Milivoj Jovančević, Andrea Čalopek Butković
Exercises which are part of a “Baby fitness” programme have multiple benefits. The building of the brain continues even after birth. Millions of nerve cells are created, travel to their destinations and become interconnected. Exercises stimulate the central nervous system and improve the aforementioned process. Brain functions (and, consequently, the effects of our actions) can be measured through the child’s psychomotor and emotional development. The exercises should be done twice a day, for around 20 minutes – provided the child is in a good mood.
Numerous times we have witnessed how pleasant it is to exercise with the child and how many warm emotions are created and exchanged in the process. Exercising creates closeness, second only to the closeness achieved during breastfeeding. Mothers familiarise themselves with their children by touching them, getting to know their soft and warm little hands, their smell, their voice and the emotions they show in response to expressions of love and attention.
Sometimes, due to their own personal problems, mothers initially have a hard time accepting their newborn infant. Engaging in joint exercises has a strong motivational effect, mobilises all of the mother’s senses and emotions, which helps establish a harmonious relationship and communication, which is a prerequisite for normal infant growth and development. The mother sheds her fears and insecurities, creating space for pleasure and expressions of love. We therefore recommended that, during each exercise, you give yourself over to emotions and communication. Gently touch the skin of the entire body, speak, hum, smile and kiss. This is a unique opportunity to experience what may be some of the happiest moments of your life. Seize the occasion and enjoy yourself.
Before commencing the massage and exercises, you should ask your child whether or not he/she wants to be massaged and to exercise with you. Touch can be a means of communication when words are not an option – use it to establish communication with your child. Speak to the child in the way you usually do and ask, “Do you want me to massage you? Shall we exercise?” Of course, a verbal answer is not forthcoming, but over time, as you establish communication, the child may respond to this question by smiling or expressing joy. Since this should be a pleasant experience, the child will remember what comes after this question and will want to participate in it. Do this at the beginning of each session. End the activity in the same manner, except this time you will thank your infant for participating and sharing this pleasant experience with you. As you ask questions in the beginning and say thank you at the end, slide your hand gently over the child’s head (avoid covering the eyes), chest and legs. Do this several times in a row and accompany the movement with appropriate words.
|1||1 month||Due to the infant’s intrauterine position, the feet are often turned inward (the soles of the feet are “facing” each other). The infant is lying on the back, the legs are bent at the hips and knees. Close your index and middle finger around the infant’s ankle (as if it were held by scissors), with the palm facing upward. Use the other hand to stimulate the outer edge of the foot, from the toes towards the heel.
The foot will reflexively move away towards the outer edge (towards the stimulating finger).
|2||Sometimes, the foot faces upwards so that the instep is almost touching the lower leg, while the heel bone prominently faces downward. The infant’s position is the same as in Exercise 1. Hold the infant’s foot by the ankle (“scissors”). Place the palm below and pull the foot downwards.|
|3||Sometimes, only the front of the foot is pressed against the uterus wall; viewed from below, the foot looks like a banana (the front part is facing inward). The position of the infant is the same as in Exercise 1. Hold the heel with one hand (ways of positioning the heel are depicted in the two images), and use the other hand to turn the front part of the foot outwards.|
“Decubitus” head and injury to the neck muscles
Use one hand to keep the shoulders on the surface, and the other to rotate the head from extreme left to extreme right. Then bend the head towards the left and the right shoulder while the infant is facing you.
Feet on the surface
The position of the infant is the same as in Exercise 1. Close your hands around the lower legs and feet. Place the feet on the surface and then lift them.
The infant is lying on the back.
Close your hands around the legs in the knee area, push the knees towards the stomach, and then stretch them out on the surface.
|6||The same as Exercise 5, but done by interchanging legs: while one leg is bent, the other is stretched out on the surface (asymmetrically)|
The infant is lying on the back. The legs are bent at the hips and knees. Hold the knees and lower legs and spread each leg to one side as far as you can. Try to spread them to the side, keeping the knees at hip level and pressing them towards the surface as much as you can.
|8||The infant is lying on the back. Try to keep the upper arms horizontally on the surface. Hold the infant’s palms and move only the elbows: bend (hands move towards the shoulders) and stretch – that is: return to initial position on the surface.|
|9||The infant is lying on the back. Try to keep the upper arms horizontally on the surface. Hold the infant’s palms and move only the elbows: bend (hands move towards the shoulders) and stretch – that is: return to initial position on the surface.|
|10||The infant is lying on the back. The arms are next to the body. Lift both the infant’s outstretched arms above the head, then return them to the original position on the surface.|
|11||The same as Exercise 10, but done interchangeably: while one arm is above the head, the other is next to the body.|
|12||Open the infant’s palm with the thumb of one hand. Use the thumb to hold the infant’s fingers while the palm is opened and caress the palm with your other thumb.|
|13||Run the infant’s open palm across his lower arm, stomach, legs (first one, then the other leg), the infant’s face and the mother’s face.
The infant is lying on the stomach.
Open the palm against a surface that should be smooth and tight so as not to trigger a fist-clenching reflex.
|14||2 months||The infant is lying on the stomach. The underarms are under the chest, next to the body. One leg is bent at the hip and knee and placed below the stomach. The other leg is also bent, but placed lower than the first leg. Interchange the leg positions in an imitation of crawling.
If the infant wants to push away, help him do so by supporting the feet.
|15||Turning the infant who is lying on the stomach on the back and vice versa. Position the infant so that he is lying on the side, supported by the lower arm and assuming the same position as during weighing. Try to stimulate turning (stomach – back, back – stomach) using your hands, encouraging the infant to turn his head (and consequently the entire body) by calling him.|
|16||3 months||The infant is lying on the back. Hold the infant’s lower leg and lower arm with your hands and move him into a side position and finally into a sitting position. In the sitting position, gently rock him in all directions to exercise head control (the Buddha position). This can also be done by holding the infant by the shoulders and then lifting him into the same position.|
The infant is lying on the back.
Hold the infant’s hands and bring them close to the infant’s feet. When the infant has got hold of his feet, help him bring them close to his face.
The infant is lying on the back.
The infant is lying on the back. Hold the infant’s lower legs and lift him up from the surface (so that he is hanging upside down). Allow him to press against a surface with his arms or gently rest against the surface. This can be followed by a full rotation onto the chest.
The parent is lying on the back with her legs bent at the knees and the lower legs raised from the surface. The infant is lying on the stomach, on the parent’s lower legs (as if he were flying
Sitting up diagonally
The infant is lying on the side. The bottom leg is bent towards the stomach, while the upper leg is placed across it, with the foot on the surface. Pull the upper arm until the infant is supporting himself with the bottom underarm.
The infant is crawling on all fours.
Rotate the body at the hip to create stimulation. Try to move the knees under the infant’s body (pelvis) so the infant is not moving the knees to the sides of the body like a frog.
|22||7 months|| The four-legged position
Lift the infant’s pelvis from the surface and place the knees below the body, while simultaneously making sure the arms remain below the chest. At first, the infant uses his upper arms, later only the hands for support.
The four-legged position
The infant uses the arms (underarms or hands) for support; at the same time, both outstretched legs are raised (as in a “wheelbarrow race”).
|23||8 months||Sitting on the heels, with hand support in the front. Slightly raise the infant’s behind and rock it left and right (stimulate body rotation and encourage the grabbing of objects on both sides).|
|24||Place the infant in a sitting position and spread his legs so they form a wide base for stable sitting.|
|25||10 months||Shifting from a sitting into an upright kneeling position.|
|26||11 months||Stepping forward from an upright kneeling position, while holding on to something.|
|27||12 months||Rising from a step forward into an upright position.|