It’s true. How we hold and move babies influences their development. Here is a nifty way to hold Baby that supports movement, self-motivation, and learning.
First, the position:
In the picture above, we see:
He’s inclined to the side
How do you usually pick up, put down, and hold your baby? What direction does he face in relation to the floor, ceiling, and walls?
This (picture above) puts Baby in an orientation to gravity other than straight up-and-down or forward-and-back. It allows his inner ear (proprioception) to experience a different way. It expands his range of options and his comfort!
His legs are bent at the hips (and knees)
This bending, or “flexion,” provides a strong base from which to uncurl into desire and movement. “Extension” (arching) gets us places too; but moving from flexion gives us a great deal of integration, support, and power!
His right arm is free and his left arm participates in supporting himself
My intention is to provide support that gives him a sense of safety and comfort, yet allows him to maneuver his own self as much as possible.
He’s looking up toward the camera
His senses are engaged. Perceiving the world has a large influence on development too!
The one toe we can see is engaged
That toe will be important when he belly crawls! Imagine a floor under his toes (like a running position). That big toe will eventually help to propel him forward in belly crawling.
I have him flush against me
My left arm is also supporting most of his body weight at his left side, even though it looks like he’s leaning on his left arm. This allows his body weight to fall into me so he doesn’t have to support all of his own weight. This is necessary because he’s not yet sitting, which is typical and healthy at his 5 months.
This inclined side position, with limbs engaging, is how he will eventually learn to get in and out of sitting by himself, without ever having been propped!
Next, the action:
In this picture, we see:
He has started rolling toward his belly, which he could do easily from the incline
Imagine him slightly older, in this same position but on the floor and supporting his own weight. From this very position, he’d be able to move in any direction: roll forward, roll backward, push up to sitting, go down to his side, push himself feetward on the floor, or propel himself forward in belly crawling.
He is looking at a toy on the floor
Motivation: it’s why we move at all.
In fact, check out how everything about him is engaged toward his intention. When was the last time you felt 100% aligned toward your desire, in all aspects of yourself, with nothing hindering you?
His right hand is starting to reach toward the toy
This position allows him to reach first with his hand, rather than approaching the floor legs-first. This strengthens his upper body and his hand-eye coordination. His movement easily follows his intention. Arms-first movement is also very beneficial for babies who have been prop-sat.
His left hand supports
See how his left hand/arm provide stability while his right hand/arm move? This relating between “stable” and “mobile” is what movement is all about!
Baby does not have to be at a certain developmental stage to benefit from this way of holding. However, this baby happens to be at a “side to side” stage of development called Homolateral. While on his tummy, he is learning how to shift his weight from one side to the other, which will become belly crawling. His entire left side is his supporting side, while his right side is his moving side. This is very different from hands-and-knees crawling! This way of holding him supports exactly the kind of movement experience his brain-body seeks.
I’m holding him in a way that mimics his own natural movement development, utilizes healthy body mechanics, and imitates the side-to-side weight-shifting he is already doing on his own. I want to observe and follow his flow in creative ways that don’t limit him to our culture’s habitual mindstate of “straight up and down.”
So, explore with your baby! Find creative ways to hold him that sometimes take him a little off of center. This is especially important if your baby has been propped or held in sitting or standing. It gives him a chance to feel himself and explore the world in a variety of ways.
Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.
© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)