Author Archive

Hold Me! – A Workshop on Lifting and Carrying Weight

Devoted mother laying son down into crib for nap in bedroom

Hold Me!!!  No parent wants to dread hearing these words.  But kids are heavy and the constant lifting can take a toll.  Do you have mommy-thumb or new-parent back ache?  How about the lesser known chunkster-elbow, mama-hip, or crankster-neck?  (Very real problems that no one has named until now!)

This Feldenkrais workshop, will teach you how to practice new patterns of coordinating your shoulders, neck, spine and all the rest, which will make carrying your baby easier (including while breast-feeding) and thereby relieve chronic pain.  You will leave with a new feeling of how to move, and ideas for how to practice while you are interacting with your child.  Taught by Dan Rindler, GCFP.

This workshop is just for adults.  No babies please, as this is a time to focus on yourself!

1230pm-3pm.  $45
Saturday, June 11, 1230pm-3pm
At The Feldenkrais Center of Park Slope, 426 4th Avenue
Note: This is a special workshop, no package of classes or other offers can be applied to this fee.

My Baby Hates Tummy-Time…But, My Baby Loves to Stand!

Why Standing your Baby may contribute to their difficulty in Tummy Time

My Baby Hates Tummy-Time…But Loves to Stand”
Does your baby hate tummy-time but love to stand up?  This is a common combination and there is a reason for them to appear together. Many parents, eager to notice what makes their baby happy and to follow their baby’s lead, fall into the habit of standing up very young babies.  This may seem fine, as babies often seem to really enjoy the position.  However, standing your baby before he can coordinate bringing himself to the position can result in practicing a lot of unnecessary stiffness and holding in the body.  For many babies standing along with other factors can add up to difficulty in tummy-time and other movements that are important developmentally.

Why it’s too early

When you stand your baby up before she can do it herself, she is in a constant state of catching herself from falling.  Because she hasn’t developed enough balance yet, and doesn’t know how to use her legs and feet for support, her body leans forward, back, and to the side.  With each lean away from her center of gravity she tenses her muscles to stop from falling, and often with too much muscle tone.

But isn’t your baby getting stronger?  Well his muscles may get larger as a result, but it isn’t an ideal way to do it.  An important part of strength is using muscles with coordinated effort – distributing the work through the body in a way that is efficient.  What often gets practiced when a baby is stood very early, is the opposite of efficient coordinated effort.  As the baby in this photo is stood up, he relies on the muscles in front (flexors) and back (extensors) to create the stability he needs, his shoulders shrug and arms stiffen, he knees may lock or grip his toes reflexively as well.  As a result, he practices contracting many muscle groups together inefficiently to create the necessary stability to feel safe.  Not only does he practice too much muscle tone, but inefficient combinations of muscle groups are used which work at cross purposes.  In short, he ends up contracting many muscles at the same time to stabilize himself and if he brings that same pattern of contraction to tummy time and other positions he will feel that it is difficult to be comfortable or to move the way he’d like.

Tummy-Time

When your baby is on her tummy, if she keeps her muscles contracted in a similar state to standing, she will be very uncomfortable.  She may not be able to lift her head at all, or she may not even be able to feel at rest on her tummy and instead may hold herself in a position where she is fighting gravity from the moment she touches down.  To give one example, here is a baby exploring how  to coordinate his body for lifting the head in tummy-time.   Tummy Time Baby - Flexors extensors

The extensors of the back contract enough to help lift the head, while the flexors, generally stay soft and lengthen.  Not only that, but any time he feels that he is exerting himself too much, he can rest his head on the floor.  Also notice just how much of his body he leans on to support himself – a very large base of support compared to two little feet!  Do you see how different this is than the pattern the baby practices when standing up?  In other movements different combinations of muscle groups fire, but in each one, there is quite a different pattern than the strong stabilizing pattern elicited when standing your baby up.

But My Baby Loves to Stand!
IMG_5508

Yes, it appears that your baby loves standing.  My colleague Barbara Leverone likes to re-frame this statement as, “My baby loves to see me and and he loves to push with his legs.”  The good news is you can give your baby what he loves in a way that is more developmentally appropriate than standing.  When he lies on his back, allow him to push on your legs or arms or the floor at the baby in this picture does, and use his legs to move his well-supported body.  Coo and chat with him while you do it.  He will love the feeling, and he gets to see you too.  The difference will be that he doesn’t have to stabilize his head in gravity without a chance to rest down to the floor whenever he needs.  And that change may make a big difference in your baby’s development.

Baby-Thoughts • Body-Thoughts

Do you ever wonder, “What is my baby thinking?”  Have you considered how your baby experiences thoughts since he or she don’t think in words?  It’s likely that a lot of baby-thoughts have to do with  bodily sensations.  In fact, your baby has an inner experience of you and of the world in which their thoughts and feelings are inseparable from the sensations of their own body.

Mom and Baby From Postcard, RiverdaleWhen you touch your baby with a “listening touch” as taught in Child’Space NYC classes, you will find that you connect to your baby in a very different way than you might when drawing their attention outward to a toy or book or some other external focus.  Instead you are joining them in a way that acknowledges their inner experience.   To paraphrase Dr. Ruella Frank, in that moment your baby “sees you see her and feels you feels her.”

This is a powerful practice for your baby and for you.  It can be an antidote to all the stimulation of modern life – as cautioned about in this article

Like meditation, it’s not complicated – it just may be hard to remember to find time for it amidst all the distractions and tasks involved in being a new parent. But if you do make the time (and it doesn’t take much) you’ll find there’s a great reward for doing so.  To begin, put away your phone, take off your apple watch, rest your hand on your baby look into their eyes and listen to what you feel.  Next, tell your baby what you’re feeling, they’ll appreciate hearing about it.

“The ultimate magic of attachment is touch. And this magic enters through the skin.” —Daniel Stern

Summer Offer

 

Summer Feldenkrais Offer
email and phone #



The Tummy-Time “Movement”

Advice for parents looking for the best way to do tummy-time with their baby

Tummy-Time is a Movement, not a Position 

Are you concerned about helping your baby “do tummy-time correctly?”  Perhaps instead of a perfect push-up like you’ve seen in countless baby photos, she lays with her head down and turns it side to side, or maybe she even rolls her body a bit to her side and ends up in a twist. Not only are these and other possibilities typical, a variety of movements in “tummy” position (including that “push-up”) are beneficial for your baby.  Babies learn when they experience a wide range of movements and orientations, and understanding this can help make tummy-time a happier and more beneficial experience for your baby and for you.

Your Baby is not a CubeCube Baby

Phrases like “tummy-time,” “back to sleep,” and even “side-time,” which I coined in a recent article, can imply a static posture.  Similar to the way we describe yoga postures, these ways of talking about a baby’s body imply that there is an ideal shape or position to strive for.  However,  this kind of thinking can negatively influence how we as parents interact with our babies, because babies are wired to move!

We talk about our bodies as having a front and back and sides – like a cube.  But the human body is more cylindrical than our words describe.  Can you pinpoint the exact spot where your back ends and your side begins?  There is no exact point!  While a cube can lie on one side or another for any length of time, your baby’s torso is much more of a cylinder – made to shift weight constantly in both big and small increments — and it’s beneficial to give your baby  many opportunities to do so.

Tummy-Time for Cylinders

When parents are encouraged to see tummy-time as a fixed position (and often as an exercise), rather than a position to be in and move through, they often keep their baby there too long.  They don’t encourage or even allow all of the small movements that are important for the development of balance, weight shift, and more.  I encourage parents to see tummy-time as an orientation for movement rather than a posture.

Movement and Brain Development

All of the seemingly random small movements your baby does in tummy-time are significant experiences for brain development.  The experience of these movements are necessary for your child to build coordinated and efficient movement.  In her book Kids Beyond Limits, Anat Baniel writes on the subject of what she calls “random movements,” saying, “Those random movements of the more typical baby may not seem like much at the time.  But for the child’s brain, they provide a rich flow of experiences and information that are absolutely necessary for the brain to eventually develop controlled and effective movements and actions.”

Suggestions for more Dynamic Tummy-Time:

1 Watch and touch your baby during tummy-time, not the clock.

2 Encourage babies who don’t yet lift their head to follow your voice and turn and look to the other side.

3 You can allow your baby to pass through tummy-time repeatedly – roll baby there and back again slowly. Don’t worry about  staying for a long “workout” each and every time.

4 Have small, graspable toys nearby for baby to reach for – this requires shifting weight more to one side, and will give baby important practice with movements.

5 A Child’Space class or private session can give you many ideas that are specifically appropriate for your baby.  See www.childspacenyc.com for a session in NYC.  For other locations, see the North American Child’Space site here.

Dan Rindler is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner (’06) and a Child’Space Method Trainer, having studied with the method’s originator, Dr. Chava Shelhav.  He has worked as a staff member at the Feldenkrais Institute of NYC, and is currently in private practice in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  Dan is the director of Child’Space NYC, a program that offers private sessions and classes throughout New York City.

Columbia U Early Head Start

 

 

Dan + Kira and Dolls

Dan + Kira Demo With Baby Dolls at Columbia U. Early Head Start

Kira Charles and I had the great pleasure to present Child’Space Method to the staff of Columbia University Early Head Start located in Inwood, NYC.  Our half-day workshop focused on helping parents to bond with their newborn babies using touch and movement techniques of the Child’Space Method.  We were so moved to hear about the population that these wonderful educators work with – mostly recent immigrants living in very difficult conditions.  The  feedback was wonderful – they said things like, “I’ve been looking for an approach that respects infants as human beings the way Child’Space does.”  Or, “I realize how much more I need to be aware in my own body, in order to help the infants and parents I work with.”

I am very interested to connect with more social service agencies to present Child’Space, or to arrange Child’Space classes.  Please leave feedback here in the comments section below this post if you have connections to an organization that might be interested.  Thanks everyone!

Anti-Bumbo

BUMBO on the Curb

Kick your Bumbo to the curb!

As many of you know, I’m not much of a fan of the Bumbo seat for most babies.  I came across an excellent article by Rebecca Talmud, a pediatric PT in Park Slope this week which details many reasons to consider before using this device with your baby.   Bumbo Article link

Here’s some info that may help clarify the article.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt:  This baby is sitting fairly tall – his pelvis tips forward somewhat to form a base of support under his spine.

anterior pelvic tilt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posterior Pelvic Tilt:  A newborn is unable to tilt their pelvis forward when seated, their backs are rounded, and there is not a good base of support from the pelvis.  (This example is from a ridiculous stock photo found online – Don’t try this at home!)  This is the positioning of the pelvis that I believe the Bumbo elicits from babies placed in the seat.

Posterior Tilt

Bumbo Seat Article

Chicago Tribune  Therapists see no developmental benefits from seats  LINK

bumbo seat

Should this seat be put out to the curb?

Reading List

A few of the books that have influenced the Child’Space NYC program

Diary of a Baby, What Your Child Sees, Feels, and Experiences, by Daniel Stern.  Stern writes short “diary entries” in an imagined child’s voice, from infancy through preschool years.  Stern uses poetic imagery to get inside the mind of a baby.  Emotions and hunger are described as coming over the baby like a storm, or a wave crashing.  I found it a very helpful way to get a new understanding of my own daughter.  The ideas behind each diary entry are then expanded upon by the author, with emphasis on the development of sense of self in relation to parents and environment, volition, perception, sensory and emotional development.

Amazing Babies, by Beverly Stokes.  This book has many parallels to the Feldenkrais and Child’Space Methods.  My favorite book to recommend for learning about the first year of motor development with one major caveat; The book is laid out with a chapter for each month of the first year of life, with milestones for each month.  We know that typically developing babies don’t at all develop on a fixed schedule and that this model creates unnecessary anxiety in some parents, so I would have liked a different format.  Stokes also includes movement exercises for parents to explore in order to better understand their baby’s motor development.

Parenting From the Inside Out.  By Daniel Siegel & Mary Hartzell.  Provides hope that you need not repeat your parents’ missteps in parenting your own child!  This book combines aspects of neuroscience (specifically brain development) with psychology to investigate how our own childhood experiences shape us as parents.  The authors provide an approach to investigating our past in order to make changes in our present approach to parenting our children.

DVD:  The Baby Human:  Geniuses in Diapers.  To Walk/To Think/To Talk.  This is a great video on child development.  Video vignettes of babies learning different skills in the home are interspersed with video from the labs of prominent researchers in child development.  (Including the late Esther Thelen, a leading researcher and theorist of child development who introduced me to the Feldenkrais method!)  A second DVD on emotional development has just been released too.

What’s Going on in There?  How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, by Lise Eliot.  This is a comprehensive, up to date book on brain/mind development, with most of the book concentrating on infancy and toddler years.  Understanding the development of your baby’s nervous system can give you a new understanding of his or her behavior and unfolding development.

Touch, by Tiffany Field.  Field describes the skin as the largest sense organ in your baby’s body.   It’s an interesting look at touch in different cultures and the costs of living in the “touch-starved” culture of America.

Awareness Heals:  by Stephen Shafarman.  This is one of the more accessible introductions to the Feldenkrais Method.  If you are interested in the method for yourself and aren’t ready to try a class or private lesson, I recommend this book.  Look beyond its new=agey cover(!) and find very clear descriptions of the underlying principals, a short bio of Moshe Feldenkrais and several movement lessons to try.

© Dan Rindler, 2012

Supporting and Improving Proprioception Through Touch

“Because touch, more than any other sense, has such ready access to young babies’ brains, it offers perhaps the best possible opportunity, and one of the easiest, for molding their emotional and mental well-being.”  Lise Eliot, What’s Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life

The techniques of touch used in Child’Space Method help to build up a child’s proprioceptive sense. Put simply, proprioception is the sense of where one’s body is in space. When using the tapping or squeezing techniques of the method, use a soft, sensing hand; your hand should feel bones and muscle, not just skin.  By touching with the intention to feel the structure of your child’s body, you are asking your child to feel the full volume of their body parts and giving them a clearer image of their body in space.  Adding a song from class to the tapping will enhance the learning process for your child, by engaging tactile, auditory, and visual senses.

“Aspects of the outside world and the body’s anatomy are systematically mapped onto brain tissue…Whenever someone claps you on the shoulder, nerve cells in the shoulder region in this map are activated.  When you scratch your elbow, both your elbow region and fingertip regions are activated.  This map is your primary physical window on the world around you, the entry point for all the raw touch information streaming moment by moment into your brain.”  Sandra Blakeslee,.  The Body has a Mind of its Own.

For older children too, this is more than just a calming activity.  We can all benefit from improving our internal image of our body in space.  For example, if a person had a fully formed sense at all times of where their body is in space, they would never stub a toe or bump into things around the house.  Improving your child’s sense of self can help improve motor development in areas such as strength, coordination, balance, and refined control of movement.  It’s important to note that the benefits extend beyond motor development, the body is where our original sense of self is begins.

“People and objects come and go; the body does not.  From birth, one’s own body is the companion of all psychological experiences. …the inclination of infants to explore their own bodies forms the cradle of self perception and the developmental origin of self-knowledge.  For infants the body is a major feature of the world.” Philippe Rochat.  The Infant’s World

© Dan Rindler, 2012