Core Strengthening in Babies

I’ve had a few moms approach me about working on core strengthening with their babies recently, so I felt that it could be beneficial to many parents out there and warranted a blog post. Check out my YouTube video for specific exercises with a demo baby.

When babies are going through their gross motor milestones, core strength becomes more and more important. They begin to develop it early with tummy time, and then start to engage even more muscles when they move to prop sitting and ring sitting. The true test comes when they push into hands and knees and start incorporating the coordination involved with creeping (creeping the correct PT term for what parents call crawling, this may be featured in a future blog post).

But what if baby does not stay in tummy time? Lots of babies dislike tummy time, and you may often hear, “just push through it, it’s good for them!” However some babies learn quickly to roll from belly to back and it is difficult to maintain this position. Also, babies who have reflux or GERD can be severely uncomfortable in tummy time. So I’ve listed some activities in the YouTube video to make tummy time more comfortable, as well as activities to strengthen baby’s core in preparation for sitting that don’t require being on their stomach.

  • Pull to sit (baby crunches) with slow raising and lowering. This is great for engaging abs as well as strengthening neck flexors. Try to build up to 10 repetitions with no head lag and core engagement throughout. If this is too hard, hold baby’s shoulders instead of their hands. Make it fun by singing “row row row your boat” while doing the motion.
  • Laying on back crossbody arm and leg touches. This is a great way to engage the obliques, and can be made fun by use of toys or bubbles to get baby to reach with opposite hand toward opposite foot. This is a great one for adults too, try it!
  • Tummy time on wedge/towel roll/over parent’s knee. All of these take some pressure off the chest so babies with reflux may be more comfortable, and helps to strengthen neck extensors and shoulder girdle as well as core.
  • Weight shifting on exercise ball. This is a great one for sitting balance practice and the directional shifts are perfect for core strengthening. Make sure to try different directions with baby, including forward/backward, side to side, and circles clockwise and counterclockwise. You can also use the exercise ball to work on tummy time and slowly shift baby further forward on the ball as they become more comfortable.

I hope these ideas can help parents to try some new strengthening ideas with their little ones! If you have questions or would like to make exercise modification suggestions, feel free to contact me. I expand and modify my exercises to fit each baby’s specific needs at my physical therapy clinic in Troy Michigan. And be on the lookout for more blog posts and YouTube demonstration videos in the near future!