Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Movement Begins at Birth!

Making sure our children get enough movement begins when they are born. I can't emphasize how important this is. Until about the age of six, everything that a child knows is based on his physical relationship with the world. Therefore it is critical that he be given as much opportunity as possible to explore it freely and interact with it successfully.

To begin with, babies need lots and lots of tummy time. We have been cautioned not to put babies on their bellies while they sleep, but when they are awake, tummy time allows them to begin to raise their heads against gravity and develop strength and stability in their necks and trunks. It forces them to use their hands and arms to push themselves up off the floor. The pressure from pushing begins to separate the thumb from the rest of the hand, which is critical for development of fine motor control, and the shoulders develop the solidity they need to support the arms and hands.

Babies need to work their bodies against gravity in order to develop their nervous systems and acquire coordination. Think about all the work a baby must do when it is carried on its mother's hip. It has to use its flexor muscles to hold on. It has to hold its head up against gravity. It has to constantly adjust its head position to maintain its balance in response to the mother's movements. If the mother bends over, the baby bends over, and when the mother straightens up, so does the baby. Every time the mother turns, bends, or moves, the baby experiences itself in a different relationship to gravity and learns to maintain its balance and upright stature in any position. This is crucial for development of depth perception and many other aspects of vision.

Now think of the work that a baby does when it is placed in a stroller or a carriage. There is none! Being strolled and rolled is an entirely passive activity. The baby is experiencing one type of movement in one dimensional plane and is not required to make any postural adjustments. Strollers that face the baby outward and are low to the ground do not allow for eye contact or easy conversation between the baby and whoever is rolling her, so she's missing out on opportunities to interact. Less interaction means less opportunity to develop language and social relatedness.

Car seats are fine for the car, but babies who are left to sit in them for long periods or are habitually carried in them also lose out on opportunities to work their bodies against gravity and develop strength and balance.

The more opportunities we can give babies to move and explore, the more we are facilitating their physical, emotional, and intellectual development. Pick up your baby, turn on some music, and dance!


Steven Strauss said...

When I grew up I realized I knew all the words to dozens of Nat King Cole songs without trying. I knew my mom danced my sister and me around the living room when we were babies, and it turned out she sang along with every Nat King Cole record that came on the radio. It's no wonder that I fox trot in my sleep.

DaMomma said...

There is nothing more delicious on the ENTIRE PLANET than a dancing baby.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you so much. Babies need all sorts of stimulation but touch and movement are so primal and basic. One of my favorite things in the world is watching a new walker. They have conquered the universe and their glee in this accomplishment is usually readily apparent.

Steven Strauss said...


Minna said...

Its so true...the problem is that babies who have weaker muscles hate being on their stomachs. I was just watching a friend who would try to put her 2 month old on his stomach and he would scream until she turned him over to his back.