I’ve always loved babies and children since I can remember– I remember when I was in middle school and high school, I loved being around babies and playing with them, and was curious about their development, how they processed information and communicated with others around them.
I also found I had a natural way of connecting with them easily. As I got older, my heart would break when I saw children with physical challenges or needing an assistive device to move around and found myself wanting to be in a profession where I could be the solution to their movement challenges and help them move and play just like all the kids around them.
What are some signs that a parent may need to bring their baby to you?
So many things! It can be easy to be overwhelmed by things to watch for in a newborn, especially when you are a new mother and sleep deprived, but a few important things include: 1. Movement- make sure baby can move his/her arms and legs against gravity, if their arms/legs/trunk feel like ‘jello’ they may have low tone and require therapy services. 2. Neck position- make sure baby is not ‘stuck’ to one side, meaning tilted or rotated in one direction more frequently than the other side. This can lead to torticollis, which is tightness on one side of the neck and likely will require therapy services depending on the severity. If caught early, this is easily treated, but if not, it can lead to a domino effect with the rest of the body (i.e. tightness, weakness in the arm and leg muscles) and will take a longer time to treat and resolve. Torticollis can also lead to flat head syndrome, where one side of the skull is flattened due to prolonged pressure (essentially because baby is ‘stuck’ in that position due to the neck tightness and laying on a flat surface for long periods of time, such as during nighttime). 3. Toe-walking- many new walkers (12-15 months) spend time on their toes to get more sensory input as they learn their new terrain, but if this pattern continues it can lead to severe muscular tightness of the calves and can signal other issues. In essence, when a mother feels that their baby is not physically able to do what he/she should be able to do per their age, pediatrician’s well-check visits (milestones), or when compared to another baby around the same age, a physical therapist can thoroughly assess if therapy services are needed to help the baby attain their developmental movements, milestones, and functional abilities. I offer newborn packages (for the first 3,6, or 12 months after birth), serving as a developmental guide for the mother and newborn, to ensure your baby not only meets developmental milestones, but can thrive in strength, movement, and functional abilities. Many times, simply having a trained eye to monitor your baby’s development can prevent the need for additional therapy and services. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I am trained not only in evaluation, assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal, neurodevelopmental diagnoses but also in prevention of these disorders. I collaborate with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to ensure your baby is getting the best care and advocacy for their needs.
What are some tips that parents can begin doing with their child to help with development? And when should they begin these movements?
Just be engaged with your baby and observe his or her movements consistently. You want to look for patterns or asymmetries in the body, comparing right to left sides of the body. When bringing baby home, one important thing is to vary his/her position throughout the day, and ensure he or she isn’t always looking to one side. When holding baby for example, ensure you switch positions often, alternating what side you hold the baby. You can even start tummy time in the early weeks after birth, on your chest, when you and baby are awake, and baby is alert and supervised, making sure you are reclined back about 30 degrees to ensure baby is working against gravity. This is a great way to introduce tummy time to baby early in life and prevent any unnecessary pressure to the back of the head (which can lead to flat head syndrome). As baby gets a bit older, around 3 months, you can start to really focus on tummy time on various surfaces, and even in a ‘Superman’ position on your forearm. Remember, baby should be alert, awake and supervised and you should always put your baby on his/her back to sleep. NEVER do tummy time when baby is sleeping. Also remember, just because baby is fussy during tummy time, does not mean you should give up, give him/her a quick break, a kiss on the cheek, and start again. Practice makes perfect! (To be honest, I get fussy when I have to work against gravity too, like when I try doing push-ups!)
What does a typical session with you look like?
I LOVE getting to know my patients’ (babies) and their new mothers and discussing what matters to THEM about physical therapy goals, and centering my treatment around those goals. I offer free consultations to mothers/caregivers to discuss their concerns and then determine if therapy services are needed for their baby. At that point, we then set up an evaluation to thoroughly evaluate and assess the baby’s movements, strength, tone, milestones, cognition, etc. and I help explain to parents what my assessment is and what therapy would involve (sessions, frequency, activities, home exercise program). We then will set up a plan of care to achieve the goals that are important for mom and functionally appropriate for the baby. Treatment sessions can range from 30 to 60-minute sessions depending on the baby’s tolerance level. I start with a few observations to see how the baby is moving, and then I set up the environment to help activate certain muscles and movements that may be challenging for the baby, while giving the necessary support to set the baby up for success. Essentially pediatric physical therapy can be classified as ‘structured play’ because it’s important the baby has fun while I get to work on the goals that are important for mom and me as a PT. I am happy to accommodate the needs of new mothers by offering both virtual teletherapy sessions or in-person at their homes or location of choice.Having compassionate care come to you can make a world of a difference when you are recovering from labor and delivery and getting to know your little one!
When you are not with your clients, where can we find you?
I love hanging out with my two boys, Aahil, who is 4 years old & Akhil, who is 21 months old, and my husband on the weekends. You can find us biking down the Tobacco Trail, going to Friday afternoon soccer practice with Aahil, or munching on pizza while we do movie nights. My husband and I are big foodies so we love trying new places and new cuisine in the RDU area. I love cooking and baking, so our kitchen is usually pretty busy most days. Hence, why running is also something I enjoy doing and sort of NEED to do (since I really love freshly baked chocolate chip cookies)! We are also a family of beach bums so as soon as summer arrives we make it a point to spend a few weekends relaxing at Topsail or Wilmington Beach!