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Brave Little Baby

Proprioception – our secret weapon for bedtime

Ah bedtime – the dreaded hour of every parent.

Frightening questions filling your weary mind – will my baby sleep tonight? Will he be tired enough? Will I be able to eat my dinner while it is still warm?  We have the expectation that a successful bedtime routine is the epitome of being a successful parent. 

Carla van Zyl, Occupational Therapist

When, in reality, bedtime is the golden hour of the day – a deep and relieved sigh of content to spend another day with our precious babies. The time where we should shut out the world, decrease expectations and just enjoy our baby’s presence.

You are providing your baby with safety and guidance to a deep and peaceful slumber, allowing their little developing brains to process what they learnt after a full day of exploration and play.

I am sure you know our five senses in which we perceived the world – vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Now, have you heard of the hidden “sixth” sense, proprioception, that can also be considered our natural stress relief system?

What is Proprioception?

Definitions from Oxford Languages · Learn more

noun

PHYSIOLOGY

  1. perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body.”exercises to improve balance and proprioception”

Proprioception, also called kinesthesia, is your body’s way of knowing where it is and how it’s moving. It’s what helps you do things without having to consciously think about each step. It’s like your body’s inner GPS for movement.

WebMD.com

Proprioception is stimulated using deep pressure on your baby’s muscles and joints. Imagine how relaxed and calm you feel after you had a full body massage or received a tight hug – the magic of proprioception!

It is important to provide opportunities for proprioceptive stimulation throughout the day and increase it before bedtime.

How do you implement Proprioception in a Bedtime Routine?

When planning a bedtime routine, it is just as important to plan what happens pre-routine.

Ensure that your baby has received optimal opportunity for play, exploration, and physical engagement. This can include the following activities, providing deep pressure:

  • Rough and tumble play or wrestling with a parent.
  • Building a fort with cushions and blankets
  • Doing summersaults
  • Wrapping themselves up in a blanket as a hot dog and rolling out of that position.
Read more about our Brave Little Baby Day Routines

How to add Proprioception to my baby’s Bedtime Routine?

Bath time

A Bath time is usually considered as one of the primary activities that form part of a bedtime routine. Bath time gently forces us as parents to sit down next to our baby and provide our undivided attention to them. Use this opportunity to have conversation with your baby.

Practice identifying body parts or animal sounds, making bath time also a learning opportunity.

When bath time is over, have a big, fluffy towel ready and wrap it tightly around your baby’s body. Hold them close to you for a BIG hug, providing deep pressure over your baby’s little body.

Then a gentle massage:

Provide further deep pressure by gently massaging your baby, speaking to them in hushed tones. When massaging your baby, focus on each joint individually and apply gentle pressure to it – example when massaging the leg, put one hand on the thigh and one hand on the calve, gently pushing inwards towards the knee joint. Do the same for the arm joints too.

Activity

Once dressed, provide your baby with a familiar and loved activity such as a puzzle or book, creating quiet time. Prior to bed, is not the time to engage in a new and exciting toy, reducing any demands or challenges for your baby.

Cuddles

Once your baby completed the puzzle, it is time for cuddles. Wrap a blanket tight around your baby or dress them in their sleep sack. Cuddle them in your arms, again providing gentle deep pressure.

This also provides a sense of security. Keep your baby in your embrace while reading or telling them a bedtime story.

Enjoy these last few, shared minutes of your baby’s day. Imagine how they feel loved and secured by your hold, drifting off to dreamland.

Written by Carla van Zyl, Occupational Therapist

You might find this Blog interesting: Coping with a Crying Baby

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