I am in a year long Anusara yoga immersion and teacher training. At our last gathering, one of my teachers shared information that made a lot of sense about young children in relation to physical development.
We’ve been studying alignment and talking about posture. My other teacher is a bodyworker, and I went to a few Roolf sessions to work on some of my body’s misalignment. Alignment is on my mind a lot.
When we put our children in unnatural positions as babies, we are creating misalignment.
Think of the natural progress children make in their physical abilities. All parents have watched this unfold with wonder.
First, babies begin to life and move around their heads while lying on the bellies. Next, they begin to push up with their arms stretching their backs aiding lumbar development. As the back strengthens, babies are able to sit up and then crawl. Eventually, they learn to pull themselves up, and finally bear weight upon their legs (and hips) and walk as toddlers.
What happens when we mess with this natural succession of physical development by placing children in paraphernalia that is truly not developmentally appropriate?
Seven Counties Services explains:
Scientists have observed that motor skills generally develop from the center of the body outward and from head to tail. These developments don’t just occur by instinct. The more chances babies have to practice these skills, the more they will be able to grow and strengthen. This means babies need time and space to explore and manipulate objects in their environment and use their muscles, having “tummy time.” Caregivers can place babies on their belly on the floor so they have an opportunity to use those muscles. By around age 2 months, infants’ backs continue to strengthen, and they are able to raise their head and chest up off the ground and rest their body on their elbows when they’re lying on their stomachs. Around this time, they will also kick and bend their legs while lying on their stomachs; this helps prepare babies for crawling later. By around 3 months, babies continue to mature as they can hold themselves up for longer periods, up to several minutes, and begin to hold their bodies in symmetry. That means that the tonic neck reflex disappears, and they are able to hold each arm in the same position on both sides of their body while on their backs.
Babies continue to strengthen their muscles and improve control of their body parts as they grow. Around age 4 months, they can maintain control of their head and hold it steady while they’re sitting up with help or lying on their belly. They begin to roll their body from their belly to their back on their own. About a month later, they will then be able to roll from their back to their belly. Also around age 5 months, babies will wiggle all their limbs while they lie on their belly; this strengthens their crawling muscles. As with all physical development, skills build one on top of another. Around age 6 months, most infants can sit up by themselves for brief periods and can begin to put some weight on their legs as they’re held upright with some support.
As babies enter the second half of their first year, they become more mobile and can move themselves around their environment on their own. Caregivers need to be prepared to be more active as they follow the babies and to baby proof (Babyproofing)their home so that dangerous situations and substances can be avoided. Babies are eager to explore their newly expanded environment. Babies may begin to crawl around age 7 months. At around 8 months, babies can sit up by themselves for extended periods and can pull themselves to their feet while they hold onto something for leverage and support, such as a table or the edge of a couch. By the next month, age 9 months, babies can not only sit independently for a long time, but also reach and play with toys while maintaining their balance. At this time, babies can pull themselves up into a stand without support. This is a critical time for exercising these muscle groups. The use of baby walkers, or devices that hold babies upright while they move their legs to move around, can delay this process. Research has found that the use of these devices prevents babies from developing the core torso strength necessary for walking (before developing leg strength), which can then lead to difficulty walking or running in the future. For this reason, walkers and other similar devices should not be used.
I want to repeat that last part:
Research has found that the use of these devices prevents babies from developing the core torso strength necessary for walking (before developing leg strength), which can then lead to difficulty walking or running in the future. For this reason, walkers and other similar devices should not be used.
Yes, baby pilates serves a purpose!
I would add that it is not just problems with walking and running but in the whole development of their spine.
You’ve probably heard that many front style baby-wearing carriers may cause hip dysplasia, but have you ever thought of the position your baby’s back is in when placed in a swing or baby bouncy chair? That curve is unnatural. Imagine if you sat in such a concave position. It’s a pretty big slouch. What muscles are we encouraging to develop?
What about when babies are placed in upright positions in walkers or jump ups before they have naturally developed the strength to bear weight on their legs and hips?
I never used a walker or bouncy chair with my children. We did use a car seat (that can’t really be helped) and a stroller, as well as a swing. When I think of the rounded shape this leaves children’s spines and necks, I cringe. This is exactly the posture we don’t want them to develop, yet we leave them in this position at a critical time of development.
Many parents and grandparents advocate for swings, walkers, jump ups, etc. because they think it makes baby content. They think it speeds up development to help them stand supported and be mobile, like in a walker, or be able to view the world upright. This is a very adult perspective. The view from the floor can be very interesting!
The best place for your baby to develop naturally is the floor. Floor time will allow your child to follow the rhythm of life that for countless generations allowed the human body to develop properly.
If you need to use a a walker, bouncie chair, swing, or jump up, please strictly limit time your child is in such devices. Better yet, avoid them altogether. Enough time will be spent in a car seat to do enough damage.
We don’t need all this baby stuff. It is not helping our children develop into physical, graceful, strong bodies. Babies practice yoga naturally. Let them follow the rhythm of life.