Soothing Your Baby (Part 3)

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VIDEO | 08:32

Senior dance movement therapist Suzi Tortora shares tips on which senses to introduce to your baby and when.

Show transcript

Suzi Tortora: So, I've just gone through the seven senses. Now let's play with how we layer them. And this is where we're going to get into rocking and swaying. So there are first four tips I want you to keep in mind. One is, how many senses does your baby need, at any particular time to stay regulated, remember to stay and organize and be in control of their body, their actions and their feelings. The second is the rate of that sensory input. The third point is the intensity of that sensory input. And the fourth point is the duration. How long does your baby need that input coming in, to help them stay organized, and gain control of their emotions, their feelings, and their physical sensations.

So first, get back into your body, notice your breath. Just notice where it is, first, you don't need to change it. And then once you notice the quality of your breath in, and the quality of your breath out, take a moment to do that simple exercise. Let's breathe in for three. Maybe there's a pause, and out for four. Now let's approach the baby and take a look and see how she's doing. Oh, I see the baby's looking at me. So first, I'm just going to look without saying anything, introducing the visual sense. My facial expression is also going to engage the baby. And think about how you use your face, that's another tool for the visual sense. It's very common for us to be very animated when we engage with babies, so let's try that. And now I'm going to say something. “Good morning. How are you today?”

“Oh, you have a tummy ache, you're not feeling so well, I see you moving all around.” Let's pretend this is a real baby and she's moving all around. “Let me see if I can help you.” So maybe I'll just put my hand on her belly, as I demonstrated, and I'm talking and I'm looking at her. That's three sensory inputs. And if I feel through my sense of touch, remember I told you our hands communicate. If I see her starting to calm down, that may be all she needs. But maybe that didn't calm her down and maybe I'm thinking I'll try picking her up.

So, I'll pick her up carefully holding her head and put her up on my shoulder and snuggle her in right here. I'm adding the proprioceptive sense and if I start to bounce in a rocking rhythm, I'm adding another layer of that proprioceptive and vestibular. Now bouncing is a form of rocking, there's an accent to that action. I can also rock side to side. Now this is a pretty fast rock, I want to see if that was – the baby responds to that, but if I don't sense that maybe the baby's even pulling away from me, I might instead turn that rock into a sway. Here we go.

And then check in on my breath again, really make sure my exhale slows down. And I can match my rock or my sway to the baby's vocalizations, because the baby is crying really strongly. I might start with a bounce that maybe matches it either exactly or attunes to it, maybe I'll add a little bit of a pause to my bounce to give her something to start to slow her body down. Or maybe I have to start really fast and short quick bounces. And again play with that swaying. If she starts to soothe, I can tell through the way her body shifts. Maybe her body is really tense while she was crying and so then I really want to make sure my body is soft and relaxed, there we go.

Now I can use my voice, remember I told you babies love your voice, and singing is a really nice thing to do, that’s adding another sense though. But let's try it.  “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.” Now maybe I'll stop the singing as I feel the baby's body softening, and I'll just continue the swaying.

I've just taken away one sense. And then again, I tune into my breath. There we are and then maybe slowly, slowly, I'll make my sway even smaller, so that the baby is just feeling my breath. And its slight undulation in my body, and I've just moved that sway to up and down. Maybe bring in my head a little bit. Now I've just started to circle a little, do you see that? Another sensory input. I can even slow that down. And maybe the baby has calmed down. But maybe suddenly the baby's uncomfortable again, or because of the baby's ports, she may prefer her back to your front. This is called the bucket seat and keeping the baby's pelvis, the lower body, her bottom, hanging a little and adding a little bit of a pulse to the rock can sometimes really help organize the baby. Remember, rhythms are organizing.

So as long as you hold them securely, putting your hands under their knees, letting their legs bend down, giving that little pulse and then maybe I'll turn it into a rock. This is an accented pulse, this is a rock. Next you might want to put on music. But again, that's another layer. Auditory sensing, were you thinking it yes, that's adding the auditory. So let's try a piece of music that has a rhythm. Maybe “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town.”

And if you're not comfortable singing, of course, you can put on a tune that your child loves. It doesn't have to just be children's music though. Children respond to a wide variety of songs. And a trick or a key is if you like that song, and it relaxes and suits you, there's a good chance your baby will pick up on that too and respond.

So I hope I've given you lots of ideas of how to layer the senses and take them away. And you can try it with your baby and you have success. Thank you so much for listening. And I look forward to seeing you at MSK kids.