1 Month: Starting to Lift the Head

“Jack has had tummy time every day since he was three days old.   At first he didn’t like being on his stomach, but now he is happy to play a while in this position.  He is interested in lifting his head to get his mouth on his hand.  It’s like a game to him.”

In tummy time, we want to see a progression of extension through the baby’s back over the first several months.  I’m always in awe and a little surprised at the slow but steady day-by-day progression, especially in the first month.   In the first days of tummy time the weight is on the baby’s face and it is not the most comfortable looking position, but exciting changes are on the way!

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3 Months: Chin Tuck

Fin is 3 1/2  months old and is learning to hold a toy between his hands.  He can tuck his chin and gaze at the toy in hands for a moment.   Why is chin tuck considered an important early developmental milestone?

The three-month-old is discovering postural control in midline.  One of the first stabilizing motions is the chin tuck.  The baby is able to stabilize the head and trunk in midline and begin to touch his hands together over the chest.  He will begin to spend moments looking down toward the hands as they are together.   Continue reading “3 Months: Chin Tuck”

5 Months: Sitting

“Zahra has been practicing and yesterday she sat all by herself!  Of course I had to put her in this position first, but she is so happy!  She can’t take her hands off her feet or else she falls backwards.  I put soft things all around her so she is safe, even though I’m still right there.”  

Zahra is five-months old and has attained the developmental milestone of sitting independently.  Her parents are proud and it is easy to see that Zahara is proud too.  What are the building blocks for independent sitting? Continue reading “5 Months: Sitting”

Why Do the Legs of Newborn Babies Look Bowed?

“When Phoebe’s little legs are tucked under her body, I see how she was able to fit into the tiny space of the womb.  At first I was concerned because I didn’t know why her legs were positioned like that.”

Babies born at gestational term have a tightness to their bodies called physiological flexion.  Space was limited in the final trimester and the baby assumed the most compact position with arms and legs held close to her core.    Physiological flexion provides some passive stability for the newborn baby to use for function.  Practice will provide an opportunity to decrease muscle tightness through active movement.  In turn, active movement provides sensory input and postural control.  Development happens gradually, month by month with one skill building upon another.   The posts in the milestones category describe the maturation of babies in the first year of life as they begin tightly flexed and learn to roll, sit, cruise and stand.

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6 Months: Pivot Prone

“My 6-month old daughter rocks on her belly and moves her arms all around.  It looks like she is swimming on land!  What is going on while she is playing like that?”

This swimming motion, common during the development of 5-6 month olds, is also known as pivot prone.   The first time you might see something like this would be during a Landau reaction.  The Landau reaction emerges at approximately 3 months as a reflex/postural reaction, allowing the baby to extend against gravity while held at the stomach.  However, by 5-6 months of age, the baby has developed the strength and flexibility to play with it in a variety of ways while on the floor.  These new sensations and movement keep interest in the activity.  You might see a few seconds of swimming motion followed by a push into the floor or rocking back and forth.  In these actions, the baby is strengthening their postural control system to balance flexion and extension.  The difference in this stage is that the gluteals are becoming active and the hips are fully elongated.  With practice the thighs begin to come off the ground through the action of the gluteals.  During pivot prone, there is eccentric action of the abdominals as the baby extends so there is also controlled motion through the range.

During pivot prone play, the baby is strengthening and discovering:

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5 Months: Rolling to Side


Q: What happens when a baby brings hands to knees and then weight shifts or looks to the side? 

A: Her whole body rolls to the side and she learns to control it and use it for function.

Around 5-6 months, this little one has learned to initiate some big movements like pushing up onto hands while on her stomach and grabbing knees and feet while on her back.  She is busy reaching and looking around.  Combining foundation skills such as hands to knees and weight shifts, larger movements begin to evolve, like rolling from back to side (otherwise known as supine to sidelying).  At this stage babies may enjoy playing while balancing in sidelying.   They may also enjoy the sensation of rolling.

What is happening as this baby rolls from supine to sidelying?

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6 Months: Sidelying With Pelvic Femoral Dissociation

Life is so exciting for the six month old; once she learns to roll to the side, it is fun to play in this position.   Beyond fun for the little one, what special things are happening with development at this stage?  After all, play is child’s work.

  • Mastering the balance of flexion and extension in the trunk:  she is able to play in sidelying without falling forward or backward.
  • Increasing shoulder girdle control and stability- allowing propping on one arm to play.
  • Emergence/increasing lower extremity dissociation: one foot can prop to meet the ground and stabilize in this position.  To do this, one leg must be flexed, the other extended while weight is increasingly shifted to the hip that contacts the floor.
  • Foot weight-bearing: bringing the foot to meet the ground and getting some weight on to different parts of the foot in order to prepare for standing.
  • Lateral flexibility and of the trunk/rib cage.
  • Lateral head righting against gravity.

From this position your little one can grab toys to mouth, providing a whole new level of independence for exploration!  All of these movements build the foundation for transitions that come in later months like progressing to side sitting, getting up on all fours and pulling to stand.