Roll-Regret

Why does my baby keep rolling to their tummy when they hate it?!!

Do you know this scenario well? Your baby cries to be rescued from their tummy, so you roll them back. In only a few seconds you see them making movements to roll right back to their tummy, immediately crying again. To most of us, this makes no sense, and in more intense moments of the day, it can be downright exasperating. If they don’t want to be there, why do they keep going back?!!

The answer, in short, is that the choice to roll again is not about wanting to be there or not. For that matter, it may not exactly be a “choice” either. Instead, it’s closer to your baby’s experience to think of rolling as a habit that’s hard to break.

Are you consciously choosing all the movements you make? For example, in the beginning of the pandemic we were all told to stop touching our faces. How did that go for you? Not so well for me! In order to have a chance at  stopping, I had to notice, somehow, that I was about to do it and pause right at the initial impulse to make the movement, which was hard enough already. Next I needed to do something other than touching my face, when I felt utterly compelled to do it. It’s exceedingly hard to do. (Are you scratching an itch on your face right now as you read this?!).

For your baby at this stage, and in the environment you’ve created for them, rolling can be something more like this than like a thoughtfully considered decision. 

Imagine a ball at the top of a hill — it takes just a little push, hardly any force to get it to roll all the way down to the valley where it stays at the bottom. It’s not until someone comes along and applies a very big force, like a strong kick, that the ball can get out of the valley.  The valley is a “stable attractor.” It’s easy for the ball to get there, and difficult to leave. When your baby first learns to roll, rolling is a “stable attractor.” A groove that the baby’s body and brain fall into easily and often. And similar to the ball resting in the deep valley (or me touching my face)- the readiness to shift to a new action (such as playing on their back)  just isn’t very accessible to your baby’s body and mind in this moment and in their current environment. 

Once the skill of rolling is more practiced and not quite so new, your baby will have begun to explore other new options for movement.  They will roll easily to either side, maybe initiating the movement not just by moving their leg, as they may have done at first, but also by reaching an arm across their body, or other variants. At this point, rolling over won’t have the same magnetic pull in their system. To understand this point in their development, you can think of a few hills that are less steep and with much shallower valleys. There are a few choices for where the ball might roll to – different possibilities for action and it’s easier now to roll the ball out of the valley to a new location — to initiate a new action rather than repeatedly rolling.

Now there are several attractive moves to make instead of the one and it’s easier to shift from one to the other.  What does this mean for your baby? When your baby has reached this stage, now they won’t feel so utterly compelled to roll immediately to their tummy when they clearly are tired of being there. Until they reach that point though, we can catch ourselves rubbing our face once again, feel some empathy for their situation and give them a pat on the back while telling them we know just how it is.  

* The ideas in this post are based upon the work of Dr. Esther Thelen, developmental psychologist and my Feldenkrais teacher at Indiana University in 2001/2002.

Vayu’s Room

I’m excited to share more ideas with you for keeping your baby or toddler (and even preschooler) learning and happy at home. Vayu attended the We Grow Together program, for exactly a year, during which time his mom Sarah created a beautiful learning environment for him. She was generous enough to take pictures and share a few links to where she purchased many items, and I’ve added some captions to help other parents to make their own baby home gym!

Where to find these items or similar:
Yoga Bolsters – many sources
Rocker Board – Etsy. I have this one, but there are many options.
White Padded Mat: “Alzip” brand
Cardboard box – DIY!
Stokke Tripp Trapp – baby supply shop or get a used one, they last forever.
Rainbow Pikler Triangle Link
Remo Gathering Drum: many sources
Short Tunnel: Great size for new crawlers. Link
Thai Triangle Pillow: many sources
Foam/vinyl Ramp, Stairs and Tunnel Link

For more ideas for mobile babies stuck at home check out: “Home with a Crawler + Cruiser?”

Parent + Baby 3-Minute Meditation

With a baby at home, it can feel impossible to find the time for self-care. Thankfully, there are ways that you can take care of yourself while connecting to your baby as well. While I stayed home this week, I made a 3-minute meditation video that parents can use with their babies. My son, home from school, “helped” me out. Tune into your sensations and your baby for maximum benefit, or for a smile you can watch his silliness.  Please share with any new parent friends!

Home With A Crawler + Cruiser?

Social Distancing Support Blog #1

Most of us are staying home at the moment (and here in Brooklyn most are in very small apartments)! Here are some ideas for keeping your crawling, cruising, and/or walking baby busy and engaged at home, and hopefully to help you maintain at least an ounce more inner-calm!

Make cruising obstacle courses with chairs and sofa.  

Throw all the couch cushions on the floor and make more crawling obstacles.  

Get a big cardboard box that she can push around the apartment like a walker.  

Throw a blanket over the table and chairs and magical tent to play in.  

Make a tunnel out of dining room chairs.  

Fill some plastic bottles with water and seal them well. Your baby can try to pick up and move around (baby kettle bells!)  

Turn a big box on its side and put some special toys inside (or hang them from the top).

Get a collapsible tunnel or a fancy 4-way one on amazon that folds flat.  (Like this one)

Spend a bunch of money on Etsy and get a Pikler Triangle with some ramps and other attachments as well. (Or if you’re a good carpenter, make your own.)
You’ll get years of use out of it and it’s better than getting the other Etsy favorite – the rocker board which is great for toddlers and pre-schoolers).  

Conversational Touch

The “ultimate magic of attachment is touch.”   
– Daniel Stern, Diary of a Baby

Babies develop their sense of self through the felt-sense (physical and emotional) of their interactions with us. When we pick up a baby, change their diaper, or playfully interact through touch and movement, that baby is gaining an understanding of their body in movement. 

Our minds may be on more mundane issues while changing a diaper, but a baby is sensing their body moved smoothly or jerkily, with ease or excess force, and sensing what happens if they resist or allow the movement. We need not be aware of this at every moment, but if we understand that our babies’ developing sense of movement, and indeed, sense of self, are influenced by our touch, we can shift our awareness of our interactions enough of the time to support a rich learning process for them. 

Predictive Conversation and Conversational Touch

A study of infant language development pointed to the value of parents making “sensitive” responses to babies’ babbling. Researchers observed increased communicative ability in infants whose parent didn’t just imitate a sound being made, but rather modeled the words that their babies’ “sounds approximated and expanding on it (e.g., if the infant uttered “da-da-da,” the mother would say “Da-da is working. I am ma-ma”).” *

In the We Grow Together program, we explore a way of interacting through touch which correlates to the “sensitive” predictive conversation observed in this study. Parents learn to bond with their baby through “conversational touch”—hands-on interaction that sensitively mirrors and playfully expands upon a baby’s movements.  

As a baby makes movements toward rolling, we can explore the movement with them. We don’t correct, and we don’t show the ‘right way’.  Instead, we explore many options together. We can take hold of their leg and slowly sweep it across their body to try a multitude of different trajectories, noticing the possibilities together. Which directions seem more helpful towards rolling over, which may work better for rolling only to baby’s side, which seem suited more for kicking, or other functions. Like the mother who echoes “da da” and then begins an expanded verbal conversation, we mirror an initial movement and then use touch and movement to suggest and ask about alternative or more elaborate movements.  

Outcomes: Beyond Equifinality

Equifinality means that for typically developing babies, they will likely crawl, walk, and talk at their own pace — but they all reach similar abilities in the end. So why practice this approach when they’ll probably be fine without it?

Through conversational touch, the baby has the opportunity to develop a richer repertoire of movement. Often when a skill is learned, a baby’s attempts at exploration decrease, and with less experimenting comes less refinement of the skill (Why explore and experiment when we can reach well enough to get the toy we want?!). But with conversational touch and We Grow Together classes, parents can invite their babies to keep the avenues of exploration open, and feel closer to each other in the process. 

There are psychological and social benefits as well. Through these mindful exploratory movements together, parent and baby can bond more closely. They feel they are “in it together,” just as a parent and older child might feel when enjoying playing a game together. Parents in the We Grow Together program often realize they’ve made a profound shift from entertaining their baby to interacting. Some parents who feel distant and might have otherwise said they are “waiting for the baby to be older and able to play” realize that there’s a way to bond playfully and meaningfully through physical movement from the earliest days of their baby’s life.   

Article:  Pretending to Understand What Babies Say Can Make Them Smarter

Research and Development!

I’m very excited to share news of the research study of my classes, conducted by Dr. Carolyn Palmer, PhD., Developmental Psychologist at Vassar College! Our recently published article in the Infant Mental Health Journal is titled “Moving Into Tummy-Time, Together: Touch and Transitions Aid Parent Confidence and Infant Development.” In it, Dr. Carolyn Palmer, Barbara Leverone and I share our findings — that attending my classes led to improved tummy-time, fostered a more varied repertoire of movement, and pointed toward shifts in parent confidence as well. Here is the link to the abstract. More info to come! https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/imhj.21771

Confounding Baby Behavior!

Have you found yourself wondering why your baby does certain confounding things?  Wouldn’t you love to know what your baby is thinking?  For instance, after you give your baby a break from tummy time, does your baby instantly roll right back to their tummy even though they are exhausted from that position?  A classic baby experiment may give you a new understanding about your baby’s thought process.

In the video linked below, a mom shows her 8m old baby a toy and hides it under one of two handkerchiefs.  The baby reaches for the correct handkerchief and finds his toy.  Next, the mom clearly shows him that she has moved the toy under the second handkerchief.  Even though the baby clearly sees this, he still reaches for where the toy was the first time!  Why would he do this even though he saw where it was moved to?

This experiment is referred to as the “A not B error.”  The baby reaches for handkerchief A even though he sees that the toy is under B.  It’s a phenomenon that only lasts a few months, around ages 8 – 9 months of age.  It seems like a strange error to make, since the baby clearly sees the toy moving.  Piaget, believed that this error was due to a lack of the concept of “object permanence.”  More recently, development researchers have new, and intriguing ideas of what might be happening here.

“In human development, every neural event, every reach, every smile and every social encounter sets the stage for the next and the real-time causal force behind change,” wrote the late Esther Thelen, Developmental Psychologist and Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.  What we may very well be seeing is the interconnectedness of a baby’s body and mind.  While the baby’s visual sense takes in the view of the toy in a new location, he has just organized his body to reach successfully under the “A” handkerchief.  The motor planning of that previous reach is a neural event that “sets the stage for the next” movement.  In a few months this baby will be able to feel that readiness to reach to A, but be able to override that motor-planning history and reach for the correct handkerchief.  But for now, the previous act of having planned the reach to “A” is so powerful, that the baby reaches to the wrong place to find the toy.

Similarly the baby who has recently learned to roll over, seems drawn as if magnetically to roll over even when they are very tired of being on their tummy!   That new movement of rolling, becomes so “attractive” that they roll even when they seemingly don’t want to do it.  After a time, the baby will begin to find other movements or “attractor states” to use Dr. Thelen’s language, and the “magnetism” of rolling over will fade.

While we can never really know what your baby’s experience is, it can be helpful to understand that your baby’s thinking (and emotional life for that matter) is inseparable from his bodily sensations.  Because your touch is so much a part of his sensation of his body, it means that you too are an inseparable part of this equation.

photo: © Oksana Kuzmina/fotolia

See “Cogsci-mom” demonstrate A not B error with her baby – even with see-thru cups!

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

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

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 We Grow Together class or private session can give you many ideas that are specifically appropriate for your baby.

Columbia U Early Head Start

Dan + Kira and Dolls
Dan + Kira Demo With Baby Dolls at Columbia U. Early Head Start

Kira Charles and I had the great pleasure to present Child’Space Method to the staff of Columbia University Early Head Start located in Inwood, NYC.  Our half-day workshop focused on helping parents to bond with their newborn babies using touch and movement techniques of the Child’Space Method.  We were so moved to hear about the population that these wonderful educators work with – mostly recent immigrants living in very difficult conditions.  The  feedback was wonderful – they said things like, “I’ve been looking for an approach that respects infants as human beings the way Child’Space does.”  Or, “I realize how much more I need to be aware in my own body, in order to help the infants and parents I work with.”

I am very interested to connect with more social service agencies to present Child’Space, or to arrange Child’Space classes.  Please leave feedback here in the comments section below this post if you have connections to an organization that might be interested.  Thanks everyone!

Anti-Bumbo

BUMBO on the Curb
Kick your Bumbo to the curb!

As many of you know, I’m not much of a fan of the Bumbo seat for most babies.  I came across an excellent article by Rebecca Talmud, a pediatric PT in Park Slope this week which details many reasons to consider before using this device with your baby.   Bumbo Article link

Here’s some info that may help clarify the article.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt:  This baby is sitting fairly tall – his pelvis tips forward somewhat to form a base of support under his spine.

anterior pelvic tilt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posterior Pelvic Tilt:  A newborn is unable to tilt their pelvis forward when seated, their backs are rounded, and there is not a good base of support from the pelvis.  (This example is from a ridiculous stock photo found online – Don’t try this at home!)  This is the positioning of the pelvis that I believe the Bumbo elicits from babies placed in the seat.

Posterior Tilt

Side-Time!

by Dan Rindler, GCFP

IMG_5536

“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

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?

bl1

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

A BottomUp Approach to Infant Torticollis

by Dan Rindler, Feldenkrais Practitioner, GCFP

baby with helment for Plagiocephaly

If you’ve been told by your pediatrician that your baby’s neck is stiff, or that they are developing a flat spot, you are not alone.  Perhaps your baby has been diagnosed with torticollis, a condition in which the body, especially the neck and head, are held in an asymmetrical position.  Often flat-head syndrome, or plagiocephaly, is present in babies with torticollis too.  Recent studies, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery, show a huge surge in the incidence of torticollis, up from 2% of babies to 16%.  

Many parents find their baby is highly resistant to the common treatment prescribed: a routine of stretching and positioning, and orthotic devices for more severe cases. A Feldenkrais-based approach takes a different approach to working with torticollis. The method doesn’t focus on adjusting the head and neck, but rather addresses the whole child in a way that is often more easily accepted by the baby, and therefore, easier for parents to institute at home.  At a time when nearly half of all babies have some degree of a flat head by the age of 2-3 months, this approach is more important than ever for parents to learn. 

A challenging condition for babies and parents:

Torticollis Baby Sketch CroppedIn this picture of a baby with torticollis, notice the tilted and rotated position of the baby’s head and neck.  She is not able to turn her head as fully to the other direction, which affects the way she uses her eyes.  If she lies on her back a lot, it’s very likely she will develop a flat spot on her skull.  This flat spot will make it even more challenging to turn her head away from her habitual position.  If she is sat up often in a chair such as a Bumbo seat to avoid the flattening of her head, the weight of her head hanging more to one side will likely exacerbate the asymmetry of her spine as well.


Is it Really Only A “Pain in the Neck?”

Most pictures of babies with torticollis show just the head, neck and shoulders.  In fact, I had a lot of trouble finding a full body picture for use with this article.  While this makes sense as these areas are the parts most obviously affected, it is an incomplete picture of what is actually an asymmetry throughout the body.  This focus on the head and neck influences common treatment approaches, which are also frequently incomplete.  

A whole-baby view and approach:

Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Repaired
After?!!!

377px-Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa_(April_2012)
Before

Consider for a moment the leaning tower of Pisa.  When the tower became structurally unsound in 1990, something had to be done.  The engineers tasked with this job could have changed the tower at the top with a wedge to bring it level.  You don’t need to be an architect to know that this approach would not work!  Without a solid foundation beneath it, the “leveled” top of the tower in this scenario would not be able to hold its position for any length of time before collapsing.  What engineers actually did was to change the foundation of the building so that the tower wouldn’t lean to a dangerous degree.  If it weren’t the iconic tourist attraction that it is, those engineers would have changed the foundation so that the tower actually stood straight.  If we work with a baby’s neck muscles without addressing what’s happening throughout their body, we similarly ameliorate only part of a problematic situation.

 

Baby Drawing, Torticollis

Look at the same baby as above, but observe the picture of her whole body.  With this more global view, we can notice that her left shoulder tilts down in the same direction that her head tilts and that the left hand reaches near her hip while the right hand can’t reach as far down.  The ribs on the baby’s left side are compressed and her right side is long, with (one can imagine) the ribs spread apart.  The left side of her pelvis is raised and her left leg is flexed.  With such a biased foundation, how could her head and neck do anything but tilt? 

 

Noticing these differences throughout the body are a key to the effectiveness of Feldenkrais Method.  The baby may react with tears and cries when her tight neck is stretched, but working with her ribs, her hip, or her leg, would almost definitely feel less invasive to her.  When she feels new options for the movement of her “foundation,” she will be all the readier to accept a change in her neck and head.  This powerful yet gentle, holistic approach will help her to find new options for posture and movement that will benefit her for life.

Slow Parenting and Fast Too…Supported

bonding Small

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

I had what I thought was an original idea today for talking about the Child’Space Method and how it supports parent and child:  “slow parenting.” Just as the slow food movement aims to foster a deeper sense of connection between consumers and the food that they eat, in my vision for slow parenting, parents would take the time to connect to their child through touch and movement, giving each child the space to develop at their own pace.   My vision of slow parenting also includes parents connecting with themselves – finding ways to feel more centered, and feeling confident in their choices for how they parent.

As often happens with a little googling, I found that someone else had already coined the term “slow parenting.”  But what I found on a slow parenting blog was a philosophy with many dos and don’ts for an “ideal” way to raise a child.  While they have some very good ideas, I believe very strongly that in parenting, as in much of life, there are many paths that are valid.  We each follow what we believe is best for our child, and we each learn and change as we develop alongside our babies.

Child’Space isn’t just for those who follow a specific parenting philosophy; it is a method that supports all parents and infants.  Whether one practices attachment parenting, or slow parenting, or no specific approach at all, we each have questions and surprises that come up as our child grows.   Through a combination of touch and movement techniques, along with helpful information about infant development, Child’Space sessions and classes can help you feel more connected and in tune with your baby.

So, while the term “slow parenting” may already be claimed, the idea of parenting with awareness is an important element of what we do in Child’Space method.   My hope is that all parents I work with begin to feel attuned to their baby to a degree that they begin to rely less on books and other experts for the right way to do things, and more on their own understanding of their baby as an individual with unique needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Their Shoes

E putting on dad's shoes

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP,

“What is the best type of shoe for a new walker?   It’s a question I often hear from parents of young toddlers.  It’s especially relevant this time of year as Summer quickly turns to Fall and shoes are needed more often.

Walking barefoot is wonderful when it is safe to do so.  Babies who are learning to walk learn to use the movements of their whole foot, including all 5 toes for balance.  When your child walks, there is a constant feedback loop occurring between their feet and their brain.  The feedback of sensation from the foot and ankle, allows your child to constantly make adjustments to their movement to increase coordination, balance and efficiency of walking, and eventually running, jumping and other movements.  Walking barefoot allows your child to fully feel the ground beneath them and make small adjustments for balance and coordination.  Shoes are necessary for protection, but can dampen that “communication” between foot and brain, and therefore limit range of movement and balance?”

When choosing a shoe, I encourage you to think of it as foot-protection rather than as a tool for proper walking.  Choose a shoe that allows your child’s foot room to move.  A flexible suede slipper can work very well.  Your baby’s foot isn’t a fixed form –  it has many bones, cartilage where bones haven’t yet fused, fat tissue, ligaments, tendons and nerves.  It’s important not to constrain their foot in a shoe that limits movement of all of these different elements.  Make sure that the shoe is wide enough in front that their toes have room to wiggle.  After buying shoes, keep track of the fit.  Your baby’s foot is growing fast!  Try to check the fit after 6 weeks or so, to see if it has become tight around the toes.

I’m including a link to a short video that a colleague stumbled across and shared with me.  The video shows a new walker, first in slippers and then in a pair of sneakers.  They do a nice job of pointing out some of the differences in his gait with each shoe.  Here are a few points that they miss:  In the slippers the toddler’s head is free to look from side to side, to notice his dog off to the side, and his head and eyes move to take in the terrain where he is about to step.  In the sneakers, his system is busy with maintaing balance – his head and eyes are more fixed, his neck and his chest are more rigid.    You may also notice how in the slippers, his arms are free to move, even to bring his hands to his mouth as he walks, but in the sneakers his arms are held more rigidly and out to the sides for balance and later protection in falling.

Whether barefoot, slippered, or shoed – there’s lots of exploring and learning to be done.  Have fun walking, running, and jumping!

The Un-Registry – Part 1

bumbo seat
Should this seat be put out to the curb?

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

Bumbos and Jumperoos and Nap-Nannies – oh my!  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 I of a series of baby items I suggest are best avoided and a few recommendations too.  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:

The Bumbo Seat

Putting babies in an upright, unsupported, sitting position long before they can find it themselves creates many issues.  This seat not only does that, but it also practically locks the baby in one position.  Watch any baby who can move in and out of sitting on their own, they don’t stay in any one position for more than a few seconds, maybe a minute at the very most.  This seat forces them to hold one position with no choice.  Infants naturally gravitate toward movement, and chairs like these repress babies’ natural instincts.   See a great article on the bumbo seat here.  

Walkers

(The type with a seat in the middle, not push toys)

Studies have shown that these seats delay actual walking.  Putting babies upright doesn’t actually practice much that has to do with standing or walking without support, but it does practices bad posture and unnecessary muscle tone in the head, neck, shoulders.  Like many of these “Un-registry” recommendations, I’m not saying that your baby wouldn’t like being in one of these – they probably would, but they would also probably like sugar water and maybe even cookies too!   There are times when we can know what’s better for them.

Baby Bjorn

Bad for your back and theirs – there are many websites about this.  The newest model is somewhat improved, so if you do choose to use one I’d recommend that latest version.  I think there are many carriers that do a much better job for both babies’ and parents’ bodies.  Some of them are cheaper too!   See some better recommendations below.

Recommended Items:

Bouncy Seats

If you’d like to have a seat for your baby, a better alternative to the Bumbo is the bouncy seat.  These seats have a kind of a sling back and support a baby from head to tail in the natural c-curved shape of their spine.  Look for a model that isn’t too upright, it should allow your baby to recline so that the weight of their head is supported by the seat.

Baby Carrier -Wrap style

Using a wrap supports your baby and spreads their weight over your shoulders and hips much better than any other carrier.  Moby is the best known, is easy to learn to use, and works well with newborns/young infants.  As your baby gets heavier though, the stretchy fabric may not offer enough support.  If you look around, you will find fabric wraps that are less stretchy and will last you longer than the Moby.  Also there are thin breathable fabrics for summer. Whatever your feelings about the attachment parenting movement, we all can take a page from their book when it comes to carriers – they have the baby carrying thing figured out!  If you can deal with learning to use a material wrap you’ll find it’s great for your back/neck/shoulders and the best support for your baby as they get bigger.  If you get used to a wrap from the start, you’ll find that you use it through many stages of your baby’s development, probably longer than any other carrier.

Other carriers

For those not interested in a wrap, Ergo, Beco or Boba carriers are a good alternative.  (There are many other brands of similar carriers – the best way to shop is in person rather than online to try them out and see what works for you and your baby.)  Mei-Tai’s are something of a compromise between these carriers and  a wrap– with a formed top and a tie around the waist.  Another alternative is the Baby K’tan style carriers which are kind of like a pre-wrapped Moby.  They take a little less fussing with and many parents love them, but they’re not as adjustable as a wrap.  I’m not a fan of ring slings for heavier babies though some people love them and they can work well.  I’ve noticed that unless you’re good about alternating shoulders they can leave parents feeling very asymmetrical and achy.

That’s it for Part I.  Part II will be out soon with more suggestions including toys, diapers and more!