LIFTING THE HEAD TEACHES BABY POSTURE
Rochel Sits Regally
Baby Rochel learned to lift her head at about three months and then spent a lot of time playing on her stomach. She was very comfortable and happy to be on her tummy with her head held high. For the next few months she played on her tummy, and her back and neck muscles developed much strength. When Rochel was around six months old, she began sitting. Immediately, she sat with beautiful posture….like a queen with a very straight back and her head in line with her spine waiting to hold a diamond tiara. Of course, it helps that Rochel’s favorite color to wear is pink, diamond tiaras look more fashionable with pink! As she watched her daughter sitting and playing with a toy, Rochel’s mother proudly said, “EVERYBODY comments on how beautiful her posture is!”
Development of a Baby: muscles for sitting
Babies’ motor skill development progresses from one skill to the next in a manner where the preceeding skill prepares the muscles and bones of the baby for the succeeding movement. The infant motor skill of lifting the head strengthens the muscles of the neck and back while developing the appropriate curves in the bones of the spine. The muscles of the back, often referred to as the “anti-gravity muscles,” help our bodies overcome the force of gravity which could topple us over. Each action of lifting the head strengthens these muscles which run along the length of the spine and keep us upright.
DEVELOPMENT OF A BABY: SPINAL CURVES FOR SITTING
After a few months of lifting the head, baby sits up with beautifully erect posture. Without the skill of lifting the head, baby would sit with her spine in a letter “C” shape, lacking the curves in the neck that helps develop balance. In this “C” posture, baby falls over. With the curve in the neck developed, it counterbalances the rest of the spine and stabilizes baby in the sitting position. While sitting, baby maintains balance as she turns to reach for a toy or looks up at her mother. She is stable and confident in this position.
Rochel’s star sits elegantly in the sky!
A FAVORABLE ARRANGEMENT OF THE BONEs
Alignment is the term used to describe how the bones of the human body are stacked up. Babies benefit from optimal alignment because their movement is quick, efficient, and easy on the muscles and joints. When the bones are not stacked up in a favorable alignment, such as in a baby who sits with her spine curved like the letter “C,” her muscles work too hard and she is not stable. This makes it very difficult for her to move. Remember how you took your car in to have the wheels aligned last Spring? The mechanic was looking at the placement of all the parts making the wheels turn. His job is to align the tires, put the tires in exactly the places which produce the most efficient driving.
For much of the first six months, baby is lying on the floor. She plays and sleeps on her belly, on her back, and on her side. The importance of alignment comes in when babies learn sitting and standing. At this stage, babies learn to deal with gravity as they bring more and more of their bones into the upright position. The principles of alignment are governed by the laws of natural forces such as gravity. The human body learns to overcome these forces when moving into the upright position. Baby’s first year includes tasks of overcoming gravity such as sitting, standing, and walking. The better aligned the spine is, the easier it is for baby. And, remember, we all wish the stars were aligned when our babies were born!
BABY SITTING: A POSITION OR A MOVEMENT ?
Ella’s mother expressed concern: “She is still not sitting up.” Ella was about six months old at the time. I asked the mother, “Is she rolling?” She replied, “She can roll from her belly to her back, but not from her back to her belly.” “Well,” I said,” that needs to happen before she can sit.” Sitting is a position that results from the movement skill of rolling. Rolling usually begins on the back and ends in one of several positions: lying on the back, lying on the belly, or sitting. Sitting is the most challenging of these three options because it involves the use of an arm to push against the floor to lift the torso up off of the ground. This makes it more of an advanced skill compared with rolling onto the belly or back. However, many times we see a parent propping the baby into the sitting position, and mommy puts her hand an inch behind baby’s back so that when baby losses balance, mommy will catch her. This shows that baby is not really ready to sit yet. When baby learns to sit up by rolling and then coming into the sitting position, baby has all of the strength and balance needed to stay in this position. Also, baby is not dependent. Baby got herself into the sitting position and she can get herself out of it, too, by reversing the movements. She leans onto one forearm, puts her head down, and rolls onto her back or belly.
ROLLING TO SIT AND BABY INDEPENDENCE
There is no question that the position of sitting demands balance and some muscle strength. However, we want to develop the optimal skill in baby’s movement along with a sense of independence. Have you seen a baby sitting, flapping her arms and crying for her mother to pick her up because she does not know how to get herself out of this position? She feels trapped and frustrated. We would like baby to be able to move herself in and out of the sitting position. Of course, this reminds me of Aya…when I arrived to give her a lesson, her father greeted me at the door with the baby video monitor in hand. He invited me in and said she was upstairs. Usually she was upstairs just waking from a nap when I arrived, so I asked if she was sleeping. He proudly thrust the video monitor toward me and said, “Not since you taught her how to sit up!” There she was, sitting up in her crib, having a great time with what she had done all on her own.