“I was actually pretty amazed by how secure it made me feel”

We took the pre-crawlers class with Micaiah when he was about 10 weeks old. It was really really excellent. I knew there were things I should be encouraging him to do, and also knew there was probably a type of way I should be encouraging him, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t stressing him out or moving him in ways that weren’t helpful (or, contrary to natural body movement).

The class is short (45 minutes) to sustain his attention (and mine), got to meet some other great moms, and it really helped build my confidence to encourage his natural movement (and know when he needed a push in a certain direction). I was actually pretty amazed by how secure it made me feel at the end in terms of where he was developmentally and where we were headed in the future.

Where Should My Pre-Crawling Baby Play?

Hi Dan,

Our son is now 7 months old, and he’s sitting up on his own, rolling all over the place (barrel rolling), and gets himself into a crawling position (all fours) and rocks back and forth a lot. I’m happy with the progress and letting him get to his milestones naturally and with encouragement, as I learned from your class!  We have him with a nanny all day, and I said to her that the best place for him to be is on the floor with lots of tummy time still.  Are there other types of positions/seats that I can put him in so he doesn’t have to be on the floor all day, and so he can experience other parts of the world?  I don’t want to get him a bumbo, exersaucer or walker, since I don’t think those are good for his legs or back.  Maybe his high chair and table with toys on his eating tray?  Or safely sitting up on the couch, so he sees more activity?
Would love your thoughts on this!
B

Dear B,

I agree – your son has learned so much in such a short time, and it seems likely that he’ll be crawling soon.  I agree with you that the floor is still the best place for him to be, but we all need a change of pace now and then.  Now that he’s sitting independently (which to me means he can bring himself to sit) I’d recommend that it’s perfectly reasonable to set him up in a highchair to play for 10-15 minutes or so for a little novelty.  What type of highchair you use does make a difference. I found that my own son sat remarkably better (taller and with more possibility to twist and turn in any direction) when he was in a Stokke “Tripp-Trapp” highchair than he was in the first one we had which was more akin to an old-man’s recliner.  If you have a big cushy recliner type highchair, I’d highly recommend considering something with a firm, flat seat like this.  There are plenty of similar modern chairs on the market now as well and they are designed to be used for years.  In fact, my 11 year old still sits on hers at the dinner table!   I think this would be a much more ideal option than the couch.  The other thing to keep in mind is how to vary his environment down on the floor.  This is a good time to make sure you have toys that will easily roll away such as balls or cylinders which will motivate him toward crawling.  There should also be some sturdy boxes or step stools, around for him to pull toys off of, and perhaps to bring his hands onto in order to come towards a kneeling position.

Take care and be well,
Dan

Hold Me! – A Workshop on Lifting and Carrying Weight

Devoted mother laying son down into crib for nap in bedroom

Hold Me!!!  No parent wants to dread hearing these words.  But kids are heavy and the constant lifting can take a toll.  Do you have mommy-thumb or new-parent back ache?  How about the lesser known chunkster-elbow, mama-hip, or crankster-neck?  (Very real problems that no one has named until now!)

This Feldenkrais workshop, will teach you how to practice new patterns of coordinating your shoulders, neck, spine and all the rest, which will make carrying your baby easier (including while breast-feeding) and thereby relieve chronic pain.  You will leave with a new feeling of how to move, and ideas for how to practice while you are interacting with your child.  Taught by Dan Rindler, GCFP.

This workshop is just for adults.  No babies please, as this is a time to focus on yourself!

1230pm-3pm.  $45
Saturday, June 11, 1230pm-3pm
At The Feldenkrais Center of Park Slope, 426 4th Avenue
Note: This is a special workshop, no package of classes or other offers can be applied to this fee.

My Baby Hates Tummy-Time…But, My Baby Loves to Stand!

Why Standing your Baby may contribute to their difficulty in Tummy Time

My Baby Hates Tummy-Time…But Loves to Stand”
Does your baby hate tummy-time but love to stand up?  This is a common combination and there is a reason for them to appear together. Many parents, eager to notice what makes their baby happy and to follow their baby’s lead, fall into the habit of standing up very young babies.  This may seem fine, as babies often seem to really enjoy the position.  However, standing your baby before he can coordinate bringing himself to the position can result in practicing a lot of unnecessary stiffness and holding in the body.  For many babies standing along with other factors can add up to difficulty in tummy-time and other movements that are important developmentally.

Why it’s too early

When you stand your baby up before she can do it herself, she is in a constant state of catching herself from falling.  Because she hasn’t developed enough balance yet, and doesn’t know how to use her legs and feet for support, her body leans forward, back, and to the side.  With each lean away from her center of gravity she tenses her muscles to stop from falling, and often with too much muscle tone.

But isn’t your baby getting stronger?  Well his muscles may get larger as a result, but it isn’t an ideal way to do it.  An important part of strength is using muscles with coordinated effort – distributing the work through the body in a way that is efficient.  What often gets practiced when a baby is stood very early, is the opposite of efficient coordinated effort.  As the baby in this photo is stood up, he relies on the muscles in front (flexors) and back (extensors) to create the stability he needs, his shoulders shrug and arms stiffen, he knees may lock or grip his toes reflexively as well.  As a result, he practices contracting many muscle groups together inefficiently to create the necessary stability to feel safe.  Not only does he practice too much muscle tone, but inefficient combinations of muscle groups are used which work at cross purposes.  In short, he ends up contracting many muscles at the same time to stabilize himself and if he brings that same pattern of contraction to tummy time and other positions he will feel that it is difficult to be comfortable or to move the way he’d like.

Tummy-Time

When your baby is on her tummy, if she keeps her muscles contracted in a similar state to standing, she will be very uncomfortable.  She may not be able to lift her head at all, or she may not even be able to feel at rest on her tummy and instead may hold herself in a position where she is fighting gravity from the moment she touches down.  To give one example, here is a baby exploring how  to coordinate his body for lifting the head in tummy-time.   Tummy Time Baby - Flexors extensors

The extensors of the back contract enough to help lift the head, while the flexors, generally stay soft and lengthen.  Not only that, but any time he feels that he is exerting himself too much, he can rest his head on the floor.  Also notice just how much of his body he leans on to support himself – a very large base of support compared to two little feet!  Do you see how different this is than the pattern the baby practices when standing up?  In other movements different combinations of muscle groups fire, but in each one, there is quite a different pattern than the strong stabilizing pattern elicited when standing your baby up.

But My Baby Loves to Stand!
IMG_5508

Yes, it appears that your baby loves standing.  My colleague Barbara Leverone likes to re-frame this statement as, “My baby loves to see me and and he loves to push with his legs.”  The good news is you can give your baby what he loves in a way that is more developmentally appropriate than standing.  When he lies on his back, allow him to push on your legs or arms or the floor at the baby in this picture does, and use his legs to move his well-supported body.  Coo and chat with him while you do it.  He will love the feeling, and he gets to see you too.  The difference will be that he doesn’t have to stabilize his head in gravity without a chance to rest down to the floor whenever he needs.  And that change may make a big difference in your baby’s development.

Baby-Thoughts • Body-Thoughts

Do you ever wonder, “What is my baby thinking?”  Have you considered how your baby experiences thoughts since he or she don’t think in words?  It’s likely that a lot of baby-thoughts have to do with  bodily sensations.  In fact, your baby has an inner experience of you and of the world in which their thoughts and feelings are inseparable from the sensations of their own body.

Mom and Baby From Postcard, RiverdaleWhen you touch your baby with a “listening touch” as taught in Child’Space NYC classes, you will find that you connect to your baby in a very different way than you might when drawing their attention outward to a toy or book or some other external focus.  Instead you are joining them in a way that acknowledges their inner experience.   To paraphrase Dr. Ruella Frank, in that moment your baby “sees you see her and feels you feels her.”

This is a powerful practice for your baby and for you.  It can be an antidote to all the stimulation of modern life – as cautioned about in this article

Like meditation, it’s not complicated – it just may be hard to remember to find time for it amidst all the distractions and tasks involved in being a new parent. But if you do make the time (and it doesn’t take much) you’ll find there’s a great reward for doing so.  To begin, put away your phone, take off your apple watch, rest your hand on your baby look into their eyes and listen to what you feel.  Next, tell your baby what you’re feeling, they’ll appreciate hearing about it.

“The ultimate magic of attachment is touch. And this magic enters through the skin.” —Daniel Stern

Summer Offer

 

Summer Feldenkrais Offer
email and phone #



The Tummy-Time “Movement”

Advice for parents looking for the best way to do tummy-time with their baby

Tummy-Time is a Movement, not a Position 

Are you concerned about helping your baby “do tummy-time correctly?”  Perhaps instead of a perfect push-up like you’ve seen in countless baby photos, she lays with her head down and turns it side to side, or maybe she even rolls her body a bit to her side and ends up in a twist. Not only are these and other possibilities typical, a variety of movements in “tummy” position (including that “push-up”) are beneficial for your baby.  Babies learn when they experience a wide range of movements and orientations, and understanding this can help make tummy-time a happier and more beneficial experience for your baby and for you.

Your Baby is not a CubeCube Baby

Phrases like “tummy-time,” “back to sleep,” and even “side-time,” which I coined in a recent article, can imply a static posture.  Similar to the way we describe yoga postures, these ways of talking about a baby’s body imply that there is an ideal shape or position to strive for.  However,  this kind of thinking can negatively influence how we as parents interact with our babies, because babies are wired to move!

We talk about our bodies as having a front and back and sides – like a cube.  But the human body is more cylindrical than our words describe.  Can you pinpoint the exact spot where your back ends and your side begins?  There is no exact point!  While a cube can lie on one side or another for any length of time, your baby’s torso is much more of a cylinder – made to shift weight constantly in both big and small increments — and it’s beneficial to give your baby  many opportunities to do so.

Tummy-Time for Cylinders

When parents are encouraged to see tummy-time as a fixed position (and often as an exercise), rather than a position to be in and move through, they often keep their baby there too long.  They don’t encourage or even allow all of the small movements that are important for the development of balance, weight shift, and more.  I encourage parents to see tummy-time as an orientation for movement rather than a posture.

Movement and Brain Development

All of the seemingly random small movements your baby does in tummy-time are significant experiences for brain development.  The experience of these movements are necessary for your child to build coordinated and efficient movement.  In her book Kids Beyond Limits, Anat Baniel writes on the subject of what she calls “random movements,” saying, “Those random movements of the more typical baby may not seem like much at the time.  But for the child’s brain, they provide a rich flow of experiences and information that are absolutely necessary for the brain to eventually develop controlled and effective movements and actions.”

Suggestions for more Dynamic Tummy-Time:

1 Watch and touch your baby during tummy-time, not the clock.

2 Encourage babies who don’t yet lift their head to follow your voice and turn and look to the other side.

3 You can allow your baby to pass through tummy-time repeatedly – roll baby there and back again slowly. Don’t worry about  staying for a long “workout” each and every time.

4 Have small, graspable toys nearby for baby to reach for – this requires shifting weight more to one side, and will give baby important practice with movements.

5 A Child’Space class or private session can give you many ideas that are specifically appropriate for your baby.  See www.childspacenyc.com for a session in NYC.  For other locations, see the North American Child’Space site here.

Dan Rindler is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner (’06) and a Child’Space Method Trainer, having studied with the method’s originator, Dr. Chava Shelhav.  He has worked as a staff member at the Feldenkrais Institute of NYC, and is currently in private practice in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  Dan is the director of Child’Space NYC, a program that offers private sessions and classes throughout New York City.