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Infant Development

The Infant Development Program in BC, Canada sends trained professionals to homes of children born prematurely from birth to 3 years of age.

This is what we learned about our 7-week premature baby girl Aviendha Vanous (that applies to all babies in general).


Cause and Effect

If babies see a reaction, they do it more. React to good behavior and ignore bad behavior.


Stay Positive

Don't say, "No" - offer an alternative. eg: If  a baby throws her doll, don't say "No, don't throw a doll" Instead, say "We throw a ball, pass a doll gently"


Distract

Distract the baby if she is crying, show or say something else


Opposites attract

Do not imitate bad behavior, do the opposite. eg: If the baby is loud, talk back quietly


Small portions

Avoid giving too much at once. eg: Feed small portions of food and let the baby ask for more


Choice not commands

Offer choices instead of commands. If the baby chooses, she will do it. If you tell her, she won't. Basically, it needs to be her idea.


Involve

Involve the baby with food preparation and cleanup


Model

Be the behavior you want to see. Your baby will imitate you


Words

Encourage the baby to say what she wants. If she just exclaims "Ahhh" ask her to communicate with words.

Teach full phrases, not just caveman speak


Pretend Play

Let babies pretend a doll is a baby. Cover the doll with a blanket, feed it with a bottle, tuck it in to sleep


Animals

Introduce dogs and cats to babies early on.


Interests

What is the baby interested in? Balls, iPad, YouTube, books, outdoor play, dogs?


Everything in moderation

Stimulate, but do not overstimulate

Play soft and soothing music, like classical or Enya, but not all the time and not always the same

Add music with different rhythms, improvised solos and good structure with many instruments to give a rich experience, like rock-and-roll but not at rock-and-roll volume!


Massage baby

Gently massage baby's arms, legs and back several times a day, stimulating blood flow and relaxing her muscles.


Speak and wait

When baby starts "cooing" vowel sounds, repeat them so she knows you are listening

Repeat once, wait for her to process your response, then respond again - do not quickly repeat over and over

Bring your lips together for words like "papa" to help her learn to make consonant sounds


Simple sentences

When changing her diaper, say "New diaper" not "I am changing your dirty diaper" - start with very short phrases

After she learns a few words, speak more naturally so she starts to learn grammar


Repeat 500 times

Babies need to hear the same sounds 500 times before they will repeat it

Use the same phrases consistently, like when changing diapers


Consistent language

Use the same word consistently - say kitty, not kitten, cat and kitty

It is okay to speak multiple languages, but use the same word for each thing - say milk, not niu nai (milk in Chinese)


Sing

Sing to your baby, let her hear melody and variety in your voice


Play on the floor

Let the baby play on a blanket on the floor - the bed is soft and the floor is firm, a different experience for her


Rolling over

Slowly lift the blanket she is on so she rolls herself over

Also, put the baby on her side and slowly push to roll her over, lifting her rib to let her hand come out after she is on her tummy


Reflexes disappear

Babies are born with involuntary muscle reflexes they cannot control

For example, her hands close over anything in her palm and when startled by a loud noise, her hands and feet fly up and out like "I surrender!" - this is normal

After five months, these reflexes begin to disappear as they learn to control their muscles


From the elbow

Guide her hand to grab a toy from her elbow - it is the least sensitive part of her arm, and she should do as much by herself


Peek-a-boo

Play peek-a-boo to encourage abstract thinking: you are not there, then you are there, like imagining 5+5 which is not there


Hands together

Encourage her to put her hands together by playing games like Pattycake and Itsy Bitsy Spider

A premature baby sleeps with her hands up on either side of her head - it is better if they learn to sleep with her hands together on her chest


Both sides

Encourage use of both hands equally

Stimulate both ears equally


Do not stand too early

Do not try to stand the baby before 10 months - her bones and muscles are not strong enough to support the weight and may cause her legs to bow

If you hold her up, she starts to tip-toe which is not the heal-toe she should be learning when she is strong enough to start walking


Sitting and balance

Let the baby sit on her own in a sofa corner with her legs tucked towards her and pillows around her, supporting but not confining

She will learn balance and get used to sitting upright

Give her toys so she relaxes and focuses on the toy sounds and textures instead of her position


Water

Pour warm water over the baby's head when bathing her so she will get used to getting a little water in her eyes


Sucking thumb is okay

When a baby finds something she enjoys, don't take it away from her

Thumb-sucking is temporary; when she starts noticing toys and other interesting things, she will stop sucking


Relax

Babies naturally tense their muscles

Help them relax by holding them under the bum with their back against your chest, one hand beneath one knee lifting it slightly


See and follow

Show toys and let her see and follow as you move them slowly around


Don't push

Babies develop at their own pace - do not compare her to other babies, compare her to herself

As long as she is making progress, she is doing well

Some babies walk at 8 months, some at 18 - this is normal

At 2 years old, they will all jump and walk well

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