You are the key to your baby's travels
Have you ever tried to measure something that’s moving? Can you actually measure change in something that isn’t fixed to start with? Actually, you can. For those of us that drive cars, we rely on this sort of measurement every day.
Have you ever thought about how your car speedometer works? Cars aren't smart enough to inherently know how fast you’re going. Instead, they measure something tangible - the time it takes for your wheel to rotate - and from this can infer your speed. The key information here is that two measurements are required to calculate your car's speed.
Can anyone see where I’m headed? The same principal applies to your baby’s motor development. The word ‘development' implies there is change over time. And there's a lot of change when you consider most babies evolve from helpless newborns to spirited walkers in about a year (give or take). But babies aren’t cars - they aren’t born with wheels and certainly aren’t capable of moving at 60 kilometres per hour. So how do we measure change?
Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t - we take a snapshot. We consult checklists, and find that most babies motor skills fit conveniently within very wide age-bands for individual motor skill achievement. For example, one baby may sit by themselves at 5 months of age, another may not be sitting at 7 and a half months of age - and at face value, both are considered normal.
When we take a snapshot, we have no reference point. We may inadvertently focus on what a baby can’t do. Does it seem unusual to you that an almost eight-month-old baby can’t sit by themselves? Would you be worried if this was your baby?
What if I told you that the five-month-old baby who was able to sit had no experience on their tummy in the preceding months. She could not transition in and out of a sitting position, because she lacked the trunk rotation and muscle control to move into a four-point kneeling position. She was 'stuck' - and she cried incessantly if left more than a minute or so sitting up. For this reason, she spent most of her awake time playing on her back underneath a play gym. She was relatively happy here, and had started to reach for toys across her body and roll to the side.
On the other hand, over the last month the older baby had been pivoting around on his tummy to explore his world. He had recently started to lift his bottom up and push back on to his hands and knees. At times, he moved himself right across the room by pivoting and rolling in pursuit of his favourite toy. And he was happily experimenting with sitting up, needing only a little support around his hips to keep his balance.
When we have more information we get a much better picture of the road travelled, and we actually start measuring the construct of motor development. This is because we have taken more than one measurement over time. Most importantly, we are more likely to focus on what a baby can do.
When you know what your baby can do, I encourage you to ‘do’ that some more. See what unfolds. Play doesn’t need to be fancy, and you don’t need any special equipment or toys. Simply be with your baby in the moment, and let their movement guide you. Because we know that the destination is not an individual motor skill - it’s helping your baby explore their world.
As a parent, you are in the driving seat of your baby’s experiences. Where will you travel today?
For movement’s sake.