Monday, March 10, 2014

Motor Monday: Look Both Ways

If you read my first Motor Monday post you might remember me talking about how one issue for babies in the NICU is that they often turn their heads to the right?  Well side preferences don't just happen with preemies and in fact I just got a question today from a friend with a newborn who prefers to look to the left.  She said "He pretty much is always looking that way.  We have tried noise and visual stimulus to get him to turn and stay on the non-preferred side.  Do you have any more suggestions?"

So although I had another post started, I figured this was a perfect Motor Monday topic and wanted to get suggestions to my friends sooner rather than later!  At my request they sent me pictures of the back and top of his head and said I could share them here.

In the picture from the top you can see a VERY mild flattening on the left side (really, the right just looks a little rounder/fuller in the back).  On the picture of the back can you see how his right ear is tilted down towards his right shoulder?  Having never met this little guy I certainly can't and would never diagnose him, but I wouldn't be at all surprised, based on the pictures and his moms' descriptions of him, if he had a mild torticollis, or tight neck muscle on the right side of his neck.  When this happens, kiddos prefer to look to the left and tilt their head to the right.  So, what can his moms do to help him?  Here are a few tips for any parents who notice that their baby has a favorite side.  I'm going to write this for our friends' kiddo who looks left, but if your kiddo prefers to look right, just flip the sides!

1. Everything interesting is on his right!  This little guy is only a couple weeks old so his moms are probably the most interesting thing to him right now but lights, noise, other people might also work.  The big thing is just to be mindful of his positioning throughout his day.  Place him in the crib so that he would have to look to the right to see you when you come to pick him up after naptime.  This goes for the changing table too.  It might feel awkward for you to have to switch to using the other side but do it for your baby!  Same thing applies to being on the floor or in a bouncy seat...everything cool is to the right.  It's even better if you or the toys can be just a bit behind to encourage the baby to look up and right because that stretches out the tight neck muscle even more.

2. The side carry stretch.  This was apparently the best way to calm me down as an infant and it works like a charm for our little hothead Avery too.  Have the baby face away from you on his side with his right ear on your right arm.  Place your left arm between the baby's legs to support his body.  The idea here is to gently stretch his right ear away from his right shoulder. (i.e. moving his left ear closer to his left shoulder)
Here's an example of a version of the side carry with Avery

3. Tummy time.  Our friends are already working on this (I know this because I've seen adorable pics on Facebook!) but their little man, who keep in mind is only two week old, manages to turn his head back to his favorite left side when they put him down facing right. In this case, You could try tummy time on mom's chest with his head gently blocked from turning left by mom's head or hand.
I could move my hand up to his head if he started to turn
his head the other way.

4. Sidelying with a boppy. This is the same idea as the side carry, getting the right ear away from the right shoulder. Just like with the side carry, the focus for this stretch is on the tilt part versus the turn.  So you are stretching the right side of his neck by increasing the distance between his right shoulder and right ear. Here's a picture of Isaiah in this position.
Right shoulder away from right ear for a kiddo who prefers to turn left

5. Body Block!  Use your body to block the baby from turning his head to his favorite side.  You can do this having the baby's body facing you and head looking up when held in a cradle position or use your hand or head to block the preferred side when held at your shoulder.  Here's Michelle with Isaiah using her arm to block him from turning to the right.

I hope these tips are helpful for our friends and other babies who are favoring one side. Once babies start turning their heads both ways equally and moving more, their heads will gradually even out in most cases.  In the meantime, while he is awake I would hold him and wear him as much as possible and do lots of tummy time to avoid more time with pressure on the same spot on the head.  Your baby will be spending a lot of time on his back already just while he's sleeping so minimize time in equipment like the carseat, swing, etc and laying on his back on the floor.  When he is sleeping, if you have a sound sleeper, I'd recommend turning his head to the non-preferred side once he is asleep!  (That said, Isaiah used to consistently sleep with his head to one side and I was rarely willing to risk waking him up by turning his head so I understand the value of sleep!!)

Big thanks to our new mom friends in Boston for their question!  Do you have any motor development questions (about a certain age or disability) that have been rattling around in your brain?  If so, leave it in the comments and I'll add it to my list!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing on this topic! Connor now looks both ways! ��

    -Katie, Michelle's cousin


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