Sensory Integration with Babies

Did you know that sensory integration development begins in utero and continues throughout the early years of a child’s life? You will frequently find the term ‘early intervention’ when searching through child development articles but what does this mean? According to the Early Intervention  Foundation ( effective early intervention prevents difficulties occurring, or addressing these difficulties, which promotes a child to foster personal strengths and skills that prepare them for adult life. Early intervention aims to promote effective physical, cognitive, behavioural, social and emotional development. 

Which babies/children may be at risk? 

It is vital and recommended that children at risk be closely monitored and assessed. The following children may be at risk:

  • Babies born prematurely or with a low birth weight
  • Babies admitted to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)
  • Babies/children diagnosed with medical or genetic conditions
  • Fussy/Colicky babies
  • Babies that lack response to caregivers
  • Babies with delayed milestones

How do I determine if my baby has sensory difficulties:

  • He/she may take a long time to respond
  • He/she may appear sleepy and lethargic
  • Crying frequently and difficult to soothe (in the absence of a medical condition)
  • Presenting with signs of overstimulation (hand splaying, placing hands over eyes, back arching, moaning.crying).
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty self-soothing
  • Delayed milestones
  • Not performing milestones with the correct fluidity and expertise expected for a child of their age (e.g. only rolling to one side). 

How do I help my child to regulate:

  • Environment: Be mindful of the environment where your child is. Bright colours and artificial lighting are alerting, therefore, move to a neutral, natural environment (outside works well). Provide calming light such as a lava lamp or night light. 
  • Co-regulation: Babies are still very dependent on using a caregiver to regulate. Use your tone of voice, deep pressure (holding your child tightly, placing a warm blanket around them) and rhythmic movement (gentle rocking).
  • Oral proprioceptive input: Provide your child with an age-appropriate object to chew or suck on (dummy, bottle, breastfeeding, placing their hands near their mouth). 
  • Baby massage: This is a wonderful idea to implement (if you have undergone training in this). Alternatively swaddle your child. 

What if this does not work: 

  • It is recommended that if the above steps do not work seek assistance from a Sensory Integration Occupational Therapist or alternatively speak to your pediatrician for assistance.
  • During an OT consultation an in-depth history will be performed, followed by an assessment where a sensory diet (what sensory input your child needs) will be provided. Therapy will be given if necessary. 

Remember, “It takes a village to raise a child” and a parent/caregiver’s instinct should always be trusted.

Written by Ashley Brecher (Jones), Bright Eyes Therapy. 

For more information you are welcome to contact us on 0836161662

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