There is a little something that we people commonly do that makes me cringe. And it dawned on me that I should share the alternative to that cringe-worthy behavior here. I read about this in Elizabeth Noble’s book back when I was pregnant and now that I’m nearly 1.5 years into the testing of the theory she presents, I’m fairly confident about it.
The idea is to support a baby from his/her pelvis from birth thereby giving baby a sense of our upright response to gravity. This applies to holding, picking up, and passing babies. Consequently, I never pick my boy up from his arms or shoulders. I do occasionally lift him by his ribs, but I mostly squat down and lift him from his pelvis.
So far, I’ve noted two benefits to this. It would seem that offering a baby / toddler such support gives them an opportunity to build a body awareness that begins near their center of gravity. This is important because an awareness of this physical center logically leads to greater control over that area which is relevant since the center is a powerful leverage point in our human bodies. In the first years of life we are engaged in many exercises of control over our bodies. Most relevant here, I believe, are sitting up and walking, but of course all these things are so interrelated that it is impossible to truly compartmentalize. Since we sit on the bones of our pelvis (at least babies do at first, before our socially acceptable and physically abominable habits mess that up, but that is another topic for another day) it makes sense to give babies support from that place. After all that is essentially what sitting is, supporting our pelvis from the bottom. Likewise in walking, we learn to walk from the feet up so it follows that support from the bottom up is most in keeping with the learning process. In contrast, offering a child support from the arms to walk is both distracting to their process and potentially harmful to their shoulder joints. How would you like it if somebody was constantly pulling your arms over your head while you were going about your business? This brings up an ancillary point to my original one which is that I avoid leading my kid by his hands. If we walk hand in hand, which we do a lot of these days, I’m very careful to walk at his slower pace and not pull at him. In that small, but I do believe significant way, we are equals in each journey that we take together.
Now that I’ve seen a fair number of people interact with my son, I realize that I’m in the minority with my approach to the physical support to babies. And this is why I feel it is so important to make the point, somewhere. Anywhere. To put the thought out there with the hope that over time more people will come to understand some of the fundamental aspects of our physical bodies, and the best ways to honor those essential elements to our human experience.