Oh, the baby registry. It’s an exciting time to search for all the things that baby (and you) could ever need. But what is really necessary? When it comes to growth and development, here are our suggestions for items that help in more ways than one.
The Startle Reflex
In the first 4-6 months, babies have a Startle Reflex where they instantly throw their limbs and head when startled by loud sounds or sudden movements. Babies also have jerky and uncontrolled arm and leg movements in the first few months as their nervous system matures.
Swaddle blankets or wraps are helpful because they reduce the amount of movement when a baby startles, as well as provide a sense of security when startled. This allows for longer sleep periods and less fussiness. Find swaddles or wraps that have adjustable tightness, or have Velcro or zippers to help keep baby in place.
Also keep this reflex in mind when you are picking a baby carrier. Wearable baby carriers should feel secure, both on baby and your body. Find carriers with adjustable tightness and head support.
The Suck/Swallow Reflex
New babies have a Suck/Swallow Reflex that is present for the first 6 months. Although this reflex is necessary in breast/bottle feeding, it also serves as a soothing method due to its rhythmic action.
Yes, newborns may attempt to self-soothe by attempting to suck on their hands and fingers, but they won’t be able to calm down by themselves at this age. To help with this reflex and self-soothing in general, look for Pacifiers. We prefer an all-silicone pacifier because they are durable and easy to wash and sterilize. Pacifiers vary by age and sturdiness, so be aware that you aren’t giving your baby a pacifier that is too tough.
We know parents are resistant to pacifiers because they don’t want their child will be dependent on them in later ages, but using a pacifier is considered normal until the age of one. Leading up to that time, there are many methods to wean your child off of their pacifier if they have a dependency, as well as other items that can help your child self-soothe.
Another item that helps with soothing is a Bouncer or Rocker. Is it really necessary? No, but it can make your life much easier. A bouncer/rocker can help as another set of “hands” to rock or hold baby when they are fussy. The repetitive motion they provide can also quiet and lull your baby to sleep.
Tummy Time is crucial for many reasons (see Tummy Time). Once baby comes home, one of the many activities they try is fighting gravity; lifting their head and eventually their body from the ground. Tummy Time is an important foundational step in order to begin other forms of movement, like rolling, sitting, or crawling.
To help make Tummy Time more fun (which we all know can be difficult), we suggest a Boppy Pillow and an Activity Gym. A Boppy Pillow is versatile and serves as a great supportive positioning tool for each age range. Even in the toddler stage, our kids still use their Boppys to relax and lounge.
An Activity Gym is designed to keep your baby entertained on their back or belly. They come with sensory toys, a colorful mat, and a little pillow to encourage tummy time play. Most activity gyms can break down for easy storage, and are easy to wash.
The Visual System
Newborns can detect changes in brightness and movement, but can only see clearly 6-12 inches away from their face with limited color. As the physical structures and components of the eyes mature, so does their vision, allowing them to coordinate their movements reach, grasp, and interact with objects around them.
High-contrast toys (black, white, and red) are stimulating to babies in the first few months, promoting visual attention, curiosity, and engagement. Even if this isn’t your favorite color combination, babies will gravitate toward these colors much more than other toys.
Babies also like looking at and imitating faces. Add registry toys with mirrors or reflective surfaces to help entertain your baby. Watching faces also help baby learn social cues.
The Palmar Grasp Reflex
The Palmer Grasp Reflex, present in the first 4-6 months, allows babies to grab and hold an object placed in the palm of their hand and not let go. In addition, their coordination to reach and grasp for objects improves as their visual system improves.
Rattles or soft toys that make sound (rattle, crunch, crinkle) are useful to integrate this reflex, as are textured or easy-to-hold balls.
We hope that you don’t skip these items when it comes to registering. Trying to pick the right stuff can be overwhelming and confusing. The bigger and more high-tech doesn’t necessarily mean better for baby. Keep it simple for the first 0-3 months.
“Developmental Milestones From Birth to Age 1“, Amanda Morin. Understood.org.
“Newborn Reflexes“. Stanford Children’s Health.
“Newborn cognitive development: What do babies know, and how do they learn?”, Gwen Dewar. Parenting Science, 2020.