How the Vestibular System Helps Babies Feel Safe and Secure

The vestibular system is one of our internal senses that controls our balance and motion. It uses information from fluid in the inner ear to let us know the overall position of our body, whether or not we are moving, and if we are moving how quickly and in what direction. This system plays a vital role in our development, especially in the first few years of life. In this post, we will explore how the vestibular system helps babies feel safe and secure, and how we can support their vestibular development with fun and stimulating activities.

The Vestibular System and the Feeling of Safety

The vestibular system is the first sense to develop when a baby is in the womb. It helps the baby orient themselves in space, and prepares them for the birth process. After birth, the vestibular system continues to provide important input for the baby’s brain and body. It helps them:

– Maintain their balance: Every time the baby changes position, such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking, the vestibular system registers that change and tells the baby how to adjust their posture and muscles to stay stable and upright.

– Coordinate their eye and head movements: The vestibular system helps the baby track objects and people with their eyes, and move their head to follow them. This is essential for visual development, social interaction, and learning.

– Coordinate both sides of the body: The vestibular system helps the baby use both sides of their body in a coordinated way, such as reaching, grasping, kicking, or throwing. This is important for motor skills, cognitive skills, and laterality (the preference for using one side of the body more than the other).

– Feel safe while moving: The vestibular system helps the baby feel secure and confident when they are moving or being moved. It also helps them regulate their arousal level, and calm down when they are overstimulated or stressed.

All of these functions of the vestibular system contribute to the baby’s sense of safety and security. A well-developed vestibular system allows the baby to explore their environment, interact with others, and learn new skills without feeling fearful or anxious. A poorly developed vestibular system, on the other hand, can lead to problems such as poor balance, low muscle tone, delayed motor skills, difficulty focusing, motion sickness, and emotional instability.

How to Support Your Baby’s Vestibular Development

The good news is that the vestibular system can be stimulated and strengthened through movement and changes in position. Here are some tips and activities that you can do with your baby to support their vestibular development:

– In the first few months of life, gently rock, bounce, and sway your baby in your arms, or in a cradle, swing, or hammock. This will provide soothing and calming input for their vestibular system, and help them bond with you.

– As your baby grows older, introduce more varied and dynamic movements, such as spinning, rolling, sliding, and jumping. You can use toys and equipment such as balls, tunnels, slides, trampolines, and swings to make it more fun and challenging. Always make sure your baby is safe and comfortable, and follow their cues and preferences.

– Encourage your baby to try different positions and movements on their own, such as lying on their back, stomach, or side, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking. This will help them develop their balance, muscle strength, and coordination.

– Play games and songs that involve movement and rhythm, such as peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, row-row-row your boat, and the hokey pokey. This will help them integrate their vestibular system with their other senses, such as hearing, touch, and vision.

– Provide your baby with opportunities to experience different types of motion, such as riding in a car, bike, or boat, going up and down stairs or elevators, or flying in a plane. This will help them adapt to different situations and environments, and prevent motion sickness.

The vestibular system is a powerful and influential sense that affects many aspects of our development and well-being. By supporting your baby’s vestibular development, you are helping them feel safe and secure in their body and in the world. You are also giving them a foundation for lifelong learning and enjoyment. So, let’s get moving and have some fun with our babies! 😊


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