July 25, 2024
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Why Provide Sensory Stimulation to Your Baby?

Babies come into this world with the job of making sense of it. Lights; people; sounds; movement; and the feel of the diaper, clothing and hands touching their skin: Their brains need time to process all this new information and respond to it in a calm way. A new baby will generally cry when diapered, changed, bathed or moved. Most of the time this response is normal and we must continue to do what we need to do to care for the baby. It is advisable that we provide infants, babies and toddlers with a variety of sensory stimulation early in life. We introduce these sensations into their life through light touch, deep touch (cuddling), massage and warm baths; by having soft blankets and plush toys available for exploration; and by providing the baby with opportunities to move about. For the baby to make sense of these sensations, he needs to be introduced to them gradually and in a natural way. Their job is to take in the information, integrate the information and process it effectively so that they can regulate themselves so that learning can take place. Learning may take a number of forms, for example, eye contact coupled with cooing (and eventually babbling); social smiling when talked to; or remaining in a quiet, alert state when gazing at toys, contrasting colors or shades. Visually following moving objects and mouthing their fingers or toys that can be brought to the mouth are other methods the baby learns about the world.

When a baby is having difficulty interpreting the sensations, the stimuli may become distorted. A parent may find the baby has difficulty calming down or falling and staying asleep, or he may not readily play with toys. He may resist cuddling by arching his back when being held. His body may feel floppy, and milestones such as crawling, standing, walking and running may be delayed.

Babies will benefit from toys that will tap into their sensory system and give them the sensory stimulation they need. An occupational therapist who specializes in early intervention (EI) for ages birth to 3, can guide you in choosing the most effective baby-and-toddler developmentally educational toys. OTs specializing in EI are also trained in how to introduce these toys after a thorough assessment of what the child’s response is to sensations. Parental involvement along with that of siblings and caretakers in a sensory program designed and monitored by the OT is crucial to enhancing the baby’s overall development.

By Stacey Berman Gardin

 Stacey Berman Gardin, OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist licensed in NY and NJ. She has been practicing OT since 1981. For the past 20 years the focus has been treating children through early intervention. Stacey is a graduate of SUNY Downstate College of Health Related Professionals.

 

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