Free Movement for Babies
At one of my events on the weekend I was asked about the idea of free movement for babies - so I thought it was fitting to write a blog about this! While not a 'new' concept it has become more topical, unfortunately mainly due to babies movement and play being more restricted. It is an important cornerstone of their wellbeing and does impact on their eating, digestive system and energy levels which is why I have a chapter on it in The Nourished Baby.
What is Free Movement?
Put simply, free movement for babies is allowing their movement in a way that is free from all restriction.
This means not using bouncers, seats, swings, jolly jumpers or walkers, and limiting the heavy use of carriers, slings and strollers - as these still can restrict movement of our babies. This does not mean you cannot carry your baby; rather still providing a lot of chances for their own unrestrained movement each wake cycle. It may surprise you to know that for a baby, the position which allows for their greatest amount of mobility is on their back. Inline with our latest Ministry of Health Guidelines (released in May of 2017 this year), you do also want to encourage ‘tummy time’ to help develop core, back and neck muscles as well as the opportunity for babies to pull themselves up on things (safely).
Nature or Nuture?
While babies movement is very natural to them...they need to be given the opportunity to do this - and this does not change as they grow and develop either. Unfortunately today our 'natural environment' is one in which movement is the hard choice, we have to actively make an effort to move. Similarly for babies a significant portion of their natural movement is often restricted. This is everything from increased use of the car to stationary technological devices (yes even for babies) as well as a lot of the previously mentioned baby products. I do think it is a little bit of a balance, that some use of these is alright (we used a jolly jumper for example) but to watch how many of these are used and for how long.
In our very busy lives it can be hard to give our babies that time on the floor, especially when they do start being more active. It can be near impossible to get anything done! If there is anything I can encourage for you would be to try and embrace this as much as possible - a house that is lived in, is a happy house! I know it can be hard with picture perfect images of what house 'looks like' on Instagram but remember these are just a tiny snap shot (and are often very staged) the reality is often quite different. I really learnt to let go when I was in the tail-end of my doctoral thesis as I actually could not do everything!
(The photo above is from around this time!)
Find options that fit with your Lifestyle
There are some things that for me personally are just in the 'too-hard basket'. Having a sand pit in the house is one of them, so is play dough (yes believe it or not) and painting. I will do the odd painting session but that is only on a good day. Maybe it is the lecture in me, but I do really like puzzles and educational toys for the boys. I find it something I can engage with. Last year I discovered My Play Kit which delivers a new box of toys to your door each month on a subscription service and you return the previous months one at the same time. I love this and find it so easy (I just do not have time to go to a toy library!). You can read my review of this here but it maybe something for you if you are a little bit like me in this regard! Do what fits for you and your lifestyle, it is ok if you do not love everything - remember it is the time you spend engaging with your baby that really makes the difference here.
Independence and Wellbeing
Lastly, keep in mind that free movement is crucial for a number of immediate and long term healthy benefits for your little one. The patterns of movement established right from infancy will help to encourage a life long pattern of this. In addition it is fundamental for their cognitive development and the more that they can do themselves - the more time you will have in the long run!
I would love to know your thoughts on this as it is quite hot topic right now and any other activity ideas you have too!
xxx Dr Julie Bhosale