If every parent picked their child up correctly, I would probably only have a part-time job. 😉
Of course I might be exaggerating just a little, but using the correct technique when picking up a baby is very important! Lifting, carrying, and putting a baby down are — apart from changing diapers and feeding — probably among the most common activities we perform in the first months of our babies’ lives. Many of us are not aware that how we lift or carry our baby can have a huge impact on his or her development.
The way we “handle a child” on a daily basis can negatively affect a baby’s distribution of muscle tension. It can also encourage and preserve abnormal movement patterns; which, as a result, may cause disturbances in the child’s body dynamics and lead to difficulties in achieving the successive stages of motor development.
To prevent this from happening, it is worth making sure that we handle our baby gently and in keeping with his or her current stage of development. 🙂 This approach will also have the benefit of keeping you from worrying too much and visiting the physiotherapist too often. In my experience, I usually need two visits to guide parents through all of the elements which can be performed at home to support the natural development of their little one. Without these basics, even the best physical therapy will not bring about spectacular results.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Newborn babies are completely dependent on us. Within a few months, however, they will acquire skills which allow them to become more independent.
During the first weeks after birth, babies, when laid on their backs, lie asymmetrically. Their legs and arms are bent, and their fists are clenched. The baby’s movements at this stage are “massive” — they trigger a reaction of the entire body. There are no isolated bodily movements. When lying down, the baby’s torso is unstable and it doesn’t lie entirely flat with respect to the surface underneath. This is because of the baby’s muscle tension distribution. In a newborn, this is completely normal; but you cannot say the same thing in the case of an older baby.
In a newborn baby, the muscles of the torso are weak. The more we move out towards the hands and feet, the greater the child’s muscle tension is.
Over time, so-called “centralization” of muscle tension takes place. As a result, the muscle tension at the hands and feet “moves in” towards the torso. Now the center of the body is strong enough to allow for isolated movement of the child’s head, arms, and legs.
A stable torso is the basis for further physical development.
Unfortunately, sometimes the way in which we pick up and carry babies causes them to develop bad habits. The little ones may be unable to properly stabilize their torsos, which may interfere with their further physical development.
I see such babies stabilizing themselves mainly by tensing their back muscles — almost without engaging the front wall of the torso. In such cases, babies have trouble mobilizing their arms and legs, correctly positioning their hips, pushing up on straightened arms, or rolling over. These babies may be rolling over incorrectly — most often by arching their backs. I won’t even mention the other stages of development that can be negatively affected.
Lifting or putting an infant down in the traditional manner (placing one hand under the head and the other under the baby’s bottom — and carrying the baby facing us) does not encourage correct physical development.
Handling your baby as mentioned above can very quickly and negatively impact the proper dynamics of the child’s body; and can cause maaaany problems in the future.
Of course, you can handle your child in this manner (hoping that your baby will somehow “cope” with it), but most of the time noticeable problems will arise. Sooner or later, they do show up.
For that reason, I encourage you to learn how to properly care for your new baby. It really is worth it! 😉
Interesting Fact: Research* shows that guiding parents in how to encourage their children to become active starting in the first days of life prevents babies from developing a flat head.
You may also be interested in:
There are so many fun ways to help your baby develop properly and to avoid common problems. I’ve put them all into my e-book on ideas for playtime — from birth to first steps. Check it out!
E-book: A COLLECTION OF IDEAS FOR THE MOST FUN PLAYTIME WITH YOUR CHILD
*Check out the research mentioned in this post.