Tummy-Time Solutions

Dan Rindler, G.C.F.P., Child’Space Practitioner

Tummy-Time  While it is well-accepted that lying on the tummy when awake is an important position for development, many babies do not spend much time in this important position.  Babies who don’t  become accustomed to this position from their first days of life, may cry and fuss, leading parents to abandon trying tummy- time.  By gaining improved awareness of the body, especially the flexor and extensor muscles of the trunk, babies can learn very quickly to find comfort on their tummy. When parents use the techniques of the Child’Space Method at home, they will see their baby’s world expand as they are able to begin lifting their head and exploring the world from this new position.

S.I.D.S.:  You can find many resources, most importantly your pediatrician, to advise you on avoiding SIDS.  Please follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to preventing SIDS.

Benefits: When a baby lies on her tummy, she learns to bring her head and upper body up and down in gravity.  This exploration is a major part of how she learns the balance and organization needed to keep the head up without strain in upright postures.  On the tummy, babies can reach for objects, balancing with only one hand, and can practice rolling over to their side or back.  These movements help organize the coordination of the many small muscles around the spine for crawling, sitting, and standing.   Bone growth and shaping is also positively affected by bearing weight in this position.  No advances in motor development occur without affecting a baby’s cognitive and psycho/social development as well.  Compared to lying on the back, tummy-time is an active posture: reaching for toys and other objects in the baby’s world give her a new feeling of agency, of having an effect on her own world.  Lying on the tummy with the head more upright leads to new interactions with parents and others from a more independent position.  The baby is beginning to enter the world of the adults and older children in his or her life, where social interaction takes place in a vertical position.

Standing and Sitting:  It may seem counter-intuitive, but standing and sitting your baby isn’t the best way for them to learn to stand and sit!  In fact this may delay your baby’s ability to find comfort on his belly as well.  In sitting or standing before this organization has been learned, babies must contract their muscles in order to hold their head up, often with excess muscle tone in their back (extensor) and neck muscles.  That excess muscle tone can make it difficult for babies to relax into the floor when lying on the tummy and can make rolling over seem almost impossible.  When a baby explores bringing her head up from the prone position, she can rest her head on the floor whenever she gets tired.  She will learn to organize her whole system to manage the weight of the head without unnecessary strain.  When she is ready, your baby will find sitting and standing as a natural outcome of her movement exploration and will be able to move freely in and out of many positions.

What About my Exersaucer?  Exersaucers, bumbo seats, jumperoos, and the baby bjorn among many others are designed in a way that requires babies to hold their heads erect before they have found this position on their own in floor time.  All of these devices put added stress on the infant’s system and play time on the floor is so much more beneficial than many of these devices.  Ideally, you should use them sparingly if at all.  (The newest baby bjorns are an improvement on the old models, but other carriers are much better.)

Strength or Quality of Movement?  What’s the difference between an expert athlete and his or her competitors?  It’s often more a matter of coordination and timing than strength. In the Child’Space approach, we stress that proprioception, or the mapping of the body in the brain is crucial for coordination.  To quote Moshe Feldenkrais, “If we know what we’re doing we can do what we want.”  Practicing the tapping and movements taught in class will help improve your baby’s proprioception, and help them find comfort and coordination in tummy-time and many other new postures and movements.

© Dan Rindler, 2012

Child’Space Overview

The Child’Space Method

By Dan Rindler, Child’Space Trainer, GCFP

The Child’Space Method is practiced in two formats, hands-on sessions and group classes.  In both formats, the practitioner actively involves the parent in the process and teaches them hands-on techniques and games of interactive touch and movement that support infant development and enhance the bond between parent and child.

“Because touch, more than any other sense, has such ready access to young babies’ brains, it offers perhaps the best possible opportunity, and one of the easiest, for molding their emotional and mental well-being.” Lise Eliot, What’s Going On In There How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life

Development: Child’Space seeks to improve motor, social, emotional and cognitive development primarily through touch and movement.  This is possible because motor development affects all other aspects of development.  For example, when a baby first learns to lift her head while lying on her stomach, this new learning affects her social, emotional and cognitive development too. She can now interact with her toys in a new orientation, stimulating new connections in her brain (cognitive).  After having spent a lot of time with adult faces hovering over her while she was on her back, she can now invite those familiar faces to a new experience – meeting face to face from a more equal position. (social, emotional).

Importance of Touch:  In our touch-starved culture, babies don’t always get the touch they need.  Studies have shown that babies who are touched more have healthier weight gain, better sleep habits and lower levels of anxiety. Child’Space teaches parents techniques that go deeper than massage, the method uses touch to facilitates the learning of new movements which, in turn, stimulate changes in the baby’s brain.

Milestones: Often babies and young children are evaluated on the basis of milestones.  i.e. Is the child rolling over?  A Child’Space Practitioner, is even more interested in observing how the child is doing the movement, in addition to what movements or positions are possibleIs there an effortless quality to the movement or is it accomplished with a lot of unnecessary muscular effort?  Through increased awareness, infants can learn to move in ways that are more coordinated, and efficient.

Trial and Error Learning.  Children learn through play, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.  Ideal infant learning sometimes involves becoming frustrated and overcoming those frustrations through problem solving.  Parents can learn through their own process of trial and error how to support their baby without solving their problems for them, in order to learn and to gain a certain amount of self sufficiency.

Early Intervention:  Why intervene when we are told “it will work itself out?”   Current research tells us that a child’s environment and relationships affect the progress of their development.  Making small, seemingly simple changes to your child’s world can make very positive changes in their experience.  Take the example of a child who has learned to sit and crawl.  The milestone can be checked off on a chart as being learned, but there is great variation in the way each child sits and crawls.  Can a child freely transition in and out of many different positions or is her movement limited and strained?  When issues of movement are addressed early on, changes can be adopted incredibly quickly and the effect on one’s quality of life can be profound.

“I am not arguing that the infant cannot find a way to perform the necessary physical tasks.  I am however, concerned with the quality of the functioning.  It seems sensible to exploit the fact that applying minimal stimulus, at an early stage, can help to achieve maximum quality.  We cannot foresee which child will overcome early developmental hiccups and for which child these early frustrations will have far reaching, unwanted effects.”  Dr. Chava Shelhav, Ph.D.  “Filling in the Blanks” The Feldenkrais Journal.  Spring 2005.

© Dan Rindler, 2012

Side-Time!

by Dan Rindler, GCFP

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“Back to Sleep” is a phrase every new parent has heard countless times, to describe what is considered the safest positioning for a sleeping baby.  In terms of floor-time, “tummy-time” is the word heard most often.  But aren’t there more options?  Of course! There are at least1 two more possibilities for lying down – side-lying on the left or right -which are almost never mentioned. Instead of exploring “side-time”, parents of a baby who is rejecting tummy-time will often be advised to use a chair or bumbo seat to avoid developing a flat spot on the back of baby’s head.  I’m glad to share that there’s a much better way.

Side-Time and Tummy-Time

Babies who are rejecting tummy time will almost always accept being rolled to side-lying more readily than lying prone.  They may fuss somewhat at first (and you should respond accordingly when they do) but after a short time of getting used to it, many tummy-time refusers will lie happily on their side.  It’s a wonderful option for any baby who needs to vary their position from lying mostly on the back of their head.

Benefits of “Side-Time”

Imagine yourself lying on your back for just a moment.  How much effort would it take to transition to a new position?  Now imagine yourself lying on your side, and ask yourself the same question.  Can you feel that even in your imagination it’s clear you’d be much more ready to roll from your side than from your back?  On your side, you have a more narrow base of support, and it’s much easier to tip your weight forward or back into rolling.  For this reason, a baby on her side may feel she has more possibilities – she may not stay in one position for as long as when she is on her back.  This is a good thing!  Babies are constantly learning about their bodies and selves through movement.  Babies who feel no possibility for movement will have a very different sense of both their bodies and “agency” — their ability to affect themselves and their environment.  As your baby gets used to being on the side, he or she will become aware of having more choices for changing position than when on the back or tummy.

Side-TimeFlat Spots and Side Time

Have you noticed a flat spot on the back of your baby’s head?  A recent study found that 47% of babies had some degree of flattening of the skull (known as plagiocephaly) by the age of about two months.2  This happens largely from the head resting in the same position during sleep and many waking hours as well.  When you introduce side-time to your baby, you help him break the habit of resting on that same habitual spot that his head always seems to gravitate to.  Unlike during much of tummy-time, where the head is lifted, he will bear weight on different areas of the skull, helping that flat area to round out over time.

How to Help Your Baby Find Comfort in Side-Time

  • Lay your baby on their back on an uncluttered area on the rug, floor pad, etc.
  • Have some face-to-face time, making sounds, making faces.
  • Hold your baby’s leg and gently bend it knee toward chest or out to the side
  • Bring baby’s bent leg across their body to roll them slowly and gently to their side.
  • If your baby doesn’t turn her head immediately, you can wait and give her time to turn her head, or start over and move slower.
  • Find a comfortable spot to put down your baby’s leg – sometimes in front of the leg on the floor helps babies balance on their side longer.
  • Gently press down on your baby’s body to help her settle into the floor.

You should always consult your doctor before trying any new approach with your baby.  For more support, you can contact a Child’Space Practitioner for a class or private session.  [email protected]

Notes:

  1. See my upcoming article, “Your Baby is not a Cube” for even more ideas about positioning your baby on the floor.
  2. “Pediatrics” August 2013 Issue

www.childspacenyc.com

NY-2 FAQ

NY-2 Training Dates + Times

  • Nov 1-10, 2015 – day off Nov. 7
  • April 3-12, 2016 – day off April 9
  • Aug 7-16, 2016 – day off Aug 13
  • Oct 16-25, 2016 – day off  Oct 22
  • March 26-April 3, 2017 – day off  April 1

Times:

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday :  10am-515pm. Lunch is 1.25 hours, usually begins around 1230 or 1pm depending on class schedule

Tuesday, Thursday:  9am-315pm.  Lunch will be around noon.

Location:

Brooklyn Zen Center, 505 Carroll Street, #2  Brooklyn, NY  11215

 

Tuition 

Early-Bird Tuition:  $6250.

Early-Bird Payment Schedule:

Deposit:  $850  due May 31, 2015

Payment 1:  $1800 due October 1, 2015

Payment 2: $1800 due June 1, 2016

Payment 3: $1800 due October 1, 2016

 

Full Tuition:  $6750.  (Begins June 1, 2015)

Deposit:  $850  

Payment 1:  $1950 due October 1, 2015

Payment 2: $1950 due June 1, 2016

Payment 3: $1950 due October 1, 2016

 

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Deposits are non-refundable.  If tuition is more than 10 days late, a $50 late fee will be applied to your account.

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Passwords will be given to each trainee after registration.

Babies Need Time Off Too

by Kira Charles, GCFP, Child’Space Practitioner

 

Lately there have been a number of articles about how people never get time away from work.  They are at the beck and call of the ubiquitous cell phone.  They are tired, overstressed and feel like there is no escape.  Did you know that babies can feel this way too?

You want your baby to be stimulated, to laugh, to look you in the eye and understand the little games you play with her.  But remember that your little one is really new to this great big, loud, bright, busy world.  Moreover, the brain is wide open, with billions and billions of neurons all sending information into that young brain.  Even in the happiest of moments, there can be that point when the baby has had enough togetherness.  Your baby craves your attention but she also needs to rest from the onslaught of information.

There are some undeniable signals that your baby needs a break, such as fussing or crying. However, babies also have other, more subtle ways of communicating. By using their eyes, their lips and their bodies, they can tell you when they are happy or when they have had enough.  Interpreting your baby’s personal idiom helps him to feel listened to and safe and may avert some meltdowns.

What are the small, subtle signs that a baby is ready for some downtime? Her color may change or her breathing may start to hitch. She may break eye contact and turn her eyes away.  Yawning, which is known as a signal of tiredness, can also mean that your child has looked into your eyes too long or played enough patty-cake.  Similarly, a slight turning away of the head is a way the baby says, “Give me a breather.”  If you ignore the signal, your baby might start to kick or wave her arms, frown, pout or tongue with an open mouth.  This is an opportunity to back off before the baby really lets you know she’s had enough by pushing away with her feet or strongly turning away or going into a crying jag. These signals don’t mean that you can’t continue your conversation or game in a moment.  It just means your baby needs some breathing room.

Downtime does not only mean sleeping.  Downtime can mean allowing the baby to just lie quietly and watch the sun move across the room.  That would probably be a little slow for you, but fascinating to a baby.

Understanding cues can make you a better parent and attune you to your baby.  “Attunement” is the term used to describe the way a parent reacts to a baby’s moods and emotions. Well-attuned parents detect what their babies are feeling and reflect those emotions back in their facial expressions, voices, and other behaviors.  The role of attunement is important in helping children to recognize and regulate their own feelings.   By responding to your baby with warmth and consistency and by respecting your baby’s need for a break, you build feelings of trust and sense of self and deepen your relationship as well.

Is Your Baby Planning to Talk?

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by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

An interesting article came my way this week about infants and language development.  It turns out that when your baby is listening to someone speak, long before they themselves can talk, their motor cortex is active.  That is the area of the brain associated with planning and coordinating movement.

When adults learn a new dance step, or to play an instrument or some other complex new coordination, we often think it through before carrying it out.  As we imagine ourselves making the movements, the motor cortex is active during the imagining, the same area that will be active when we execute the movement.  Its a rehearsal of sorts and one that many professional athletes and performing artists utilize, as well as being a common feature of Feldenkrais classes for adults.

Turns out babies are likely doing something like the same thing for many months before we hear them speak.  Rehearsing the movement in their minds to produce the sounds they hear (and the lip and tongue movements they see) their parents make when they speak.  You can read the rest of the article here.

Rhythm Connects Us

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

I read this short article today, titled “Babies are Kinder After You Dance Them.”   The point of the article is excellent and I recommend it, but the title could use a re-write!   The author’s measure of babies being “kinder” is that they were willing to pick up an object that an adult dropped.  And then there’s “Dance Them”.  Which definitely should be “dance with them.”   When we dance and sing we experience rhythm and movement together and find ourselves feeling a new connection to each other.  I think parents in my classes who may not be used to singing together with other adults experience this with each other as well.  So, I think I might have titled the article, “Babies and Parents are More in-tune After they Dance Together” but perhaps that wouldn’t have gotten the article as many “clicks”!

It reminds me of this favorite quote of mine from VJ Ayer, in which he says that rhythm is a kind of empathy.

“The way that the brain works when we are perceiving rhythm, is that the parts of the brain that light up are the parts involved in motor sequence planning.  It’s about making limbs move as a response to rhythmic activity but its not just a response to it…  In a way your body wants to regenerate that same activity that gave rise to that sound.  It’s a kind of empathy.  Its that kind of resonance that we have in our body with other bodies doing similar things.  When we hear somebody doing something we want to do it too.  Rhythm is the reason that we’re able to do anything together.”   – Vijay Iyer on the NPR show Bullseye

 

The Un-Registry Part II

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

Diapers, Toys and Helmets!   Parents are being marketed to like never before with new products coming out all the time for babies. Unfortunately many of the products created for infants these days have more to do with convenience for parents, and may not actually support optimal infant development.  This is part II of a series of baby items I suggest are best avoided and a few recommendations too.  Part I can be found in the blog below.  I originally wrote this list for my good friend when his wife was expecting.  I hope you’ll find it helpful!

These are general guidelines, and every baby is different.  Please take this in the spirit intended: as a list of suggestions.  Watch your baby closely and make up your own mind about what is best!

Items to Cross Off the Registry and a Few Recommendations Too:

Oversized Cloth Diaper Systems.   Some cloth diapers with an outer and inner layer are so bulky that they restrict babies’ hip joints.  If you decide to go with cloth diapers, pre-folds are best for allowing movement, though maybe not the most convenient for out of the house.  You can get “snappi” brand clips to put them on easily.  G-diapers and “Happy-Heinies” are brands that seem pretty good for the layered type partly because they come in several sizes.  (No I never thought I’d be researching something called “happy heinies” for my work!)   I’m no diaper expert, I’m sure there are other excellent brands.  The idea is to look for whether your baby can bring their knees towards their chest with similar ease to when they are naked.

Padded Helmets for Toddlers   As hard as it can be to see them get the many little bumps of early standing and walking, your baby needs the little bumps of every day life to learn balance.  A helmet isn’t necessary, and alters their balance.   (This isn’t referring to the helmets prescribed for infants with flat-head syndrome

Bouncy Seats That are Almost Vertical.  Look for a bouncy seat that puts baby in a reclined position to support the naural “c-curve” of their spine.  The same goes for swings.

“Sleep Seats or Positioners”  These have become popular in the last few years.  Some babies may sleep better in them but it’s because their movement is being inhibited.  Parents who use cribs know that their babies move a surprising amount around the crib.  Often they find new coordinations of movement that they don’t exhibit in any other context.  Babies who sleep in a device that fixes their position lose out on that opportunity.   These devices are often recommended for babies with reflux, but in many cases a better solution that allows the baby to move is preferable.

Only Terry Cloth or Plush Toys.  Nothing wrong with these but I find many parents have few solid, hard toys.  Wooden toys give babies the sensory feedback they crave as they learn where their bodies are in space and how they move.   They’re more satisfying to mouth as well.   Keep in mind that for the first few months your baby will hardly be interested in any toys and instead will be interested in their body, their environment and especially your face.  In later months, it isn’t necessary to have tons of toys, you can keep it simple.

A seemingly infinite number of toys that are based on classics but now cost 5 times as much because they light up and play music and vibrate.  Pushing a button to make something electronic happen is not a lesson we need to work hard to expose them to, they will be surrounded by electronics soon enough.  Why not begin, at least mostly, with toys where your baby can actually see and feel the effect that he or she has on it.  These also don’t overwhelm/over stimulate them so much that they tune out of their own sensations.

I recommend toys such as: a rattle with a nice handle to grip, a ball to roll, old fashioned alphabet blocks to manipulate, a cylindrical rolling toy to crawl after, and a bead maze – those beads on bent wires – these are toys that keeps them busy through many stages.  No need to go overboard with toys for babies- younger babies don’t need them at all, and when they do become interested, only a few are needed.  Also, wooden kitchen spoons and a few pots and pot-lids make excellent toys for crawling babies.  Toys that show cause and effect are part of the idea here – not something that entertains for 10 minutes after pressing a button.

a the boy at boxAnd finally, my recommendation of THE ULTIMATE DEVICE for supporting your baby’s motor development is…….the floor!  So many parents tell me they can’t find the time in the day to give their baby tummy-time.  I believe this is largely due to the many unnecessary contraptions that we are inventing to put our babies in.  Time spent in chairs, jumpers and more mean that your baby will be missing out on vital time spent on the floor learning about his or her body and how it works.  I encourage all parents to use these devices sparingly and they are often surprised to hear what we have in our house for our baby: a crib to sleep in, a “bouncy seat” that is at an angle that is close to lying flat to contain him while we make dinner, and a dedicated spot on the living room rug.  That’s all!  If you adopt a similar simple set-up to ours, there’s no need to remember “tummy-time” – when your baby isn’t being held, she will be on her back, sides, and tummy throughout the day, and learning so much about herself and her world in the process.

When Will I Know if My Baby is Right or Left Handed?

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

Parents are always curious and bring up this question in my Child’Space NYC classes and private sessions.   Many parents notice that their baby has a preference to use one hand more than the other and it can be fun to speculate if your baby will be a “righty” or a “lefty.”  But, you may be surprised to learn that “handedness” isn’t neurologically set until nearly 3 years of age, and sometimes even later.  Infants may begin to show some preference around the time they are moving in and out of sitting independently and crawling but they should still use both hands often.  Sometimes, this ambidextrousness continues well past 3 years old before one hand becomes clearly dominant.

 

Babies may have a preference for using one hand a little moreHappy Asian baby girl often than the other, but it’s very important that parents don’t cater to that preference.  If a parent decides his or her baby is left-handed for instance, and that parent begins putting toys, a spoon, etc. into baby’s left hand only, it can limit the baby’s motor and even cognitive development.   Babies need to use both hands for the development of their muscles, coordination and balance.  Using only one hand largely helps build connections in the half of the motor cortex which is associated with that side of the body.  If you encourage your baby to only to use one hand,  you may actually be affecting the development of their brain.

 

Recommendations:  If you notice that your baby uses the same hand very consistently and seems clearly left or right handed, consult your pediatrician, as it may be a sign of an issue.  Be sure to engage your baby to touch, reach, grasp, lean, and more on both arms more or less equally.   Play traditional baby-games like “This Little Piggy” (its not just for toes!) or pat-a-cake to engage your baby to better sense, feel and move their hands and fingers.  If you’ve taken a Child’Space class, you know to use the tapping and other touch techniques of Child’Space Method on your baby’s arms and shoulders when they are trying to reach for a toy.  As you play with your baby, place toys in locations that will encourage them to reach both arms in many different trajectories, so that they practice movements outside of those that are habitual for them.

Learn more, or find classes and private sessions to support your baby’s development:  www.childspacenyc.com