Arm strength is important in infants for safety and for achieving crawling.
One of the milestones that makes me realize that my baby patients are slowly growing up right before my eyes, is when they are able to stay sitting up all by themselves. Infants begin to stay sitting up by themselves around 6 months, and usually sit in the “ring-sit” position.
In order to hold this position, babies need a certain amount of arm strength to be able to hold their elbows straight. They also need good arm strength in sitting so they can protect themselves from falling if they lose their balance in sitting.
Arm strength continues to improve as an infant progresses from sitting independently to transitioning from sitting to lying on their tummy, and then eventually to crawling. Arm strength becomes more important when it comes to crawling because an infant must have enough strength to hold their tummy off the floor while lifting an arm and leg to crawl.
Once your child begins to crawl, then they’ll start crawling places and the next task they’ll start doing is pulling to stand at anything and everything they find. This is usually when parents start clearing every table they have so nothing gets tossed to the floor.
Click this pic to the left to see that amazing baby doing full on pull-ups at a table haha. Now I’m sure that baby has great strength to start crawling.
So here are some tips to help increase that important upper body strength in infants:
1- Have them play with heavier/ larger toys in sitting so they have to use both arms to hold the toy and have to work harder to play with it. Some examples of heavier toys are bigger balls, wooden toys, and any other larger object that requires using 2 hands. Having your baby start practicing holding their bottle is also great to help increase arm strength. Plus, infants should start holding their own bottles around 10 months old.
2- Have your infant lie on their tummy over a pillow or boppy while playing with a toy. This strategy is a spin-off of my tummy time strategy discussed in my tummy time tips post. This time, I make it harder by having them farther off the pillow so they have to use more of their tummy and arms to hold themselves up while playing with a toy.
3- If your infant is already pulling to stand and trying to stand more and still not crawling, then you can work on increasing their arm strength by making them repeatedly pull to stand at a table to increase their arm strength. You can do this by placing toys / play pieces on the floor and the remaining part of the toy on the table, and encourage them to place all the pieces on the table.