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Go Ask Mom

Babies, parents build skills with Babies On The MOVE

Posted March 19

The two Triangle moms are certified pediatric physical therapists.

Does your baby hate tummy time? Your efforts to get your baby on their tummy don't have to be so trying, say Rebecca Quinones and Rachel Gandy, and it's important for babies to move those muscles.

With years of experience working with babies and kids, Quinones and Gandy, both Triangle moms and certified pediatric physical therapists, are here to help. The two recently launched Babies On The MOVE, which provides parents information and hands-on experience so they can help their babies' build their motor skills.

The two first met when they were physical therapy students at Duke University. After graduation, they moved away from the Triangle. Gandy went to work at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Quinones left for Chicago where she worked at Lurie Children's Hospital. When they moved back to the Triangle - 2013 for Gandy and 2015 for Quinones - they both returned to Duke to work as physical therapists.

There, Quinones tells me, they both had the opportunity to be involved in various research projects for children with a variety of medical diagnoses, work closely with physicians, serve as mentors and lead teams.

Today, they're building a business as they raise their kids. Gandy has two boys. Quinones has two sons and a daughter. I checked in with Quinones by email to learn more about Babies On The MOVE. Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: Why launch Babies on the Move?

Rebecca Quinones: Throughout our time as physical therapists, Rachel and I both realized that we have a strong passion for working with infants and their families.

As part of our work, we spend a great deal of time educating parents about what typical movement looks like, how infants develop and what they can do to help foster that development. We often hear from parents in PT that they were unsure of how to play with their baby before coming to therapy and that they wish they had learned this information sooner.

As parents ourselves, we understand how hectic life with a baby can be. We also know that while there is an abundance of information available to parents about feeding and caring for an infant at first, there is very little available about gross and fine motor development. Current trends in online information offer parents a snapshot of what their child should be doing at each age, but give little detail about how to help the child get to that point.

In developing Babies On The MOVE, we wanted to offer parents an opportunity for hands-on education and training in ways to help encourage motor development for their infants. Our goal is to provide this education in a casual and comfortable environment where parents feel safe to ask questions, share their experiences and have opportunities to socialize with other families while learning new play and strengthening techniques from experts in pediatric movement.

GAM: What kinds of programs do you offer?

RQ: Babies On The MOVE offers a variety of services. Our primary focus is on providing infant movement classes in a group setting. These classes are divided by age and developmental stage and take place twice a month.

We offer families free developmental screens which assess gross motor development and provide an objective way to assess the progress of a baby based on their age. For families who have any concerns about their infant's motor skills, the developmental screen is an excellent way to ease their mind or identify the specific areas that should be addressed. In some cases, this can also provide information which can be shared with a pediatrician when a referral to Physical or Occupational Therapy may be warranted.

In addition to these services, we offer personalized movement consultations which are performed in the child's home and allow for an opportunity for individualized education in a familiar environment. This option is ideal for families who are unable to make the monthly classes or who desire more personalized time to address specific questions and get a breadth of new ideas for working with their infant.

In the community, Babies On The MOVE participates in numerous speaking engagements, ranging from discussing movement at new parent support groups, presenting lectures with community partners, and participating in question and answer sessions with new parents at community events. As consultants, we are also available to provide detailed education and training for anyone who will be caring for infants, including community centers and large daycare providers.

GAM: Physical activity is so important for all kids - even teeny babies. How can we help our babies get moving?

RQ: As parents or caregivers of infants, we can help them the most by providing lots of opportunities for tummy time, back and side play, which leads to strong muscles, coordinated movement and tons of exploration.

Developing strong muscles begins with lots of opportunities for movement early on. Tummy time often gets a bad rap with parents. As therapists, we want parents to know that spending time on their tummy should be enjoyable for babies. This can start as soon as your baby is home with you, by doing time with your baby on your chest or lap, snuggled up with you. As they get more comfortable, babies should be spending time on their tummy for short periods throughout the day, either on a blanket on the floor or on your lap.

When your baby gets tired of a position, as we all do, help them to transition to something new. This may mean helping them to roll to their side or back or picking them up to sit on your lap. Infants like to change positions frequently just like adults do. By giving babies the opportunity to develop strong muscles from day one, we can set them up for a future of movement.

GAM: It's so easy to stick a baby in their car seat or a swing or bouncy seat. How important is it that they get plenty of "free play" time too?

RQ: In general, we are all born with a drive to move. We know that infants will generally develop their skills in a specific pattern within a specific time frame. As therapists, we have seen an increase in the frequency of children having difficulty with their motor skills or developing these skills later than expected.

To help infants to develop and thrive, parents should offer them frequent and varied opportunities to move. When placed on a flat, firm surface, on their back, side or belly, even newborns are learning and strengthening their muscles. They experience new sensations and begin to develop more awareness of their body.

By providing our babies with frequent opportunities for unconstrained movement, we encourage them to learn how to explore, interact with and manipulate their environment. Too often, babies spend time restrained in their car seats, swings, bouncy seats, jumpers or Exersaucers, and do not have the opportunity to independently change the position of their body or interact with the environment around them.

Research shows that infants who spend time in devices such as baby walkers and Exersaucers do not learn to walk sooner and some learn to walk later than infants who do not spend time in this equipment. In order to encourage typical motor development and expose children to all the movement experiences necessary to help them develop their sensory systems, opportunities for free time are extremely important.

It is also important to note that these experiences should be sprinkled throughout their day, rather than planning for a "workout period" one time during the day. With frequent opportunities for free play throughout the day, babies incorporate their developing strength with their desire to interact and explore, and they begin to master new skills like rolling, crawling and walking.

GAM: Now that you have a few months under your belts, what are your hopes for your business going forward?

RQ: Babies On The MOVE is continuing to grow and develop. We are thrilled with the response we have had from parents who are learning and feel empowered by their time with us. As we go forward, we are excited to be developing new classes specific to a developmental skill, such as learning to roll or learning to crawl.

These classes are a supplement to the monthly classes for those babies who are working hard on a specific milestone. We would love to see our reach expand outside of the Triangle area to provide all new parents with the knowledge and skills to confidently play with their babies in a way that promotes their motor development. We look forward to offering franchise opportunities to other therapists who want to offer this type of educational experience for new parents.

For more information, check Babies On The MOVE's website.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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