Every parent experiences the joy of watching their infant walk for the first time.  That joy is soon followed by a slight fear as baby falls.  Fortunately, she is not far from the ground!  This cycle repeats over again several times as baby develops her balance, coordination, and strength to walk upright for an extended period of time.  As we discussed previously, falling is part of developing the motor milestone of walking.  What is important to examine is how to develop safe patterns of falling.


With babies and children, the most commonly broken bone is the clavicle (collarbone).  The clavicle is the bone that is long and thin and runs from the shoulder joint to the sternum (the vertical bone in the center of the chest).  There is one on the right side and one on the left side of the body.  This common injury occurs from falling.  In these cases when the fall occurs the baby or child stretches out a hand and arm to break or stop the fall.  This results in both over movement and too much impact on the clavicle.  The result of this excessive force is a broken collar bone.  In these cases usually the body did not know what to do when the fall was happening.  The baby or toddler probably landed from splayed out in a random, haphazard position with limbs outstretched.


The way to teach a baby to fall safely is to guide them through infancy with motor skill training.  A baby that masters each of the Stellar Caterpillar Top 10 Motor Skills will gracefully maneuver the walking and falling cycle.  When a baby spends a lot of time in the patterns of rolling and crawling these movements and positions become very familiar to the muscles and bones.  In the ultra-quick descent of a fall, the brain sends the signals to the muscles to fire one of these familiar motor patterns allowing for a smooth and safe recovery.

Baby lands safely from the fall onto her hands and knees, the crawling position.  Or, baby falls into a rolling position which continues the movement of the fall very smoothly and safely.  The major joints of the body quickly bend to adapt to the quick descent toward the ground:  knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows.  This safe landing, which we call recovery, happens so quickly it seems like a trained reflex.  The walking milestone now includes a smooth cycle of fall and recovery.  In fact, it occurs so smoothly that baby does not mind falling at all.  She remains comfortable and in control, and this develops her confidence.


The more mobile baby gets, the more she wants to explore her surroundings.  Baby-proofing is important at this stage because baby can also hit her head on the corner of a table or something dangerously sharp.  Purchase and install some padded bumpers for the corners of low tables.  Please avoid leaving sharply pointed toys or objects on the floor in case she falls on them.  If you can give her socks with traction on the soles it will also prevent slipping on wood or tile flooring.  Electical outlet covers, cabinet door locks, toilet seat cover locks, etc. are all a must.   If you have not finished baby-proofing now is the time!

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