These are questions I hear from parents a lot. I'm seeing more and more babies skip crawling and as a developmental movement teacher this is a bit worrisome. Crawling is an important milestone that, in my opinion, needs to be reached and reached properly. Many things are being organized in the body and brain during crawling, making it essential to development and self esteem continuing well into adolescence and adulthood. Crawling should begin around 7, 8 or even 9 months and continue for as long as...well as long as it takes!
I believe the reason why we are seeing less crawling is because we are seeing less tummy time. Parents are opting out of tummy time because their baby doesn't like it, fear of SIDS or they are just not doing it long enough. The lack of time on their belly doesn't allow for their upper body to develop the way it should. We see this when a child is sitting upright before they are strong enough and their upper body ends up collapsing over their legs. Tummy time is essential and needed to help organize the body on the ground before pushing up on all four limbs and crawling. We can think of it as 3 different times the body needs to organize itself. 1st is tummy time on the ground. 2nd is crawling on hands and knees and 3rd is walking.
Hand and knee crawling requires opposite-side limb movement unlike the belly crawling which emphasis same arm same leg (lizard pose in yoga). This is called control-lateral or cross body movement, and is something we practice in class, during our "hand to your knee" song. Our brains have two hemispheres that are connected by a 'walkway' called the corpus callosum. This is actually a collection of nerve fibers that can be strengthened by doing cross body work. Musicians have some of the strongest corpus callouss due to their hands usually doing different things at once. The cross body movement allows the two side of the brain to communicate with each other. The repetitious movement helps stimulate and organize neurons, allowing the brain to process things like comprehension, concentration and memory.
Another puzzle piece of crawling is learning binocular vision, which is training the eyes to focus on a single object, creating one image. When a baby is crawling they visually determine where they want to be and then move their body to that spot. When a baby is crawling they are looking at their determined spot, and then back at their hands crawling on the floor. This forces the eyes to focus on difference distances which will eventually help with tasks like catching, driving and hand eye coordination. This then plays in to spatial awareness, as a child crawls around a space they discover distance and placement of objects. Through trial and error play they can learn how to maneuver around something in the way, whether thats by climbing over it or creating a new path around it, and voila! They just implanted a fantastic problem solving technique!
Learning and mastering crawling is also a self confidence boost! A baby learns about taking risks and the failures or successes that come along with it. They learn how to make decisions about speed, destination and the joy of reaching those goals. Once they reach their toy or person they were headed for you'll see the instant joy on their face along with clapping! That is a proud baby who just got a major does of self confidence!
So what if you have a baby who isn't crawling? Don't worry, there are lots of way to encourage crawling. Tummy time is always going to be a great place to start and find a way to make it interactive. There's nothing worse than being put down on the floor and being left alone. You can get down on your own belly and talk to them. You can also place a mirror in front of their face so they can enjoy looking at their own reflection. Placing their favorite toy away form them will peak their interest in trying to move and reach that toy. Rolling a ball away from them can also be enticing enough try and crawl after. If you have a baby who is over tummy time, is scooting on her bottom or already trying to walk, then I suggest putting them in situations that give them the opportunity to crawl. Such as, playing with tunnels, crawling under kitchen chairs. You can also get down on your hands and knees as a way to demonstrate what you'd like them to do, babies love to imitate! Keep trying to offer opportunities to crawl instead of standing or walking. Make it fun!
Not all babies who skip crawling are going to have difficulties, but the goal is to give them opportunities to reach these milestones now, instead of needing to work on them later in life. Instead of focusing on what your baby isn't doing, focus on what she is doing! Focus on progress. Babies can only hit so many milestones at once, so maybe your baby is hitting a language milestone? Maybe she is feeding herself with a spoon? Most importantly, stop comparing your baby to other babies. The truth is every baby is different, even your own children. Just because one walked at a certain age doesn't mean the other will. If your baby is continuously not hitting milestones then the best thing you can do is talk to your Pediatrician.
Smell and Taste
There is no stronger bond than one between Mother and child. This has to do mostly with the sense of smell and the release of pheromones. Pheromones are molecules that are used in the human and animal world for a multitude of reasons; non verbal communication, maternal bonding, mating, territory marking, and more! Mother and baby can identify each other by scent alone. They use these pheromones to create a lifelong bong, making it a physical, as well as an emotional connection.
The bond starts in utero as babies begin to recognize their mothers pheromones. While in the coziness of the womb babies start to communicate to the Mother using pheromones, which is basically chemical codes. These chemical links are present after birth, so mother and baby recognize each other and baby can begin breastfeeding. A baby will basically sniff out their Mothers breast so they can start feeding. This is done by pheromones and Montgomery glands. At six days, although some say earlier, a baby will learn and become partial to their Mothers milk. They are able to pick it out among other women's milk, as well as discriminate the difference between their mothers breast and another woman, based on scent alone. Animals use pheromones in breastfeeding as well. A Mother rat will instinctually lick herself as a way for her blind babies to find their way to food. This is why its imperative pheromones are learned.
When a baby nurses they are exposed to their Mothers pheromones through many glands around the breast and underarms. These glands secrete, mixing with bacteria that is living on the skin and creates a persons unique smell. When males are born and come in contact with their mothers pheromones their bodies begin to release Gonadotropin (hormone), which causes a surge of the LH (hormone that affects function of sex organs). This surge helps a male baby pump out testosterone which further masculinizes the brain by breaking down nerve cells and creating male circuits. So, the pheromones are essentially creating humans as distinctively male or female. Breastfeeding can also influence what a child will look for in a future mate. A study found that when rats were nursed with the presence of a lemon scent, they then looked for mates that carried a similar scent. Showing that exposure to odors early in life produces life long preferences for those odors.
Pheromones also benefit the Mother! Mothers will nuzzle their noses into their babies head, picking up their sweet scent, releasing oxytocin (cuddle hormone). When a baby cries, the Mothers body will release oxytocin causing her nipples to erect so she can pass milk easily. Making the mother want to nurse just as much as the baby wants to feed.
The sense of taste is another chemical sense that is present at birth. There are 5 primary tastes. Sweet, Salty, Bitter. Sour and Umami. Upon birth babies can taste everything but salty. It is believed that the salty taste doesn't come in until 4 months, once the kidneys have fully developed. A newborns favorite taste is sweet. When babies are given a sugar substance immediately after a shot or small procedure they tend to cry less. There are many amino acids found in breastmilk with the strongest, being glutamate, at over 50%. Its presence in breastmilk helps the newborn like the Umami taste.
Culture also plays a role in babies sense of taste. Flavors of food eaten by the Mother get translated into the amniotic fluid, which the baby ingests in utero. When the baby is nursing these flavors are also passed through the milk. The flavor of breastmilk is directly effected by the foods, spices and beverages the Mother has consumed. Amniotic fluid and breast milk are similar in their taste profiles which may bridge the experience of a baby transitioning to solid foods. Smell and taste go hand in hand. If you have a baby who can experience complex tastes, like the difference between apples and pears, then chances are they have a well developed sense of smell.
There are millions and million of connections that are being made in infancy. Those connections truly do shape us for the rest of our lives. If a pregnant or breastfeed Mother eats different food, tries different flavors, this can set the stage of child and adult preferences when it comes to eating. In the same way that our Mothers scent influences us when we choose mates. Isn't it amazing?
At around 22 weeks in utero, your baby begins to hear sounds. They quickly start to develop an appreciation for music, talking, singing as well as show dislikes for certain sounds, commonly expressed through kicking. From birth, babies pay close attention to the sounds around them. They recognize the voices and music they heard in utero. Even though hearing is introduced in utero the parts of the brain that respond to complex sounds and attach meaning to what is heard, continues to develop until about age 12. Music ignites all areas of child development, helping the mind and the body work together.
Babies love to be sung and spoken to! When we sing we engage our breath and we stimulate the right side of our brain. This singing leads to babbling and making sounds, which eventually becomes speech, which takes places in the left side of the brain. Your baby will even start singing along with you before they begin talking, as they recognize melody before they understand words. Don't worry about your voice, a baby never cares if you can sing or not, they just love the human voice. Singing and talking is my preferred method of music, but recorded music can serve the same purpose, as long as it isn't too loud.
Babies are sensitive and intelligent little beings and I don't think we give them much credit when it comes to understanding the world around them. While they don't have the ability to talk yet, they have cries that express different needs along with their movement. You may have a baby who starts to throw her body backwards when she's hungry, or maybe your little guy rocks his head side to side when he is stressed or over tired. I always like to explain as much as I can to babies. This is reason as to why we use transition songs in class or nursery schools. "Clean up" is a tradition transition song. This songs helps them figure out that we are moving into something new. Babies won't really be able to understand the concept of cleaning up until around 8 months, but like I said above, they recognize melody before the actual words, so that tune sticks in their mind and helps them cue for the shift. Transitions songs, or activities are also great for going to sleep. Try creating your own little tune or song to start singing when its time to transition into something new!
Talking and reading to your baby helps your baby develop an ear for the cadence of language. Using voices, accents and varying the pitch makes the aural connection to you and your child much more stimulating. You don't need to bombard your child with talking and singing, but if they seem interested tell them what your doing through out the day. For example, if you're getting them dressed, talk about the colors they are going to wear that day. What the garment is that you are dressing them in. How does the texture of that garment feel against their skin. You can also tune in to what your baby hears and comment on that. Acknowledging the sounds they hear helps them learn more about their environment. It's the auditory enjoyment of stopping to smell the roses!
We can also help our babies learn about breathing. They are already breathing perfectly (unless asthma is present), but they are also picking up on our breathing style as we hold them and live with them. Adults are usually not the best breathers. We carry our breath high in our chest. As we multi-task and engage more in mind tasks we start to disconnect from our bodies and our breath gets higher. We forget to breath deeply from our bellies, filling our lungs and body. In this regard, your baby can actually serve as a great reminder to breath deeply! We can still help babies with breathing by taking in full deep breaths, with sounds, as we hold them or have them sitting in our lap (our belly pressed to their back). The sound element is there so the baby feeling hears you breathing, and can learn through the kinesthetic and auditory processes. These full breaths flood the body with oxygen and flushes out stale air that has become trapped in the body. This leads to feeling refreshed and invigorated which is translated to your baby. It's a win-win!!
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The skin is the largest organ in our body and our first sense to develop in utero at 3 weeks. The skin is filled with countless receptors that can distinguish the smallest changes in the environment. Hard? Soft? Cold? Hot? Some of these receptors send pain signals and some can tell us if we have an itch. Each receptor activates a specific part of our brain, making us feel calm, irritated, soothed, angry or hurt, and yet touch is a purely physical thing. The skin is basically the nervous system turned inside out, so stimulating the skin effects the nervous system and consequently the brain. How a baby is touched and the frequency of touch effects their development and well being.
The infant brain goes through incredible growth in the first 3 years of life. In one year the brain grows to 50% of its adult volume and by age three it reaches 80%. During that expansive period of growth the cells in their bodies are changing. Touch plays a major role in cell development. When a baby receives positive and pleasurable touch endorphins and oxytocin (love hormone) are released causing the cells to grow and expand. When stressful experiences occur our cells contract and catecholamines (stress hormones) are released, inhibiting cell growth. Babies in the NICU are often isolated in incubators and deprived of the touch they would other wise be receiving. Research has shown the effects of touch and has led to procedural changes at many hospitals. The study found that infants who were held with skin to skin contact (kangaroo hold), for an hour every day, scored higher in both mental and motor sections in the Bayley Assessment test at 6 months.
Babies now a days are being touched very often and without having a formalized time for this. This is wonderful! We are seeing more babies being worn with wraps, front carriers and slings. These devices create a continuous sense of movement and vestibular work (balance), that is very similar to being in utero. All of that movement and touch is great, but we also want to be mindful of going slow, especially with a newborn. The nervous system of a baby is 10 times slower than our adult nervous system. This means we need to be mindful that we are not over stimulating them. They do a great job of letting us know when they receive too much stimulation. You’ll see them space out, avoid eye contact, blink continuously, fuss, and some babies hands and arms will have a little shake to them. These are clear signs to stop engaging for a while and create a soothing and settling experiences to let the nervous system regulate. Because their nervous systems are so immature, they need our help to help themselves settle. We do this by rocking, swaying, bouncing, swaddling, singing, skin to skin contact, mirroring compassion, using a pacifier, and using “shhh” sounds (this replicates the sounds heard in utero).
Mindful Touch Exercise:
Consider your hands. Look at them and reflect on how you use them. What kind of touch do you like or dislike? What do you want to communicate to your little one? Take a moment to close your eyes and think about all the love you have for this wondrous little being. Place one or both hands to their heart center, this can be accessed either through the front or back of the body. Now imagine all of that love, flowing through your hands and into their body. Letting your heart connect through your hands. This exercise can be done as often as you’d like.
There are many ways throughout the day to add in more thoughtful touch time. Diapering is one of my favorite times to use songs, touch and movement games. Making time for daily baby massage is a wonderful addition as well! Different kinds of touch provide different experiences. Light brushing can be soothing or stimulating. Deep, slow gentle squeezes can be reassuring and grounding. Pointed, quick jiggly touch at the tummy can aid in releasing gas bubbles and moving blocked bowels.
Ansley has been teaching Infant Movement classes since 2013, after studying Developmental Movement with Ellynne Skove. Since completing her training Ansley has taught all over the New York, New Jersey, Boston and now Florida. Ansley is certified in Level 1 Reiki and has completed her 200hr YT. She is passionate about empowering, nurturing and providing care to all families as they encounter the demands and joys of parenthood. Through her work she is able to soulfully fulfil her greatest ambition; to care for others.