assessing your baby’s development. Lying on his back, the baby should have already found his midline, keep his head straight, bring his hands together, bring them to his mouth (this will stimulate not only his fingers but also his language development) and slowly reach for toys. This will indicate the beginning of fine motor development. The length and quality of the time spent lying on your stomach is also important. The baby should have strong forearm support, with the elbows in line with the shoulder line instead of close to the body. The head should be held at a 90 degree angle for at least one minute. The American Paediatric Association states that a three-month-old baby should spend 60 minutes a day in an active supine position, with a minimum of 20 minutes on the tummy. This includes carrying, lying on different surfaces and rolling the ball belly down. From 2-3 months. You can already start targeted or preventive exercises, massages and water classes. In the third month, we can also notice more and more emotions and that the baby smiles back when spoken to, which is called a social smile.

Development of a 4-month-old baby

Fourth month: by the third month, the baby has been lifting its legs upwards while lying on its back, and by the fourth month, the legs should be more up than down. The baby slowly starts to reach for the knees and thus discovers its legs. Here, the muscles of the trunk and abdominal press are activated, causing the baby to roll over on its side with its legs raised to the stomach. Stronger toddlers even roll over fully. Normally, a baby rolls over from back to stomach between 3 and 5 months. Lying on his tummy, a four-month-old baby is able to reach for toys that are placed in front of him. Other toddlers reach for toys and lift their hand off the base.

Development of a 5-month-old baby

Fifth month: when the baby is lying on its stomach, we can observe how the baby’s shoulder girdle and back muscles have strengthened. If by the third month the baby was already lying firmly on its stomach, and later learned to shift its weight from one hand to the other to reach for toys, by the fifth month it is already trying to lift itself a little higher and pushing itself up to the support of its straight arms. The straight arm support fully strengthens the entire back musculature from the sacrum to the neck. It is not only important for the baby to be able to stretch out with his arms and support himself, but also to be able to lift his chest. Very often, babies first sort of float and then slide out. Swimming is not a weak shoulder girdle, it is where the baby starts to strengthen the muscles between the shoulder blades, which in the future will be important for the ability to sit up and form correct posture.

Between 4-6 months, babies learn to play lying on their side, and if they don’t, we can lay them on their side, hold their torso and play with them.

Some babies are already trying to lift their bottom upwards when lying on their tummies, as if to form a ‘tent’, which is the beginning of crawling and crawling. However, these stages will still require other important movements and active arms and legs.

Development of a 6-month-old baby

Sixth month. Lying on its back and on its stomach, the baby is able to reach for toys in different directions, and to roll over in order to reach a toy. The baby is able to reach and grasp the feet, indicating that the baby’s hip mobility is ready for sitting. So this month is important because if the baby is strong enough and the muscles of the torso are ready, you can slowly start to sit the baby down and teach him to sit sideways. The baby should already be rolling from back to stomach on both sides, resting on its back, resting its head on its back and holding its chin, holding it at a slightly raised angle and wanting to roll, as if to sit up, and when on its stomach, it should be able to hold itself upright with straight arms and even reach for toys from this position. Some babies are not only able to roll over from their back to their stomach, but also to roll over. Normally, babies roll over from the tummy onto their backs at 5-7 months.

It is important to note that every baby is different and develops at its own pace, so parents should not compare their baby to other babies, but help their baby to develop correctly by carrying him/her, laying him/her on his/her side and tummy, playing with him/her, and motivating him/her to take an interest in his/her environment.

Author of this article: Lect. Kinez. Vaiva Selevičienė

The text is based on the following sources:

1. Global professional organisations: www.apa.com; www.pathways.org; www.aota.org

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