Baby Bodybuilding Part 2: How to Help Your Baby Develop Muscles

Earlier this week we discussed the development of your baby’s gross motor skills and the importance of strong muscles to achieve these milestones.  Now that you have an understanding of how your baby’s muscles emerge, we’re moving on to some practical skills training for how to help your baby develop muscles.

First, we like to call it “baby bodybuilding” because it reminds us that we’re strengthening our babies and getting them ready to physically explore the world around them.  Lifting the head, moving the eyes, scooting around, bringing things to the mouth and all of the other amazing things your baby is learning to do helps her discover her surroundings and make deeper brain connections.  Much like adult bodybuilding, it’s actually pretty hard work for your little buddle of joy.  She may let you know that with a grunt or cry once in awhile.  Be sure to give lots of encouragement and love along the way.  Extra praise and cuddles are most definitely in order during strength building activities.  And certainly that fantastic breast milk of yours will give her the nutrients needed for her “workouts.”

Here are some of the best activities for how to help your baby develop muscles:

Freedom:  Beware of trapping and strapping your baby down too often.  Babies need the opportunity to explore and move about as they choose.  This freedom from strollers, cribs, swings and bouncy chairs will be your baby’s first gym floor.  Even if she cannot move very much or very far yet, she’ll feel the freedom and encouragement to do so when she’s ready.

Baby Bodybuilding Part 2:  How to Help Your Baby Develop MusclesTummy Time:  Babies now sleep on their backs (the safest way for babies to sleep) and spend less time on their stomachs where they have to learn to lift their head to view their environment.  Therefore, it’s your job as a parent to carve out tummy time where your little one can build neck, abdominal and back strength.  This is how she will learn to hold up her head on her own and eventually roll over.  Tummy time can be done in a variety of ways including on a play mat, yoga mat, your bed, a pillow or on your chest.  You can stimulate your baby by getting on the floor with her and enticing her with exciting toys of vibrant colors, textures and sounds.  Tummy time also helps your baby avoid having a flat head.

Baby Workout:  Take time each day, or several times a day, to move your baby’s body around for her.  Help her kick her legs up, open and in a bicycle motion.  Stretch her arms above her head and to the side.  Crunch her little body up for some mini sit-ups.  Clap her hands and feet together.  Make up a dance with multiple movements.  Bounce her on your legs.  This fun routine will help strengthen her muscles and you’ll probably get a few giggles too.  Try getting in a “workout” on the changing table each time you change a diaper.

Help Her Try New Things:  Some babies dive in to new adventures head first – literally!  Others are a little more cautious.  Hold your baby’s hand or give her a push when she’s trying a new activity to show her that she can indeed do it.  Sometimes this boost is all the confidence she needs to try it on her own.

Baby Massage:  Just like every good athlete, a soothing massage is in order after a workout.  Babies love massages and it can trigger some strong muscle development too.  Additionally, massages are comforting and relaxing to babies and make them feel warm and loved, which of course they are.  Try a baby massage before bedtime to get your baby in a calm state for sleep.

Tasting the World:  It may make germaphobic parents across the globe cringe but babies explore with their mouths.  And the act of bringing something to the mouth is great for their gross motor skills.  Scooting, crawling or walking to find something to put in their mouths is even better yet.  Ensure your baby has plenty of safe and sanitary items to put in her mouth and that she doesn’t miss the opportunity by always sucking on a pacifier.

Be Physically Active:  Kids need to be active.  Encouraging physical activity from a young age is one of the best ways to keep kids healthy and to avoid the epidemic of obesity.  Health professionals recommend at least one hour of physical activity per day for children.  Start the habit now for your baby’s strong and healthy future.