How Independent Sitting Happens

True self-discovered, un-propped, independent sitting comes later than many people think–later than common recommendations based on Baby being propped. Here’s how it can happen in a typical progression. Time spent in each element can vary greatly.

PART 1 (Hey, we gotta get to know gravity first . . . stay with me!)

CuddleNewborn-CROPBorn.

Rest into Loved-One’s arms, into gravity, bonding with my support, loved.

Squirmy-wormy-wriggly

Rest.

Turn my head. Fall into gravity. Roll roll roll rollllllll….

On tummy: push happens.
HlogPushUppers 2mo CROP SMPush?
Hey! Push! pushing into the earth, lifting head, supporting on forearms
Rolllllll…

Pushing up up up!
Kicking feet
Rest.

Push push push slide.
Slide in a circle, wheee!, pivot on belly
Hlat pivot1

Pushing up up UP! Up high on handsHlog uppers high

Push push push sliiiide. Slide—Hlog uppers toy
BACKWARDS.
!!
??

Push. Slide BACKWARDS. Darn it! I want that!
Backwards backwards
Arghhhh!

Hlat toe5 CROP LTN

Toes chit-chat with the floor. BIG TOE plays with the floor, has conversations.

My weight shifts over to one side, frees one of my arms to play.
Yeah! Hangin’ out with one knee bent out to the side. Playing. Curious.

Hlat6 play CROP-SMALLER

Hlat uppers

Push…

Backwards, still.

Push backwards + one knee pops out to the side + big toe chit-chats with the floor + I want that toy = forward.
FORWARD! Got it!

Toy (or Mama, or Mama’s lunch) and one arm free with a toe-push forward, coordinating hand with eye.Hlat fwd2 CROP

PART 2 (We’re getting there…)

Pushing pushing, all around, in circles, backward, forward.
Body weight shifts onto one side, then the other.
Slip ‘n Slide!

Pushing, squishing into myself and unfolding out.
Push, weight-shift, on my side-ish, twist, and upward.

Twist twd sit

elbow-hip twd sit

! Push and upward on my side!
On my side, on my side…
Again. Tummy, then side, then up on elbow and hip.

Again. Tummy, then side, then up on hands and hip.
Look how high I am!

Coming to sit 10mo CR SM

Measuring, sensing, reading my distance from the floor. Back and forth. I know where I am. And how I got here.

Sidesit one hand

Down. Up. Down. Up. Down into the floor. Up out of the floor. Balancing, playing, whoops!—down.

Push. On side, up on hand, on hip, hands free.
Hands free! Hahahaaa!!! I’m all the way up here with both hands free!

full sit

Oh, everyone says I’m “sitting.”

PART 3 So many options! From sitting, Baby can go down to his tummy or reach onto his hands and knees.HlogReachUppers2 CROP SM

Some babies play in a “weeble” motion.

Down the way I came. Up the way I came. Down again. Or, up one side and down the other. Down one side and up the other.

Weeble 9mo CR

Sit, whee go off to the side, put weight on both hands, sit on the other side, whee, spinning in a weeble circle!

And that, my friends, is the dance of independent sitting. The typical expectation is to prop-sit babies; but I support you in not propping Baby in sitting, but rather witnessing with joy as she discovers it on her own!

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Your Touch Guides Development: A Nifty Way to Hold Your Baby

It’s true. How we hold and move babies influences their development. Here is a nifty way to hold Baby that supports movement, self-motivation, and learning.

First, the position:

5mo sidehold1

In the picture above, we see: 

He’s inclined to the side

How do you usually pick up, put down, and hold your baby? What direction does he face in relation to the floor, ceiling, and walls?

This (picture above) puts Baby in an orientation to gravity other than straight up-and-down or forward-and-back. It allows his inner ear (proprioception) to experience a different way. It expands his range of options and his comfort!

His legs are bent at the hips (and knees)

This bending, or “flexion,” provides a strong base from which to uncurl into desire and movement. “Extension” (arching) gets us places too; but moving from flexion gives us a great deal of integration, support, and power!

His right arm is free and his left arm participates in supporting himself

My intention is to provide support that gives him a sense of safety and comfort, yet allows him to maneuver his own self as much as possible.

He’s looking up toward the camera

His senses are engaged. Perceiving the world has a large influence on development too!

The one toe we can see is engaged

That toe will be important when he belly crawls! Imagine a floor under his toes (like a running position). That big toe will eventually help to propel him forward in belly crawling.

I have him flush against me

My left arm is also supporting most of his body weight at his left side, even though it looks like he’s leaning on his left arm. This allows his body weight to fall into me so he doesn’t have to support all of his own weight. This is necessary because he’s not yet sitting, which is typical and healthy at his 5 months.

This inclined side position, with limbs engaging, is how he will eventually learn to get in and out of sitting by himself, without ever having been propped!

Next, the action:

5mo sidehold2 armreach

In this picture, we see:

He has started rolling toward his belly, which he could do easily from the incline

Imagine him slightly older, in this same position but on the floor and supporting his own weight. From this very position, he’d be able to move in any direction: roll forward, roll backward, push up to sitting, go down to his side, push himself feetward on the floor, or propel himself forward in belly crawling.

He is looking at a toy on the floor

Motivation: it’s why we move at all.

In fact, check out how everything about him is engaged toward his intention. When was the last time you felt 100% aligned toward your desire, in all aspects of yourself, with nothing hindering you?

His right hand is starting to reach toward the toy

This position allows him to reach first with his hand, rather than approaching the floor legs-first. This strengthens his upper body and his hand-eye coordination. His movement easily follows his intention. Arms-first movement is also very beneficial for babies who have been prop-sat.

His left hand supports

See how his left hand/arm provide stability while his right hand/arm move? This relating between “stable” and “mobile” is what movement is all about!

Stage-specific

Baby does not have to be at a certain developmental stage to benefit from this way of holding. However, this baby happens to be at a “side to side” stage of development called Homolateral. While on his tummy, he is learning how to shift his weight from one side to the other, which will become belly crawling. His entire left side is his supporting side, while his right side is his moving side. This is very different from hands-and-knees crawling! This way of holding him supports exactly the kind of movement experience his brain-body seeks.

Why?

I’m holding him in a way that mimics his own natural movement development, utilizes healthy body mechanics, and imitates the side-to-side weight-shifting he is already doing on his own. I want to observe and follow his flow in creative ways that don’t limit him to our culture’s habitual mindstate of “straight up and down.”

So, explore with your baby! Find creative ways to hold him that sometimes take him a little off of center. This is especially important if your baby has been propped or held in sitting or standing. It gives him a chance to feel himself and explore the world in a variety of ways.

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

“Good Job!”, Or Not?

It’s habit, I know. “Good job!”  We love our babies. We get excited when they do new things.

But why “Good job!”? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? I mean, let’s really look this question in the face. We all have different influences. Why do you say “Good job!”?

  • To show love and pride?Clapping hands
  • Grow Baby’s self esteem?
  • Because popular literature says to?
  • To avoid behavior issues?
  • That’s what was said to you?
  • For the satisfaction of Baby looking to you for approval? (hey, honest question!)
  • Were you accepted as a child simply as who you are? Or for what you did (or didn’t)?

Invitation: does “Good job!” really foster what you think it’s fostering? I point you to an article by Jennifer Lehr: “Good Job!”  Please indulge in her words as I try to keep my post shorter! 

Let’s challenge popular thinking and make sure we’re actually saying what we mean to say!

For more reading, see:

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

The Importance of Measuring (or, The Importance of Not Propping in Sitting, Standing, and Walking)

It’s something we do automatically. It’s how we know where the floor is; or gauge how much to move our legs when going up and down stairs. If we didn’t have a chance as infants, or we have other challenges with balance, it’s part of why we feel clumsy or uncertain about our movements.

This mysterious activity? Measuring. Babies are masters!

We can see this baby feeling what she's doing. She's starting to push up to sitting. In the process, she's "measuring," or sensing where she is in space and in relation to the ground.

We can see this baby feeling what she’s doing. She’s starting to push up to sitting. In the process, she’s “measuring,” or sensing where she is in space and in relation to the ground.

When babies learn to move, they begin lying on the floor. Over time, development brings them up off the floor, from lifting head and chest to crawling to walking. Pushing off the earth comes before, and leads into, being able to reach into space. That is, measuring comes before, and leads into, freedom of movement and innate trust in our own movement abilities.

So what is measuring?

This brilliant design of the human nervous system gives infants a chance to “measure”—to experience their distance from the floor. It allows their brains to read gravity and know where they are in space.

Imagine this. You (your adult self) have been picked up by someone strong and set on your feet on a 5-inch-wide wall several feet above the ground. (And you happen not to be a gymnast or tight-rope walker.) What do you do? How do you feel? What happens to your breathing? Is this familiar? What’s your sense of heights and distance from the ground? Did you want to be put up here? Would you have been able to get here on your own? How will you get down? Do you know yourself and your abilities right this moment?

Imagine this. Perhaps you’re hiking and you have come upon this stone wall. You’re curious. You touch it, lean on it, and want to get on top of it to see the view or to get to the other side. You have desire, intention, motivation. You make attempts at climbing it, try a few things, discover what works, and make it to the top. How do you feel? What are you thinking about, or not? What’s your sense of heights and distance from the ground? How well do you know yourself and your abilities right this moment?

In the second scenario, you measured. YOU experienced the journey from the ground to the top of the wall. You know where you are in space. You got there yourself, and you’re likely to be able to get yourself off of it.

In the first scenario, you had no opportunity to measure. You were dependent on someone else to get you up there, and because you didn’t experience how to get up, you may also be dependent on someone else to get you down. You weren’t given a chance to know your own ability; rather, someone more powerful has done something to you. While it may be thrilling, you may also be apprehensive.

Watching your amazing baby: How do babies measure?

Watch for:

  • The nose-bob or nose-to-mouth. At the breast or on her tummy, you may see Baby bobbing her nose, then latching on with her mouth. If she’s holding something, you may see her bring it to her nose, then slide it down to her mouth. This is one form of measuring or orienting—setting herself up to know where something is and where she is and how to make the two meet.
  • From tummy, lifting head and pushing up on hands. Get on the floor with Baby and try it yourself too! Lying on the floor > pushing up > down to the floor > pushing up. Clock some time doing that, and you understand how to “be” at that distance off the floor. You know where you are in space.
  • Baby spots a toy and either pushes backwards on belly or belly-crawls forward. She has spotted what she wants and sets up her movement to attempt to get it. She gets feedback from the outcome—did her actions get her what she wanted? Please don’t move the toy, as she won’t get correct feedback about measuring what she had set herself up to do.

    Spotting what he wants, figuring out how to get it, trying it out, discovering the outcome: measuring.

    Spotting what he wants, figuring out how to get it, trying it out, discovering the outcome: measuring.

  • From sidelying, watch Baby push with her hands into sitting. Try this one too. Here I am lying on the floor; and feeling each moment of the journey up to sitting; back down, back up; measure, measure; ah, now my proprioceptive system (inner ear) knows where I am in space, and I know how to get back down.
  • Pulling up to standing—it’s all about measuring! Up, down, up, down. Reading distances, feeling gravity, knowing her own ability. “Down” may be falling or plopping at first, but she’s not afraid because she got herself up there. Her brain is reading this distance and what she needs to do to move within it.

The truth about propping

When we prop babies in sitting, standing, and walking before they are able to get into it and out of it by themselves, they don’t get this experience of knowing themselves and measuring. They become dependent on us to get them up higher and to get them down again. We put them into the situation of the first scenario above.

In a society so focused on achievement, allowing Baby her full time and space necessary to discover movement on her own takes trust! But we are designed to be able to do the next thing when we are ready.

Sometimes there are stressors that prevent babies from finding milestones. But in general, each milestone will happen by itself once all (ALL) previous and necessary preparations are in place.

It’s a common myth that we need to teach sitting, standing, and walking. Baby will benefit the most from finding these on her own. It’s also a myth that babies learn it by practicing it. She’ll learn because she did all the preparations and ends up in the new milestone.

Remember that Baby is a master at measuring and knowing her own abilities, and you can point this out to all the people who come along and say “your baby isn’t sitting yet?????”!

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Holiday Overstimulation and Visiting Family

Hi folks,

With the holidays upon us, I’d like to share a post I wrote last December. I can’t “re-post,” so please follow this link:

Holiday Overstimulation–Let Baby Turn Away

The holidays and family gatherings seem to present decision-making opportunities to parents like no other time. How do you protect Baby’s space, needs, and your ways of relating while you’re around family members who may not understand or may feel differently?

Two examples: crying-in-arms and not prop-sitting. Both of these provide ample territory for potential ridicule. Think ahead about what choices you’ll be confronted with so you’re not caught off-guard. Protect Baby’s needs as much as you’re able to; and when you’re not, plan on some recuperation time with Baby later when you’re alone. Find fun ways to explain what’s happening, like, if Baby turns away from someone, “Oh look, isn’t that cool, he knows when he’s taken in as much as his brain can process, smart kiddo! He’ll look back at you in a minute.”

Have wonderful holidays enjoying Baby AND family!

There's his invitation to engage! as I pay attention to my camera...

There’s his invitation to engage! as I pay attention to my camera…

Cute! But Functional? Clothing Baby for Optimal Development

I know. Baby clothes? Can be so cute.

But even clothes-picking needs our awareness! Here are some tips as you purchase or receive baby outfits. Overall, be on the lookout for clothes that allow freedom of movement.

The following can be restrictive. Choose wisely when Baby wears them.

  • Hoods: can get caught or be in the way when Baby is learning to roll. They also create a bump when Baby is lying on the hood (can affect comfort and alignment). When on, hoods generally don’t turn with the head–the head turns inside them (can restrict vision and accurate perception of environment).
  • Long dresses: For the belly-crawlers and hands-and-knees-crawlers, watch for Baby’s knees! Crawling knees can get caught inside a long dress, so Baby ends up trying to crawl inside the dress—one can’t get very far this way!
  • Jeans, thick corduroys, or other “hard” fabrics: can make bending more difficult (at waist, hips, and knees) for crawling, sitting, and kneeling (“sitting on heels” is super important!).
  • One-piece long pants outfits and footie pajamas: can be fine, and super cute, just watch for attempts to crawl inside the outfit.
  • The big toe is a key to belly crawling and ankle integration!

    Footed bottoms: Having feet covered can be like wearing gloves. Go for bare feet as much as possible during playtime, for the sake of nerve-ending development and traction. Also, feet are another way babies touch, measure, and explore their world.

  • Big diapers can hinder healthy development as well. See my previous post for more info.

For playtime, go with clothes Baby can get (a little, or a lot) dirty in! Explore all kinds of surfaces together, for each offers a slightly different and informative experience: carpet, hardwood, linoleum, and out of doors.

And while you’re at it—are your clothes restricting your freedom of movement?

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Tummy Time: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends daily Tummy Time. Others say don’t put babies in it until they can roll into it on their own. Many babies are uncomfortable in it. What to make of all these messages?!

Each offers a valuable principle at its core:

  • Tummy Time allows reflexes to open and natural movement development to occur
  • We disempower children when we prop or put them into positions they can’t get into on their own
  • Babies are uncomfortable for a reason and we need to listen

Let’s re-define Tummy Time, from an Infant Developmental Movement Education perspective.

Why is Tummy Time important?

Many babies enjoy Tummy Time!

Much about development is triggered by being on the belly. Many babies get less of it these days, partly because of sleeping on their backs (for SIDS safety) and being propped in seats and standers. When babies don’t visit Tummy Time, problems can develop.

Tummy Time isn’t just about being active. It’s just as much about resting! (There’s actually a reflex for it: “Tonic Labyrynthine.”) Many sources mention movement benefits, like lifting the head and arm strength, but miss this important factor! We can’t move off the earth efficiently until we’ve released into its support (“yielding”).

What’s even more immediate than being in Tummy Time?

Two things, as my colleague Lenore Grubinger and I like to discuss. Address these, and Tummy Time emerges as a natural option:

  • How Baby gets into Tummy Time
  • Lying on all four sides

How Baby gets into Tummy Time

Just put the baby on his tummy, right? No, please don’t! It’s the only way many folks know, but this very act is related to much Tummy Time distress, and therefore the perception that infants don’t like it.

Make it adult-sized. Imagine someone’s holding you and moving you face-first toward the floor. What the… is about to happen to me? All systems on alert! I was not expecting this! I don’t know how I got into this, and how will I get out of it? Startle reflex, engage! Protection! Nervous system on alert, now!

Sound fun? Being brought tummy-ward to the floor can induce the startle reflex, which heightens adrenaline, retracts the shoulder blades, and has the infant in a state of alarm before even touching the floor. Then crying happens to release emotion and stress chemicals. It’s uncomfortable because one needs one’s arms useable in Tummy Time, not stuck backwards in startle.

How, then, to get into Tummy Time?

By utilizing the pathway Baby will use, bypassing startle, moving at Baby’s pace, and being down on the floor with him.

  • Begin by holding Baby in a ball (flexion)
  • Place him on his side on the floor in this ball (including head/neck in flexion), so he doesn’t startle
  • Pause, and slowly roll him onto his tummy (see my last post for what to do about that stuck arm)
  • Use this every time you want to put Baby down, including onto his back.

Being on all four sides

3-dimensional orientation is natural. Back-lying-only is not “natural.” Neither is only-tummy-time! Putting babies into positions they can’t get into and out of by themselves can be disempowering. However, there is no one body surface that’s more “natural” than others; we just tend to be back-lying-focused as a society.

It is greatly important to experience all sides: for balance/inner ear, proprioception (where I am in relation to gravity), spatial awareness, preparation for falling, and milestones like independent sitting. The back, tummy, and both sides are all important surfaces to know.

“Bottom” line?

Respect babies as humans. Encourage being, resting, and playing in all orientations to gravity. When handling them, mimic how they’ll do it themselves. If Baby protests, there’s a reason, so please don’t push it. Regarding the tummy, this is usually a signal that something is probably uncomfortable and needs support, rather than that Tummy Time itself is a bad thing. Think of Tummy Time more as a place to be, less as a thing to do.

 

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Elizabeth Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)