How exciting it is for mothers to feel baby’s first movements at around about 4-5 months into the pregnancy. In fact, mothers love to feel and share these early movements by encouraging others to touch their growing tummy.
The baby’s early movements are signs that the pregnancy is progressing well. Mother’s womb is a great place for baby to practise all sorts of tumbles, turns, kicks and punches. These movements are encouraging baby’s muscles, bones and ligaments to grow strongly.
The baby’s nervous system, particularly the brain, is growing a ‘wiring system’- of dendrites and axons and brain cells to prepare for efficient messaging between the brain and the body. The baby’s body movements are further supporting the nervous system and stronger connections are being established.
There are many primary reflexes developing in our unborn baby’s brain including the Moro reflex and the fencing reflex. These reflexes will assist in the vaginal birth process and are further strengthened by the birth. The primary reflexes also assist our new born in the early months including the sucking and rooting reflexes. These reflexes then slowly fade in strength over the first 6-8 months post birth. Some of baby’s movements that a pregnant mother feels might be a sudden reflex response. Baby is practising, and the reflexes are becoming stronger – readying for birth.
The baby’s senses are also developing whilst in the mother’s womb. These senses include touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. The senses need to function at birth in baby’s new environment. A lesser known sense, the vestibular or balance sense, is developing to prepare our baby to respond to gravity at birth, and also to assist baby to enter the world – upside-down or head first. Baby’s turning and kicking movements in utero all assist in the development of baby’s emerging sensory awareness.
Once baby is born, random arm and leg movements are combining together with the early reflexes to stimulate baby’s nervous system. The whole body moves as one initially. Then around 10 weeks post birth, the upper and lower body segments begin to move independently. This development is supported when baby has daily tummy time. Baby now can lift up the head and push on arms supported by a stable lower half of the body.
Our baby’s nervous system also needs slight tipping, bouncing motions to both sooth and activate the now responding vestibular sensory system. The Moro and other movement reflexes are stimulated by the tipping and rocking actions and once these reflexes begin to fade they make way for more purposeful movement milestones including rolling and crawling.
Early movement both in utero and post birth are central to the development of the nervous system, and the integrated development of the growing child.
About the author
Bren Lovell is an early years’ infant movement specialist. She is also a director of Move Baby Move and has created the Baby Activity Program booklet and app. The Baby Activity Program is presented in four, age-appropriate coloured sections, with up to 30 ‘fun’ infant movement activities.
Bren’s philosophy is based on the sharing of infant motor development ideas that have been ‘brewing’ during her many years teaching experiences in preschool movement programs, lecturing in Early Childhood at University and studying towards a PhD on infant movement milestones.
Bren is presenting the ‘Movement and Play ideas for young babies’ workshop at MAMA in Kensington on October 23rd: 6.30-7.30pm. Contact MAMA on 9376 7474 for details.