Rhythm Connects Us

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

I read this short article today, titled “Babies are Kinder After You Dance Them.”   The point of the article is excellent and I recommend it, but the title could use a re-write!   The author’s measure of babies being “kinder” is that they were willing to pick up an object that an adult dropped.  And then there’s “Dance Them”.  Which definitely should be “dance with them.”   When we dance and sing we experience rhythm and movement together and find ourselves feeling a new connection to each other.  I think parents in my classes who may not be used to singing together with other adults experience this with each other as well.  So, I think I might have titled the article, “Babies and Parents are More in-tune After they Dance Together” but perhaps that wouldn’t have gotten the article as many “clicks”!

It reminds me of this favorite quote of mine from VJ Ayer, in which he says that rhythm is a kind of empathy.

“The way that the brain works when we are perceiving rhythm, is that the parts of the brain that light up are the parts involved in motor sequence planning.  It’s about making limbs move as a response to rhythmic activity but its not just a response to it…  In a way your body wants to regenerate that same activity that gave rise to that sound.  It’s a kind of empathy.  Its that kind of resonance that we have in our body with other bodies doing similar things.  When we hear somebody doing something we want to do it too.  Rhythm is the reason that we’re able to do anything together.”   – Vijay Iyer on the NPR show Bullseye

 

The Un-Registry Part II

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

Diapers, Toys and Helmets!   Parents are being marketed to like never before with new products coming out all the time for babies. Unfortunately many of the products created for infants these days have more to do with convenience for parents, and may not actually support optimal infant development.  This is part II of a series of baby items I suggest are best avoided and a few recommendations too.  Part I can be found in the blog below.  I originally wrote this list for my good friend when his wife was expecting.  I hope you’ll find it helpful!

These are general guidelines, and every baby is different.  Please take this in the spirit intended: as a list of suggestions.  Watch your baby closely and make up your own mind about what is best!

Items to Cross Off the Registry and a Few Recommendations Too:

Oversized Cloth Diaper Systems.   Some cloth diapers with an outer and inner layer are so bulky that they restrict babies’ hip joints.  If you decide to go with cloth diapers, pre-folds are best for allowing movement, though maybe not the most convenient for out of the house.  You can get “snappi” brand clips to put them on easily.  G-diapers and “Happy-Heinies” are brands that seem pretty good for the layered type partly because they come in several sizes.  (No I never thought I’d be researching something called “happy heinies” for my work!)   I’m no diaper expert, I’m sure there are other excellent brands.  The idea is to look for whether your baby can bring their knees towards their chest with similar ease to when they are naked.

Padded Helmets for Toddlers   As hard as it can be to see them get the many little bumps of early standing and walking, your baby needs the little bumps of every day life to learn balance.  A helmet isn’t necessary, and alters their balance.   (This isn’t referring to the helmets prescribed for infants with flat-head syndrome

Bouncy Seats That are Almost Vertical.  Look for a bouncy seat that puts baby in a reclined position to support the naural “c-curve” of their spine.  The same goes for swings.

“Sleep Seats or Positioners”  These have become popular in the last few years.  Some babies may sleep better in them but it’s because their movement is being inhibited.  Parents who use cribs know that their babies move a surprising amount around the crib.  Often they find new coordinations of movement that they don’t exhibit in any other context.  Babies who sleep in a device that fixes their position lose out on that opportunity.   These devices are often recommended for babies with reflux, but in many cases a better solution that allows the baby to move is preferable.

Only Terry Cloth or Plush Toys.  Nothing wrong with these but I find many parents have few solid, hard toys.  Wooden toys give babies the sensory feedback they crave as they learn where their bodies are in space and how they move.   They’re more satisfying to mouth as well.   Keep in mind that for the first few months your baby will hardly be interested in any toys and instead will be interested in their body, their environment and especially your face.  In later months, it isn’t necessary to have tons of toys, you can keep it simple.

A seemingly infinite number of toys that are based on classics but now cost 5 times as much because they light up and play music and vibrate.  Pushing a button to make something electronic happen is not a lesson we need to work hard to expose them to, they will be surrounded by electronics soon enough.  Why not begin, at least mostly, with toys where your baby can actually see and feel the effect that he or she has on it.  These also don’t overwhelm/over stimulate them so much that they tune out of their own sensations.

I recommend toys such as: a rattle with a nice handle to grip, a ball to roll, old fashioned alphabet blocks to manipulate, a cylindrical rolling toy to crawl after, and a bead maze – those beads on bent wires – these are toys that keeps them busy through many stages.  No need to go overboard with toys for babies- younger babies don’t need them at all, and when they do become interested, only a few are needed.  Also, wooden kitchen spoons and a few pots and pot-lids make excellent toys for crawling babies.  Toys that show cause and effect are part of the idea here – not something that entertains for 10 minutes after pressing a button.

a the boy at boxAnd finally, my recommendation of THE ULTIMATE DEVICE for supporting your baby’s motor development is…….the floor!  So many parents tell me they can’t find the time in the day to give their baby tummy-time.  I believe this is largely due to the many unnecessary contraptions that we are inventing to put our babies in.  Time spent in chairs, jumpers and more mean that your baby will be missing out on vital time spent on the floor learning about his or her body and how it works.  I encourage all parents to use these devices sparingly and they are often surprised to hear what we have in our house for our baby: a crib to sleep in, a “bouncy seat” that is at an angle that is close to lying flat to contain him while we make dinner, and a dedicated spot on the living room rug.  That’s all!  If you adopt a similar simple set-up to ours, there’s no need to remember “tummy-time” – when your baby isn’t being held, she will be on her back, sides, and tummy throughout the day, and learning so much about herself and her world in the process.

When Will I Know if My Baby is Right or Left Handed?

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

Parents are always curious and bring up this question in my Child’Space NYC classes and private sessions.   Many parents notice that their baby has a preference to use one hand more than the other and it can be fun to speculate if your baby will be a “righty” or a “lefty.”  But, you may be surprised to learn that “handedness” isn’t neurologically set until nearly 3 years of age, and sometimes even later.  Infants may begin to show some preference around the time they are moving in and out of sitting independently and crawling but they should still use both hands often.  Sometimes, this ambidextrousness continues well past 3 years old before one hand becomes clearly dominant.

 

Babies may have a preference for using one hand a little moreHappy Asian baby girl often than the other, but it’s very important that parents don’t cater to that preference.  If a parent decides his or her baby is left-handed for instance, and that parent begins putting toys, a spoon, etc. into baby’s left hand only, it can limit the baby’s motor and even cognitive development.   Babies need to use both hands for the development of their muscles, coordination and balance.  Using only one hand largely helps build connections in the half of the motor cortex which is associated with that side of the body.  If you encourage your baby to only to use one hand,  you may actually be affecting the development of their brain.

 

Recommendations:  If you notice that your baby uses the same hand very consistently and seems clearly left or right handed, consult your pediatrician, as it may be a sign of an issue.  Be sure to engage your baby to touch, reach, grasp, lean, and more on both arms more or less equally.   Play traditional baby-games like “This Little Piggy” (its not just for toes!) or pat-a-cake to engage your baby to better sense, feel and move their hands and fingers.  If you’ve taken a Child’Space class, you know to use the tapping and other touch techniques of Child’Space Method on your baby’s arms and shoulders when they are trying to reach for a toy.  As you play with your baby, place toys in locations that will encourage them to reach both arms in many different trajectories, so that they practice movements outside of those that are habitual for them.

Learn more, or find classes and private sessions to support your baby’s development:  www.childspacenyc.com

Child’Space Method for Infant Torticollis

baby with helment for Plagiocephaly

A “Bottom to Top” Approach

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

 If you’ve been told by your pediatrician that your baby’s neck is stiff, or that they are developing a flat spot, you are not alone.  Perhaps your baby has been diagnosed with torticollis, a condition in which the body, especially the neck and head, are held in an asymmetrical position.  Often flat-head syndrome, or plagiocephaly, is present in babies with torticollis too.  Recent studies, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery, show a huge surge in the incidence of torticollis, up from 2% of babies to 16%.  

Many parents find their baby is highly resistant to the common treatment prescribed: a routine of stretching and positioning, and orthotic devices for more severe cases.  The Child’Space Method, based on the theories of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, takes a different approach to working with torticollis.  The method doesn’t focus on adjusting the head and neck, but rather addresses the whole child in a way that is often more easily accepted by the baby, and therefore, easier for parents to institute at home.  At a time when nearly half of all babies have some degree of a flat head by the age of 2-3 months, the Child’Space Method approach is more important than ever for parents to learn. 

Torticollis Baby Sketch Cropped

A challenging condition for babies and parents:

In this picture of a baby with torticollis, notice the tilted and rotated position of the baby’s head and neck.  She is not able to turn her head as fully to the other direction, which affects the way she uses her eyes.  If she lies on her back a lot, it’s very likely she will develop a flat spot on her skull.  This flat spot will make it even more challenging to turn her head away from her habitual position.  If she is sat up often in a chair such as a Bumbo seat to avoid the flattening of her head, the weight of her head hanging more to one side will likely exacerbate the asymmetry of her spine as well.

 

Is it Really Only A “Pain in the Neck?”

Most pictures of babies with torticollis show just the head, neck and shoulders.  In fact, I had a lot of trouble finding a full body picture for use with this article.  While this makes sense as these areas are the parts most obviously affected, it is an incomplete picture of what is actually an asymmetry throughout the body.  This focus on the head and neck influences common treatment approaches, which are also frequently incomplete.  

 

Child’Space has a whole-baby view and approach:

Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Repaired

After?!!!

377px-Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa_(April_2012)

Before

Consider for a moment the leaning tower of Pisa.  When the tower became structurally unsound in 1990, something had to be done.  The engineers tasked with this job could have changed the tower at the top with a wedge to bring it level.  You don’t need to be an architect to know that this approach would not work!  Without a solid foundation beneath it, the “leveled” top of the tower in this scenario would not be able to hold its position for any length of time before collapsing.  What engineers actually did was to change the foundation of the building so that the tower wouldn’t lean to a dangerous degree.  If it weren’t the iconic tourist attraction that it is, those engineers would have changed the foundation so that the tower actually stood straight.  If we work with a baby’s neck muscles without addressing what’s happening throughout their body, we similarly ameliorate only part of a problematic situation.

 

 

Baby Drawing, Torticollis

Look at the same baby as above, but observe the picture of her whole body.  With this more global view, we can notice that her left shoulder tilts down in the same direction that her head tilts and that the left hand reaches near her hip while the right hand can’t reach as far down.  The ribs on the baby’s left side are compressed and her right side is long, with (one can imagine) the ribs spread apart.  The left side of her pelvis is raised and her left leg is flexed.  With such a biased foundation, how could her head and neck do anything but tilt? 

 

Noticing these differences throughout the body are a key to the effectiveness of Child’Space Method.  The baby may react with tears and cries when her tight neck is stretched, but working with her ribs, her hip, or her leg, would almost definitely feel less invasive to her.  When she feels new options for the movement of her “foundation,” she will be all the readier to accept a change in her neck and head.  This powerful yet gentle, holistic approach will help her to find new options for posture and movement that will benefit her for life.

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Slow Parenting and Fast Too…Supported

bonding Small

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

I had what I thought was an original idea today for talking about the Child’Space Method and how it supports parent and child:  “slow parenting.” Just as the slow food movement aims to foster a deeper sense of connection between consumers and the food that they eat, in my vision for slow parenting, parents would take the time to connect to their child through touch and movement, giving each child the space to develop at their own pace.   My vision of slow parenting also includes parents connecting with themselves – finding ways to feel more centered, and feeling confident in their choices for how they parent.

As often happens with a little googling, I found that someone else had already coined the term “slow parenting.”  But what I found on a slow parenting blog was a philosophy with many dos and don’ts for an “ideal” way to raise a child.  While they have some very good ideas, I believe very strongly that in parenting, as in much of life, there are many paths that are valid.  We each follow what we believe is best for our child, and we each learn and change as we develop alongside our babies.

Child’Space isn’t just for those who follow a specific parenting philosophy; it is a method that supports all parents and infants.  Whether one practices attachment parenting, or slow parenting, or no specific approach at all, we each have questions and surprises that come up as our child grows.   Through a combination of touch and movement techniques, along with helpful information about infant development, Child’Space sessions and classes can help you feel more connected and in tune with your baby.

So, while the term “slow parenting” may already be claimed, the idea of parenting with awareness is an important element of what we do in Child’Space method.   My hope is that all parents I work with begin to feel attuned to their baby to a degree that they begin to rely less on books and other experts for the right way to do things, and more on their own understanding of their baby as an individual with unique needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Their Shoes

E putting on dad's shoes

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP,

“What is the best type of shoe for a new walker?   It’s a question I often hear from parents of young toddlers.  It’s especially relevant this time of year as Summer quickly turns to Fall and shoes are needed more often.

Walking barefoot is wonderful when it is safe to do so.  Babies who are learning to walk learn to use the movements of their whole foot, including all 5 toes for balance.  When your child walks, there is a constant feedback loop occurring between their feet and their brain.  The feedback of sensation from the foot and ankle, allows your child to constantly make adjustments to their movement to increase coordination, balance and efficiency of walking, and eventually running, jumping and other movements.  Walking barefoot allows your child to fully feel the ground beneath them and make small adjustments for balance and coordination.  Shoes are necessary for protection, but can dampen that “communication” between foot and brain, and therefore limit range of movement and balance?”

When choosing a shoe, I encourage you to think of it as foot-protection rather than as a tool for proper walking.  Choose a shoe that allows your child’s foot room to move.  A flexible suede slipper can work very well.  Your baby’s foot isn’t a fixed form –  it has many bones, cartilage where bones haven’t yet fused, fat tissue, ligaments, tendons and nerves.  It’s important not to constrain their foot in a shoe that limits movement of all of these different elements.  Make sure that the shoe is wide enough in front that their toes have room to wiggle.  After buying shoes, keep track of the fit.  Your baby’s foot is growing fast!  Try to check the fit after 6 weeks or so, to see if it has become tight around the toes.

I’m including a link to a short video that a colleague stumbled across and shared with me.  The video shows a new walker, first in slippers and then in a pair of sneakers.  They do a nice job of pointing out some of the differences in his gait with each shoe.  Here are a few points that they miss:  In the slippers the toddler’s head is free to look from side to side, to notice his dog off to the side, and his head and eyes move to take in the terrain where he is about to step.  In the sneakers, his system is busy with maintaing balance – his head and eyes are more fixed, his neck and his chest are more rigid.    You may also notice how in the slippers, his arms are free to move, even to bring his hands to his mouth as he walks, but in the sneakers his arms are held more rigidly and out to the sides for balance and later protection in falling.

Whether barefoot, slippered, or shoed – there’s lots of exploring and learning to be done.  Have fun walking, running, and jumping!

The Un-Registry – Part 1

bumbo seat

Should this seat be put out to the curb?

by Dan Rindler, Child’Space Practitioner, GCFP

Bumbos and Jumperoos and Nap-Nannies – oh my!  Unfortunately many of the products  created for infants these days have more to do with convenience for parents, and may not actually support optimal infant development.  This is part I of a series of baby items I suggest are best avoided and a few recommendations too.  I originally wrote this list for my good friend when his wife was expecting.  I hope you’ll find it helpful!

These are general guidelines, and every baby is different.  Please take this in the spirit intended: as a list of suggestions.  Watch your baby closely and make up your own mind about what is best!

Items to Cross Off the Registry:

The Bumbo Seat

Putting babies in an upright, unsupported, sitting position long before they can find it themselves creates many issues.  This seat not only does that, but it also practically locks the baby in one position.  Watch any baby who can move in and out of sitting on their own, they don’t stay in any one position for more than a few seconds, maybe a minute at the very most.  This seat forces them to hold one position with no choice.  Infants naturally gravitate toward movement, and chairs like these repress babies’ natural instincts.   See a great article on the bumbo seat here.  

Walkers

(The type with a seat in the middle, not push toys)

Studies have shown that these seats delay actual walking.  Putting babies upright doesn’t actually practice much that has to do with standing or walking without support, but it does practices bad posture and unnecessary muscle tone in the head, neck, shoulders.  Like many of these “Un-registry” recommendations, I’m not saying that your baby wouldn’t like being in one of these – they probably would, but they would also probably like sugar water and maybe even cookies too!   There are times when we can know what’s better for them.

Baby Bjorn

Bad for your back and theirs – there are many websites about this.  The newest model is somewhat improved, so if you do choose to use one I’d recommend that latest version.  I think there are many carriers that do a much better job for both babies’ and parents’ bodies.  Some of them are cheaper too!   See some better recommendations below.

Recommended Items:

Bouncy Seats

If you’d like to have a seat for your baby, a better alternative to the Bumbo is the bouncy seat.  These seats have a kind of a sling back and support a baby from head to tail in the natural c-curved shape of their spine.  Look for a model that isn’t too upright, it should allow your baby to recline so that the weight of their head is supported by the seat.

Baby Carrier -Wrap style

Using a wrap supports your baby and spreads their weight over your shoulders and hips much better than any other carrier.  Moby is the best known, is easy to learn to use, and works well with newborns/young infants.  As your baby gets heavier though, the stretchy fabric may not offer enough support.  If you look around, you will find fabric wraps that are less stretchy and will last you longer than the Moby.  Also there are thin breathable fabrics for summer. Whatever your feelings about the attachment parenting movement, we all can take a page from their book when it comes to carriers – they have the baby carrying thing figured out!  If you can deal with learning to use a material wrap you’ll find it’s great for your back/neck/shoulders and the best support for your baby as they get bigger.  If you get used to a wrap from the start, you’ll find that you use it through many stages of your baby’s development, probably longer than any other carrier.

Other carriers

For those not interested in a wrap, Ergo, Beco or Boba carriers are a good alternative.  (There are many other brands of similar carriers – the best way to shop is in person rather than online to try them out and see what works for you and your baby.)  Mei-Tai’s are something of a compromise between these carriers and  a wrap– with a formed top and a tie around the waist.  Another alternative is the Baby K’tan style carriers which are kind of like a pre-wrapped Moby.  They take a little less fussing with and many parents love them, but they’re not as adjustable as a wrap.  I’m not a fan of ring slings for heavier babies though some people love them and they can work well.  I’ve noticed that unless you’re good about alternating shoulders they can leave parents feeling very asymmetrical and achy.

That’s it for Part I.  Part II will be out soon with more suggestions including toys, diapers and more!