So said Professor James Spence in 1943.
When does your baby decide to reach a milestone?
Is it when he has reached a certain age?
Is it when you think he is ready?
Answer: Actually ideally none of the above.
In Western culture, we’ve been brought up to believe that milestones are so vital. As therapists who work with the paediatric population, we are definitely educated in the method of milestones. Sure, they’re important but if you restrict your baby’s movement, you are restricting their ability to reach them. Whoops. I’m not allowed to say that am I!
Actually think of it like this. Let’s say I expect you to run an Ultra distance marathon (that’s anything over 50km on trails and in the mountains usually) but I don’t let you move on your feet before the big day. You’re ‘ready’ according to your age but you haven’t trained. The REASON you haven’t trained is that you haven’t been given the chance. It’s NOT BECAUSE YOU ARE DEVELOPMENTALLY HINDERED!
A baby. Same analogy.
You are being cautious to sleep him on his back to promote safe sleeping. Great. We’re all about that. You do however decide that as your baby is four months old, you’re looking for some ‘rolling action’ so you decide to promote tummy time even more. He’s only been on his tummy during supervised time during the day. You have been working part time and your partner is working full time so that supervised time has been minimal. The majority of the time he’s been on his back or in the carrier (which has meant his head is in flexion/forward bent). Now we’re asking him to develop neck and head strength and control because it’s time. Doesn’t work like that.
What if I suggested that your baby will develop when he has the chance rather than when he’s old enough. Give him the chance to develop head control/ neck control, core control (I very much dislike that word core because it’s so limiting so to clarify, I mean more than the abdominals). Give him the chance to look around from day 1. The chance to be upright AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
Here are the benefits as I see in my wee patients:
- Baby led development rather than parent led development
- Greater mobility and strength for muscular and bone development – multi-directional rather than just forward/backward or up and down.
- Less of a focus on the milestones and more of a focus on giving a platform for movement rather than trying to run the ultra race without even having time to be upright!
- Less positional plagiocephaly – that’s when the head shape changes because of the weight-bearing from lying down. Yours would change too if you spent that much time on your back!
Here are some hints:
- Your baby will go to sleep in the capsule and baby carrier – not necessarily because they’re tired but they’re probably bored! Keep them upright more frequently and longer periods during the day.
- Your baby will LOVE seeing the world from a 360 degree perspective rather than just looking at your cleavage or hairy chest (I’m assuming that’s dad with the hairy chest!).
- Try allowing the baby to climb on you upright from day 1 to develop head control/grasp reflexes and beautiful motor patterning which leads to shoulder and hip strength and stability.
- Try this. Instead of your gym membership and putting baby into the creche on his back for an hour, go for a walk carrying baby WITHOUT A CARRIER and see how fatigued your back and arms get within the first 15 minutes. Try working up to an hour. It’s free, time outside, gives baby chance to strengthen in his own time and I bet you move in a million more directions for yours and baby’s cells than if you were on the cross trainer.
Go forth and explore. Let them explore your world and you can explore theirs.
Disclaimer: Always be guided by the directions of the baby carrying device. Let baby tell you when you need to change sides and shift hip and move from front to back and vice versa. He’ll tell you. Watch.
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