When I first started into practice my focus was athletes. I loved (and still do love) learning all the latest in athletic treatment and rehab. If you asked me 10 years ago if I wanted to work on kids, my answer was no…I always referred them out to other great Chiropractors and therapists in town.
Then my family members and friends started having kids. I loved learning about their development. At one of my seminars I was introduced to DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization). DNS principles are based on Developmental Kinesiology; that in early childhood movement pattern is automatic, predictable, and genetically formed as the nervous system matures. Needless to say, I was hooked. The student in me couldn’t get enough and I have been fortunate enough to learn many approaches to infant/baby/toddler/kid treatment and rehab.
I have been very privileged to treat little ones with these gentle and safe techniques and I am happy to share some pearls on movement development. There are some important milestones to watch for during the first year as your baby goes from a Newborn to an upright, walking toddler. Here are some of the principles:
Our (Human) motor function in early childhood is genetically pre-determined and follows a predictable pattern
Have you ever noticed that almost all babies go through the same stages of motor development around the same age? How amazing is that!? For example, an infant does not need to be taught when and how to lift its head up, grasp a toy, roll over, creep, or crawl. All these movement patterns or muscular synergies occur automatically in a specific developmental sequence throughout the course of CNS (Central Nervous System) maturation; this enables the infant to control posture, achieve erect posture against gravity, and to move purposefully through muscular activity.
Most Mammals are born with the ability to move. Think of a horse or a giraffe; they are born and can basically run right away. But, for us, it takes about a year after birth to develop the support and stability to upright and do this. All the steps in between – lifting the head, reaching, rolling, side-lying, grasping, quadruped, side-sitting, crawling, transitions from side-sitting to quadraped, un-assisted sitting, high-kneeling, tripod, “bear”, 12 month squat, and finally transition to standing are all important developmental stages to “uprighting” the spine and eventually walking. As part of our treatment plan with babies, we walk you through these stages and give you important milestones to watch for during the first year+ of motor development.
Our motor function develops from support
Support is important to develop uprighting of the spine eventually to a bipedal (standing) position. For example – at 3 months while a baby is on its stomach, he/she is able to support on both elbows and pubic bone, creating a tripod zone of support. From this support, he/she is able to upright the spine and lift the head, and then turn the head side to side. Feeling the support of a surface allows the baby to upright from this position.
Never put a baby in a position he/she cannot get into on their own.
It’s interesting as parents – we all want the best for our kids. Now-a-days there are gadgets for everything to help make parenting easier and more fun for babies and ourselves. Unfortunately, without going into too much detail about developmental patterns, a lot of these chairs and bouncy-contraptions put the baby in a position that they are not developmentally ready to be in yet, thus showing them improper support and possibly creating dysfunctional movement patterns. By the time the baby is able to sit, he/she is most-likely crawling and will not want to be stuck in a seat anymore. By the time he/she is standing, they will most likely want to move around the room and not be stuck in a jumper or chair. Because they are motivated by emotional need, they usually want to move!
Keep your baby on the floor
The best thing you can do for your baby to help their motor development is keep them on the floor. Sit with them! Play with them!. They will develop movement patterns when they are shown proper support, and this develops from the ground up. Babies are motivated by emotional need; a toy, a person, a snack – whatever that is for your baby make it fun! When their nervous system is mature enough, they will magically perform the predicted movement pattern! And if they are not meeting their milestones or you have concerns, we are here to help!
The way you hold your baby will help facilitate these motor patterns and/or facilitate non-ideal patterns. We can go over baby handling with you no matter what stage your baby is at. If you plan on wearing your baby in a soft-structured carrier, wrap, or sling we would love to chat with you about the proper positioning for you (your body/posture matters too!) and your baby.
Development of Motor Patterns depends on geometry of structures (anatomy) & vice versa
There is a strong relationship between our body’s structure and function. During development, there is also a strong synchrony between CNS maturation and structural or anatomical development of bones, muscles, and other soft tissues. In short, maturation of the brain influences development of motor patterns, which in turn, influences structural development. To simplify this, the activation of theses movement patterns helps shape the bones and joints. For example, this is how during the first year the infant’s spine goes from a “C-curve” to an “S-curve”. If there is dysfunction in the way the movement pattern develops it will affect the structure/anatomy as the body grows.
We often hear in practice: “My baby never crawled, she went straight to walking”. While some may see this is a good thing and think the baby is advanced and a quick learner, crawling is important for many reasons and will help translate into other integrated motor patterns down the road.
- In terms of movement development, early childhood movement pattern is automatic, predictable, and genetically formed as the nervous system matures.
- Keep your babies on the floor! Our motor function develops from support
- The way we handle our babies affects their development
- As we grow – anatomy effects function, function effects anatomy
We hope this has been helpful! If you have any questions or would like any further info on the milestones your child should hit in the first year +, please contact the clinic!
Photography credit: Linda Cunningham Photography