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Under Pressure - Tips To Calm Your Baby With Proprioception

What are the body’s senses? Touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. That’s what most of us would say. But did you know there are two other senses? Proprioception and the vestibular sense are two senses that we aren’t usually taught in school.

The proprioceptive sense is our body’s awareness of where it is in relation to the environment. Just like how we might feel a tickle from our skin when something brushes against us, our proprioceptive sense in our joints and muscles lets us know where our body parts are in relation to the rest of our body and the movement we are making. Our bodies use this information to make effective movements. Whenever we are carrying heavy grocery bags, curling up in a blanket, chasing after our little ones, or squeezing through a tights space, we are getting proprioceptive input. Getting your body’s “just right” amount of proprioceptive input throughout the day can be very regulating, calming, and can help with attention and focus. No wonder we feel relaxed after a firm massage or a day full of physical activity.

Young baby on tummy smiles as adult gently massages its back
Firm touch used in a baby massage can be calming to babies.

It’s important for our little ones to receive this input- especially since that is the type of input that they were used to in utero. The womb is full of deep pressure that can help regulate and calm a baby. As your baby grew, the pressure increased against the wall of your uterus creating a deeper pressure. Being in the womb could be likened to a super tight hug all day and night long. As babies get older it is still just as important to get this deep pressure because it often can help them feel secure and relaxed in their environment. Here are a few ideas to try throughout your day…

Tight hugs can be a way to great way to get that input. Wrap your arms around your kiddo for 20 seconds. Rock back and forth if they seem to enjoy that. Not only is this calming, but it’s a great way to get in some snuggles!

Massage your little one by firmly squeezing down each limb and down their back. Light touch (like a tickle) can be alerting. But a firm touch is calming. First squeezes the shoulders and then all the way down their arms. Then massage their back, and do some tight squeezes on their hips and down their legs. This shouldn’t tickle.

Baby Burrito by grabbing a medium sized blanket (could be a weighted one if your child likes those) and tell them you are going to wrap them up like a burrito. Have the child lie down on one end of the blanket while you roll them up. Roll them up and roll them back out. Watch their face to see if they are enjoying the activity.

See how your little one responds. There is no one size fits all when it comes to what is calming to a little person. For one kid it might be a full body massage, while for one it might be wrapping up in a heavy blanket.

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