Again…again….again! That is what you are going to hear when you start this game!
When I teach prenatal classes, work with parents in the NICU, and work with young babies, many dads have asked me when they can “throw their baby up in the air.” Moms are typically horrified, but I tell them that it is actually really good for the baby (within reason).
Once your baby can hold his head up and has some good postural control (can hold his own body
in a vertical position) it is fine and even helpful to give your baby this movement. When your baby is on the younger side, provide this movement slowly and without ever letting go. Cradle your baby and move her swiftly forward and backward in your arms. Allow her to feel the motion and see how she reacts. Does she startle or smile? Does she look at you like she is enjoying the movement or does she begin to cry? Follow your baby’s cues.
As she gets a little bit bigger, you can give her some vertical motion so she can process her world from this position and learn what it feels like to move through space.
As your baby gets closer to nine-months-old and is crawling and demonstrating functional sitting on her own, go ahead and give her a little toss in the air. This movement teaches her a lot about how her body feels in different positions, it challenges her balance and equilibrium, so it builds a lot of brain cells and it strengthens her shoulder and hip girdle as well as her large muscles groups. When she anticipates you catching her, she makes her body tight, contracting her abs, and extending her arms. This takes control and coordination and builds important skills. Maintain eye contact as you play and make sure she is enjoying herself as much as you are. Don’t go crazy. The goal is movement, not how high you can throw her.
Be careful to never yank on her arms during play. Even if your baby is between you and another adult, do not hold her hands and swing her forward and back. Do not hold both of her hands and lift her off of the ground or swing her around. Always support her at her trunk with your hands. Pulling her off her feet by her hands can cause a painful dislocation at her elbows.