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Don’t Sit a Baby Up? Natural Gross Motor Skill Development in Babies

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Baby #1, sitting with no way to get back up if she fell.

Without a second thought, I used to prop my first baby up, and by about 5 1/2 months old, she was sitting well. She would sit there and happily play with her toys. I would build a circle of cushions around her, in case she toppled over (which she often did). I was proud that she could sit so early and used to compare her with other babies who were ‘late sitters’.

While she was happy to sit and play, she didn’t crawl until she was about 9 months old and if I recall correctly, she couldn’t push herself into a seated position until about 9 1/2 months. You see, tummy time and independent play virtually stopped when she was able to sit, because she seemed so content to view the world from a new perspective. But, she could ONLY sit if I placed her in that position… and she could ONLY play with the toys I placed in front of her.

It was my second daughter, Goldie, who really taught me about the natural progression of gross motor skills in babies. She absolutely would not let me prop her up. If I tried to, she would slump over and slither onto her belly, where she felt confident and safe. At 7 months, she learned to crawl and to sit at the same time, but only because it was then that she had learned the skill to do so.

My friend from Germany was visiting when Goldie was going through that developmental phase and I mentioned to her that I thought Goldie was a ‘late sitter’. She then told me about the natural development of gross motor skills in babies and why sitting before crawling (or creeping) is actually sort of backwards. Babies should be able to push themselves up to sitting before they can truly sit.

My son is 7 months old at the time of writing this and no way can I prop him up. If I try to, his breathing gets all funny and he slumps over on purpose to get to safety (the floor). He started proficiently commando crawling at six months, and he can pretty much get to anywhere he wants. He stays busy for a long time creeping around the room and hardly needs any help from anyone. But, he still does not sit.

My son, exploring freely, at the same age, without needing much help.

What Does it Mean in the Long Run?

I’ve only read what others have said and I’ve observed my own children and their gross motor development. Please note, I am not an expert on infant development, and we all know how very different every child is! My older daughter is now 7 and the younger one is almost 5. Do I notice a difference in their gross motor skills now? Not really. But, I do notice a difference in the way they acquire new skills and in the way they play.

In general, pushing babies to sit before they’re ready is probably just one thing of many that parents get their children to do before the child is developmentally ready. I’ve pushed my older daughter to do lots of things before she was developmentally ready! Getting her to sit early was just the beginning.

Confidence is another reason not to sit a baby up. If a baby falls, she can’t put herself back in that position. She gets upset and then you rush to come help her… you prop her back up and then she learns that maybe she can’t do it herself… I see this tendency a lot with my older daughter still! Although it’s less now that I don’t push her to do other things before she’s developmentally ready.

It could be purely coincidental, but, my middle child is much more confident in some ways. She will only try something once she knows she’s developmentally ready for it. And, you can’t talk her into doing ANYTHING! She is much better at independent play. Whereas, my older one always seems to need me to do stuff with her constantly… could it have been those months when my first was a baby and I was always sitting her up and bringing things to her? Could that have prevented her from naturally developing the skill to play confidently? I wonder…

Interestingly, my older daughter is always trying to get her baby brother to sit! Even though I never say that he needs to. It must be something stored in her consciousness from when she was a baby. The middle daughter, the one who learned to sit on her own, never tries to get him to sit.

Vestibular System

Young babies are developing what’s called their vestibular system. That system is a sensory system that has to do with balance, equilibrium, coordination, hand eye coordination, muscle tone, etc. Many people would say that by sitting a baby up, you’re interfering with the natural development of a baby’s vestibular system.

Sitting babies in ‘baby seats’, like bumbos and walkers seems to make life easier, but it’s best to let babies roll around on the floor. I used a bumbo seat a few times when my daughter was about 5 or 6 months old (pictured below) and I imagined how it would feel if I had been sitting in it myself and I realized it would have been very uncomfortable, the way you have to hold your neck and head up without having a strong core yet. And, the way her legs were sticking straight out, instead of folded in a sort of ‘seat’ underneath of her. I do use a bouncer now, sometimes, as it’s not always possible to let my son roll around. But as soon as my son started enjoying being on his tummy, I set him down on the floor much more than in the bouncer. Of course, there are times when he ‘sits’, usually in my lap, occasionally in the high chair, but I can tell that he doesn’t really like the high chair, because he starts to slump over. 

A little sidetracked, but totally related is babywearing and carrying your baby. Carrying your baby around has so many benefits, but a big one is that carrying your baby helps to strengthen a baby’s upper body muscles. When you walk around carrying a baby, it’s a vestibular motion that your baby experiences and he really has to hang on and learn to use his muscles. My mother told me that she used to manhandle us when we were newborns and sling us over her shoulder to get stuff done. And, we got strong really fast because of it!

I was trying to get a shot of how much of a big hot mess I looked like… but we sort of look cute.

So anyway, it’s not really the end of the world, but it’s something very interesting that many people don’t know about, or never question. Could it be that some babies prefer to sit before they crawl? Yes, probably. But, I think it’s good to know about the natural progression of a baby’s gross motor skills. I never questioned if I should prop a baby up, but when I heard about the reasons for not doing it, it instantly made sense to me!

Respecting a Baby’s Space

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Babies are so cute! They’re so innocent and non-judging… they make lots of people feel the love, belongingness and connection that we all crave.

And, babies need to be picked up, handled and held for just about every activity they do! As an attachment style parent, I’ve had very close contact with my babies all day and night. Physical touch and connection is vital for a baby’s well being.

But where do we draw the line as to what is respectful to a baby’s body or what may be unintentionally violating a baby’s space? Shouldn’t there be a difference in how a stranger enters your baby’s space as opposed to someone the baby knows? And, just because a baby is smiling, does it mean that he’s enjoying the interaction?

I know, I know, again, baby’s are so cute! It’s hard to not want to tickle them or stroke their soft skin or ask to hold them or to squeeze them and poke all their round delicious parts. My son is just about to turn six months old at the time I’m writing this, and man, is he a ham! It’s hard for people to keep their hands off him!

But… babies are people, let’s not forget. Small adorable people, who can’t talk. Would it be ok to go around stroking a stranger’s cheeks? Or, if you saw a cute looking guy in the shops, would it be alright to stick your finger in his hand? No…

I don’t have the right to tickle, poke and prod or do anything that might make my baby feel uncomfortable. And, I feel like I need to protect my small person from other well-meaning people who can’t help but want to do the same.

I’ve had countless strangers approach my babies and try to get a squeeze, or a poke or a kiss! Even when my babies have been tucked away in the baby carrier, and I try to turn away, I’ve had people touch my baby’s toes, plant a kisses on my baby’s head, put a finger in my baby’s soft hand or stroke my baby’s cheeks (their cheeks are amazing, I admit).

Then, people ask for cuddles…

If the baby is tucked away in the carrier, they won’t ask (thank goodness). But, if the baby’s out of the carrier and they ask, I don’t always know what to say. Saying ‘no‘ seems rude. If they could ask my baby and he could answer, then the answer would be straight forward. But, how do I know if HE wants you to hold him? This is not a game of ‘pass the baby‘, this is a little person with feelings!

How would I feel if a giant stranger, who looked, felt and smelled very different from my mother, picked me up? I’m not sure I would like it…

I love the most when people interact with my son by smiling at him and talking. That way, he can simply snuggle his head into my chest if he doesn’t feel like interacting. Or, he can choose to respond by smiling back. Sometimes my son smiles during an interaction with someone, but I have to look at his body language to know if he’s enjoying the interaction. Is he smiling, but tense and pulling and squirming away? Or, is he smiling with his body relaxed? If he’s relaxed, then I know he feels safe and comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, other people have definitely held my babies, I’m not that uptight and it’s beautiful when the holding is done with awareness. My parents just came to visit from America and my son spent tons of time on their laps. And, some of my good friends, that I see on a regular basis, get cuddles. But, people whom I don’t see often, I just don’t feel comfortable saying ‘yes‘ to when they ask for a casual cuddle. A cuddle is a very intimate thing, in my opinion!

It’s not just strangers who want to poke and prod babies, I think about how often my husband and daughters (or even I) may accidentally invade my son’s body space. My girls love him so much, tthe second I put him down, they’re all over him like white on rice! It’s a tough one, like I said, because babies need to be picked up, interacted with and helped all day long… and we do love to play with him. So, I try my best to nicely remind everyone to look and listen carefully at his cues to see if he starts feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

The whole idea of respecting a baby’s body in the way I’m talking about, is a very subtle concept. It’s not to say that we limit the touching or holding of our babies, because babies absolutely need lots of closeness. And, we should act natural around babies! But, is the touching and holding done with awareness? And, does the baby feel safe and comfortable?

We just don’t know what strong impressions are being made in a baby’s brain at such a young age. True, they won’t remember individual events, but they do remember the feeling. I want to make sure that down the track, my children grow up with the feeling that they have felt safe and respected.

I Didn’t Leave the House AT ALL For Six Weeks After my Baby Was Born: It Was Fantastic!

imageWhen my first daughter was born, I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me over the phone, “Now, Katie, a winter baby stays in the house for 4 weeks, a summer baby stays in the house for 2. Your baby was born in autumn, so you should stay in the house for 3 weeks.Read the rest of this entry

How To Do Elimination Communication With Your Baby

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ECingkatesurfs

When I was pregnant with my first child, one of my biggest hesitations about becoming a new parent, was the thought of changing countless dirty diapers and of toilet training. I often wondered if there was a more natural process. I wondered what ancient people would have done! Luckily, just a few weeks before my daughter was born, a lady told me about elimination communication (EC). A lightbulb went off after our brief conversation and I knew that elimination communication was something that I wanted to try. I’ve practiced EC with both of my children and they were both and toilet trained, day and night, right around the time they started to walk. Read the rest of this entry

Ten Non-Reasons Why Your Baby is Crying

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 Babycrying

Babies cry. You don’t have to feel bad about it. Either they’re trying to tell you something (they’re hungry, scared, etc.) or they’re frustrated or in pain.  We should always do the best we can to respond to a crying baby’s needs. Yes, sometimes it’s overwhelming and yes sometimes you need to put a crying baby down for a moment. Yes, we live in a silly society where parents live isolated and don’t have enough help. Sometimes, you pick up a baby and they just keep crying. Read the rest of this entry

Should We Never Ever Judge?

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GoldieBra

Judgement: The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. –Oxford Dictionary

I got in a bit of facebook trouble today (as you do sometimes) when I posted a Miss. Judgey Pants remark that went like this:

“Society has taught us to hold into our material possessions, but not to hold on to our babies.

A young fit father was pushing his three or four month old baby in a stroller with one hand and holding a coffee in the other. The baby was screaming and shaking. Dear Sir. Put down your coffee. Stop pushing the stroller. Pick up your baby!”

Read the rest of this entry

Should You Give a Crap About Early Toilet Training?

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ToiiletTraining

Let’s face it, babies and toddlers aren’t stupid. They figure out how to walk, talk, eat, climb, and do everything else. Surely… they can figure out toilet training at a relatively young age if we encourage them? It’s only natural that they would want to stop pooing and peeing on themselves. I recently read an article about a woman who was against putting in any extra effort to toilet train her children and only let her kids toilet train when they were practically begging her. I just about gagged. Read the rest of this entry

From That Very First Day: Birth

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IMG_6465IMG_6465

Today, a friend of mine welcomed twin baby boys to the world. Wow, so amazing, I mean, what even is ‘birth?!‘ Oh, I don’t even know… it’s just a miracle, that’s what. The few days before birth, the birth itself and then the few days after. It’s such a precious place in time and space, and it only happens once a lifetime. Read the rest of this entry

Ten Reasons Why You and I Deserve a Medal for Being a Mother

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katesurfs ten reasons why you and I deserve a medal for being a mother

I was cleaning up an ant massacre, by death of strawberry jam, in my the kitchen, when Goldie started yanking on my pants yelling, “UP! UP!” Margo was in the living room twirling around and swinging a hula hoop on her arm screaming, “LOOOOOOK, WATCH ME!!!” Then, Goldie’s nagging grew more urgent, she tapped her groin and exclaimed, “PEE! PEE!. She’d gone a little in her undies already, but I knew that if I quickly took her, she would finish in the potty. So, I dropped what I was doing, picked her up gingerly and took her to the potty I have laying around in the living room. I skirted around the twirling dervish, only to go past and get whacked in the back by the hula hoop. I ripped the little one’s pants off and plopped her on the potty, just in the knick of time. Then, I dodged more hula hooping to grab a tissue to wipe the pee bum and then I thought to myself, “How much money would I be making if I actually got paid for doing this?” Ok, maybe I don’t need to get paid, but I think I at least deserve a medal… maybe you can relate to one or more of the following and you deserve a medal too?

1. I’ve licked food off of another person’s hands and face. In fact, that’s what I’m doing in the photo because I had nothing to wipe Goldie’s mouth off with. I’ve eaten slobbery offerings of half eaten food from the dirty hands of a toddler. Honorable mention is the food that I’ve eaten off of a kid’s shirt and/or off the floor.

2. I, and practically everything else in my house, has, at one point, been pooped on, peed on, and/or vomited on, and that is not all. It can happen almost any time and any where, but it tends to happen most as soon as someone has clean clothes on or I have just put fresh sheets on the bed. Clean. Mess. Clean. Mess. Repeat.

3. I’ve picked a nose that wasn’t my own. That is all.

4. I respond to, “Why“, “Mama“, or “No” eight hundred and seventy times a day. Ninety percent of the time, I respond to incessant questions politely. Does anyone want to come over to have their ear chewed off by a four year old? Even for just an hour? Please… Oh, I’m also a mind reader… not just anyone can understand your toddler tell you about their day.

5. My house is *real* messy. Not that *fake* messy that some people try to say is real messy. Like this one post gone viral about why a lady couldn’t be your friend if you don’t like her messy house… and then the photo had three stray toys laying on the floor. I’m sorry, that does not cut it. If you come to my house, I won’t ask you to fold the laundry, because I only shove the laundry in the drawers. And, there is a difference between messy and dirty. My house is only messy, thus the medal.

6. I. wipe. butts. all. day. 

7. I feed my family *something* everyday and eventually do all the dishes. Don’t open my cupboards, because you might end with an avalanche of half opened bags of pasta on your head. You might find mystery hard stuff on the spoon I give you with your soup, but, I promise, it has been washed, so you can just scrape the mystery stuff off with your finger. And, don’t think that we eat healthy and organic everyday either. Sometimes we eat cereal for dinner, and I’m pretty ok with that.

8. I’ve carried a crying baby on my back AND held a screaming banshee big kid in my arms at the same time, while simultaneously walking down a crowded street in broad daylight. If ever I needed to have my ego busted… well, there you go.

9. I’ve sustained personal injuries often. I’ve been head butted on the bridge of my nose. I’ve also been kicked or accidentally whacked in the in the jaw so that my teeth bashed together. I’ve had my eye poked at and had many more such accidental/sometimes intentional injuries, mostly while I was half or fully asleep.

10. Last, but not least, I freaking love my kids so much that I do it all over again every day without any recognition or any medal.

 

Old School Discipline is Irrelevant: What We Do Instead

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Ditchthediscipline

I was trying to fold some laundry, but my kids were up to all of their typical annoying anti-laundry folding assault techniques. You know, sitting on the folded towels and pulling the middle shirt out of the pile, which in turn knocked the whole pile over, etc. My first thought was, “OMG! Really, just let me fold the f*cking laundry!Read the rest of this entry