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Babies are born with weak muscles and bones. In their early years, it is very important that you help them promote their muscular development. According to paediatricians, we as parents need to help our babies build flexibility, coordination, and strength with some age-appropriate routines and activities. This will help them walk sooner and with more confidence!
Healthy muscles and bones are an indicator of overall health. If your baby has good muscular strength and healthy bones, chances are he will also learn to crawl, walk and run about faster! Once your baby has been weaned off breastfeeding, it is advisable to introduce him to strengthening foods rich in calcium, Vitamin-D and protein. Some of these include chicken, spinach, cheese and fruits. (You can refer to more calcium-rich foods for babies here)
However, it is not sufficient to just depend on a healthy diet to make your baby stronger; you also need to start some important physical exercises. Yes, even babies as young as two months old need some amount of physical activity to become stronger!
7 Baby Strengthening Exercises
Here are 7 exercises recommended by doctors to develop your little one’s muscles and bones, naturally, and see them take those cute little steps soon!
1. Give Your Baby Tummy Time
Age: 0 Months Onwards
This is the most common of all trunk strengthening exercises for babies suggested by paediatricians. Simply put your newborn on his tummy after every feeding. This act builds the core muscles of your baby’s tummy. There are many variations to this, such as:
- Place your baby on a blanket so he can also get some floor-time and explore his surroundings
- Place your baby on tummy between both of your knees. This also helps the baby to release trapped gas
- Place your baby on daddy’s tummy! This is a fun and very useful variation of tummy time that can be done after you’ve breastfed the baby, or in the evening time before bed [Bonus: this also strengthens the emotional bond between the father and baby. We recommend you definitely ask your husband to try this out!]
Tip: Remember that whenever your child is not lying on the back, he is working on increasing his head control and neck strength. So, minimize lying downtime after your child is 2- 3 months old and make sure that your baby is getting exposure to enough physical activity.
2. Help Your Baby Sit-Up
Age: 4 Months (or when a baby is able to support her head)
This is how to do it: Place a blanket on the bed and then place the baby on the blanket. Then, hold the blanket on each side slightly above the head, with your baby in the middle of your arms. Slowly lift the blanket so your baby comes to a sitting position, then lower it back down again. This is a very simple and safe exercise to help your baby gain upper body strength.
Teach this exercise to your baby-
- This little core exercise really helps babies as they start crawling, standing and walking.
- Lay your baby down and let him pull himself up and put him back down.
- Let your baby lead this exercise as it strengthens his core.
- After doing this exercise, a baby gets better at sitting up.
- Daily exercise also helps babies sleep better and stay happier all day!
3. Baby Massage Complex Exercises
Age: 0 Months Onwards
Massage is one age-old trick that never fails! The benefits of an oil massage are now well accepted by doctors, and it can definitely help make your baby’s muscles and bones stronger. You can start massaging your baby’s body early – as early as a week or two old. There are a few movements/exercises that you should do as part of baby massage in order to build the baby’s strength:
- Hold your baby’s wrists and lift the baby off the massage table (just a few centimetres). This exercise helps the development of the cervical spine
- Place your baby on the tummy, his knees spread apart but his feet together. Press the baby’s feet with your thumbs. Voila! Your baby will try to push himself forward. This exercise is very useful for leg muscle development
- After the massage, keep your palm on the baby’s chest and press lightly. This helps eliminate congestion from the lungs and increases ventilation, both of which are good for overall respiratory strength
Note: Make sure you do NOT use rigorous or high-pressure strokes. Only a gentle massage using skin-friendly baby oil is beneficial for your baby’s improved blood circulation, and in turn, bodily strength. Refer to this guide on baby massage when in doubt.
4. Rotate Your Baby’s Head
Age: 2-3 Months
It is important to help the muscles of your baby’s head to develop as they are very delicate in the first few months. Help your baby to turn his head sideways while lying down. This helps strengthen the muscles of the baby’s head. You should also do these two simple baby neck strengthening exercises to strengthen your baby’s head muscles:
- Using Toys: Take an attractive, colourful toy such as a rattle. Keep it in your baby’s line of sight and then move it from left to right. This will encourage the baby to move his head and exercise it naturally.
- Using Daily Objects: Put interesting things on both sides of your baby’s crib, so that he is motivated to turn his head on both sides.
5. Bicycle Motion
Age: 0 Months Onwards
Your little one’s leg development is also a key area of concern, especially as the leg muscles help determine how soon he/she will be able to crawl and walk. Paediatricians recommend the following baby leg strengthening exercise to develop your baby’s leg muscles:
Lay the baby on his back and gently hold his ankles. Slowly move his legs in a circular motion, like he is pedalling a bicycle. You can go for 4-5 movements at a stretch of time. Then, give your baby a break for a couple of minutes and continue.
Did You Know: Bicycle Legs is among the best ways to relieve your baby’s gas!
Paediatricians say that when your baby is practising bicycle legs, the movement helps release bubbles from her stomach and move them through the intestines. This way, your baby can pass these bubbles naturally and not face any gas pain.
When to do this – Check if your baby’s stomach feels hard and bloated. She may be gassy, and this exercise will soothe her.
If your baby resists and does not want to have you pedal her legs, don’t force her.
6. Help Your Baby Pick Up/Lift Objects
Age: 4-6 Months
Your baby is probably already very interested in household objects, especially the ones you don’t want him to touch! You can turn this into a powerful strengthening exercise for your baby. Doctors suggest that picking up objects is a good way to build your baby’s grasping ability and hand-eye coordination, as well as muscular strength. Here’s how to do this:
Make your baby sit in a high chair or bouncy seat. Now place some toys or household items in front of your baby. Encourage them to lift one, examine it, put it down, and then lift it (or another object) again. You may have to show them how to do this a few times, but most babies learn very quickly and enjoy this exercise a lot!
7. Do Some Dancing!
Age: 0 Months Onwards
No, don’t be surprised; we are not recommending you teach your baby any dance steps! However, you must have noticed that babies like to be moved around and held up on their toes. As per doctors, this toe and feet motion is excellent for their leg muscles development.
Simply hold your baby gently under his armpits and touch his toes on the ground. Since you are now supporting most of his weight, let him balance gently. Notice that your baby will often kick, which will make it look like he is dancing!
Note: Be sure to give your baby extra support as he finds it very difficult to stand up now. It is not recommended to practice this exercise for a prolonged duration as the little one will get tired.
One Final Tip: Remember that, just like adults, babies also get bored when their ‘workout’ and daily activities become routine. Hence it is a good idea to mix and match various things to get variations in these exercises and help your baby become stronger!