Most babies come fully equipped with instincts that they need to help them grow and develop into healthy active adults, but we give them the things they weren't born with like protection, nourishment, love and healthy habits. For example, a baby does have an instinct to nurse, but not for brushing her teeth. This is why I think it is a great idea for parents to start a morning exercise routine with their babies that consists of developmentally appropriate strength building movements. Just ten minutes in the morning is enough for a baby, they will tire quickly if you push them too much but just a little exercise is invigorating. These moves have the added benefit of also being able to help your baby expel gas. I would recommend either feeding your baby after the exercise, or at least an hour before to prevent causing any digestive discomfort.
1. Baby pull ups.
This move is good to start trying when your baby is one month old. Lay your baby on your lap with your knees together. Your baby's head should be by your knees, and the bottom should be on your thighs. Wrap your baby's fingers around your thumbs so he is holding on and begin to slowly lift your thumbs away from your baby, upward. Your baby should hold on tight and pull back on your thumbs, and even tense his neck or try to lift his head a little. Don't actually lift your baby off of your legs, or raise his head more than an inch or so in case his strength suddenly gives out. Simply pull up, then lower your baby gently back down 4 or 5 times with slow fluid motions. This move primarily tones your baby's arms, but the neck and stomach also benefit.
2. Baby squats.
To start this move, you can keep your baby laying on your lap as described in the first tip. Then, place the palms of your hands against your baby's cute little bare feet and press up toward her bottom. If your baby doesn't push against your hands, try tickling her feet for a couple of seconds before trying again. if your baby's legs tremble or shake when you are beginning to push, don't worry, this is fairly common in newborns, it comes from a lack of muscle tone. This exercise is actually one of those that physical therapists use for helping tone a baby's legs. Repeat 4 or 5 times, as you do these exercises with your baby every morning, your baby will quickly become stronger and able to do more.
3. Baby push-ups.
Although your baby will do a lot of this kind of exercise when placed on a blanket on the floor for tummy time, most of the work down there will be done by your baby's back, not the arms. This exercise is very similar to the first one, except that you will pull your baby's arms toward your chest to get ready, then push them back toward your baby's own chest. Think of your thumbs as the bench press weight bar, and your lap as the bench. If you don't meet any resistance try making the first little push of the motion two or three times very quickly, as soon as your baby begins resisting your pressure, keep pushing steadily toward your baby's chest.
4. Baby sit ups.
Now I know your baby won't be sitting up for a few more months, but that doesn't mean you can't start building the strength your baby will need right now. This exercise move is a lot easier if you prop your baby up with a pillow or rolled up blanket so he is in a reclined but sitting position. Now, lift his legs up about 4 or 5 inches off the ground and tickle his knees. The knee tickling isn't important, it's just fun. Now holding his knees, pull his legs quickly toward you just a little bit, and as soon as you have resistance press them down to the floor and hold them firmly, pulling just a little bit toward yourself. Your baby should let out a big grunt and try to lean forward. This is what a sit-up looks like at the age of 1 or 2 months. Only do 4 or 5, unless your baby insists that you keep going. He is the boss after all.
5. Baby side-lifts.
Now this move is really for the strengthening of your baby's neck. The muscles that keep your baby's head steady are not in the front or the back, they are on the sides of the neck. To start, roll your baby onto her side, and prop her up on a pillow, a rolled up blanket or your lap. Hold her with one hand on her chest and one hand on her back, and lift her up until she is almost perpendicular, then lower her back down. When she feels the motion of being lifted she will automatically stiffen the muscles in her neck to help lift her head. Don't support your baby's head on the side, her shoulder is there and provides plenty of support, but do be prepared to quickly lower your baby back down if her head starts to wobble or look uncomfortable. This move is a good one to practice all through the day. Whenever you pick up your baby, roll her onto her side and lift her up sideways before positioning her on your shoulder or lap. The more often you do this exercise, the sooner your baby's neck will be strong and stable.
I hope you and your baby have a great time doing these exercises together. Who knows, getting your little one into a healthy groove with working out every morning, may just inspire you to make it a part of your morning routine as well! If you like to work out at night, and want to do these exercises at bedtime with your baby, try to finish the excises part of the routine at least an hour before it is time to go to sleep. Exercise can get babies wound up and can make sleep difficult if the two are too close together. Please pass these tips on to any new or expecting parents you know, and if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them! Happy parenting!
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