Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shackles for Babies

Yep, you read it right---"Shackles for Babies".  I can hear you---"WHAT!"  You are outraged and really hoping this is some sick, twisted practical joke.  Sorry to disappoint, but this is no joke.  This awful thing is happening to babies all over the United States!  The "Shackles for Babies" devices are sold by the finest and well-known retailers and are frequently the "most favorite" presents at baby showers.  "WHAT????"

One definition of shackles is "anything that serves to prevent freedom or movement."  Using that definition, here are some additional illustrations of "Shackles for Babies":

Perhaps you have some "Shackles for Babies" in your home.  Perhaps your child "loves" them.  Perhaps you don't think you could live without them.  But, please consider some information before you use your "Shackles for Babies" again.

Humans are built to move.   Before birth, one of the most important signs of health is movement.  Your obstetrician is sure to ask, "How much does the baby move?"  They may even have you do a "kick count" to measure your baby's wellbeing.  If you report to a healthcare professional that your child is not moving in utero, everyone starts getting serious.  You'll likely get an ultrasound and numerous little tricks will be tried in an attempt to wake up that baby and get it moving.  Bbbbbbbuuuuuuutttttttt . . . . once that little one enters the world, they are wiped off, swaddled up like a burrito and flipped on their back.  They are unable to move their arms, legs or even turn their heads.  Hhhhhhmmmmmmmm . . . what just happened?  Why is movement so vital one moment and strictly prohibited the next?

Paralysis, paraplegia, quadraplegia, etc.----those are all words that strike fear into the hearts of mothers.  We would be devastated for our children to suffer from any of those conditions.  Yet we IMPOSE those conditions on our child by strapping them into devices that prevent them from moving.  A wheelchair can move much better than an infant swing, but we'd be heartbroken to put our child in a wheelchair.  Why aren't we heartbroken to put them into "Shackles for Babies"?

When men sit on the couch watching sports all day, we call them Couch Potatoes.  When people laze around in their pajamas in bed all day, we call them Slugs or Sloths.  Why would we force our infants into the same conditions we abhor in adults?

Movement is beautiful.  People love to watch beautiful movement.  During the Olympics, we all re-arrange our schedules to see the gymnastics, track & field, swimming, figure skating, etc.  When people run or swim or flip gracefully and skillfully, it is one of the most exhilarating sights.  Why would deny our offspring the opportunity to begin that most liberating task of movement?

Babies are born to move---they need freedom in the prone position to learn to use their arms and legs in a coordinated way culminating with independent travel---getting across the room to find out what is in the cabinets, under the plant, in Mommy's purse, etc.  They learn independence by moving to satisfy their wants and desires.  They learn to use their two eyes together to focus on a single object, and thus LEARN depth perception.  Yes, depth perception is LEARNED first by being in the prone position----and not for just 15 minutes a day.  

Infants should spend their waking hours in a safe, clean, warm environment in the prone position.  Infants can only see a short distance initially---on their backs they don't have the opportunity to learn to use their vision and converge the vision of their two eyes.  (Nope, mobiles and baby gyms don't change this---the mobiles don't give them an opportunity to learn and explore their environment, visually or otherwise.)  The perfect way for an infant to learn to use his vision properly is to be on his tummy, when the ground/floor is just a short distance away and his toys are nearby.  He learns neck control and back strength in a much healthier and functional way.

The natural progression of mobility is to first crawl on your belly (sometimes called the army crawl or commando crawl), then creep on your hands/knees (medical definition is creeping, most Americans call it crawling), THEN walk, hop and run.  This development is crucial for vision, respiration, digestive motility, coordination and neurological organization.

Please do not use the "Shackles for Babies" for convenience.  These devices cause terrible results in the structure of these infants (look at the pictures and see how misaligned their legs, back and head are).  They keep the precious little one from exploring his world.  They also isolate the child from other people---who is playing with a baby in one of these devices????  Usually, no one.  

Is your house going to get torn up if your baby is free to move?  Yes.  Is it going to be harder to clean, cook and do laundry if your baby is on their stomach on the floor?  Yes.  Are their clothes going to get more worn out and dirty?  Yes.  Are you going to have to be a LOT more diligent about keeping the floor clean and free to small things that might be choking hazards?  Yes.  Are the results worth it?  More Yeses than I have space to type!

Please do not limit your child's opportunity to move during his waking hours.  Please let life on the floor be a way of life.  (I have an opinion about sleeping hours, but that is another post for another day.)  Please do not deny your child the chance to enter into the joyous world of movement.  Let them figure out their arms  & legs and use them for the purpose God designed them.  That is a designer I don't think should be argued with.

"They'll Outgrow It"

I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard the phrase, "They'll outgrow it."  I'd be rich because this is one of the default answers given to so many mothers whose children are struggling.  I have some real problems with this answer.

1.  Why did they grow into the issue in the first place?  If this is a problem, it's a problem.  Why do they have the problem?  Something is obviously going awry, and the CAUSE is my biggest concern.

2.  How do you know?  Maybe they will and maybe they won't.  You cannot guarantee they'll "outgrow" an issue, and then you will have #3.

3. Why wait?  Why waste my child's growing and maturation time just watching a problem?  Why not identify what the root cause is and go to work right away to ameliorate the issue?

Sometimes--not always, but sometimes--the "they'll outgrow it" advice comes from a lack of information about what to do about the problem.  They don't have anything left in their tool kit to combat the issue, so "wait and see" is the bottom of the advice barrel.  

If you are uncomfortable with your child's development, YOU ARE RIGHT.  If you see your child falling behind their peers in social graces, academics or motor skills, don't feel ashamed about wanting to start work right away to help them.  If someone tells you to "wait and see", then don't hesitate to get another opinion.  Information is easily-obtainable in this information age---keep looking until you find what your heart tells you is right!

Then your child has a much better chance of "outgrowing" an issue because their parent is setting up the right environment/activities to support the brain in that growth.