Q&A: How to Encourage Baby to Bear Weight on Arms

blockquote_bgMy daughter is a little over 4 months of age and can hold her head up and stays on her elbows while on her stomach. How do I encourage her to bear more weight on her arms? She just does not seem interested in going any higher than that. Is it too early to expect her to be doing this?

Since your daughter is only a little over 4 months old, it sounds as if her motor skills are within normal limits for her age if she is able to left her head and turn it from side to side, as well as bear weight on her forearms while on her tummy.

Tummy time is the most important position for developing later motor skills. Typically between 4-5 months is when most babies do begin to push up a bit on extended arms lifting their chests off the floor. To encourage these skills lots of tummy time is important throughout your daughter’s waking hours. You can roll up a small towel or receiving blanket under your daughter’s armpits to raise her up a bit and encourage the weight bearing on her extended arms that you are looking for. You can also use a small soft wedge of foam for this same effect.

Always supervise tummy time play for young infants. Get down on your baby’s level on the floor and face her so that she has the extra motivation to raise her head and look around and push upwards. You can also use a mirror & raise it up in front of her to encourage her to lift her head and chest. When using toys as a motivator, don’t always put them directly in front of her, but to each side as well, moving toys farther away or holding them up higher to the left, right and center so she must look up to catch sight of them. Placing toys to the side encourages a baby to shift her weight and enhances her range of motion. To strengthen her neck, back and trunk muscles you can also carry her belly down in a sort of “football hold” by sliding your hand between her legs and under her tummy, you can support her head and neck with your other hand if needed and carry her close to your body for support.

Lying on your back with your baby on your stomach is another nice way to do tummy time without really thinking about it, she will want to look up to see your face as you talk/sing to her. You can also lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on floor and place your baby on your knees/lower legs facing you…hold her hands and encourage her to look up at you in this position. Daily tummy time is the best way to continue to strengthen all the muscles she will need for later more complex motor skills. If your daughter does not begin to bear weight on her hands and push up by 6 months you may want to seek a physical therapy evaluation through your local early intervention provider.