Understanding Infant Spine Development
As adults we have an ‘S’ shaped spine with four slight curves that aid balance and create flexibility as well as absorbing stresses placed on our back. Babies however are not born with the ‘S’ shaped spine, they have a long ‘C’ shaped spine this is due to spending nine months curled up and gravity hasn’t yet altered their spine. When you place your baby down they will curl up, this is when you will notice the ‘C’ shape of a babies spine. Your babies spine develops as he grows, when he learns to hold his own head he will begin to develop the first curve at the top of his spine, when he begins to walk unsupported, the ‘S’ shape of his spine will develop.
Prams and infant spine development – Newborn babies do not naturally lie flat. They will have their legs pulled up to allow the spine to adopt the natural ‘C’ shape discussed above. Lying your baby down in a horizontal position for long periods, such as in a pram or cot, forces the ‘C’ shape to flatten, putting pressure on the undeveloped spine. Babies can often be contained in prams for lengthy durations during the day. If the pram is used for the duration of a day trip, the baby could spend a long time lying flat. This would put a lot of pressure on the developing spine, and even prevent it from developing properly.
While this doesn’t mean that you must never lie your baby flat, it does mean you should try to reduce the amount of time your baby spends in this position. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should relocate your baby to the car seat as an alternative.
Car seats and infant spine development – Car seats, while allowing the baby’s spine to stay in its natural ‘C’ shape, are still problematic for infant spine development. Babies who are restricted in car seats for long periods may find that their spinal development is delayed. If sat upright in a car seat, the baby may not strengthen and learn to use the muscles to hold up and control his head. Experts advise that babies should spend no longer than two hours a day in a car seat.
What should I use? – Obviously, a car seat is a legal requirement and should always be used when in a moving vehicle. However, you should try to reduce the amount of time your baby spends in his car seat outside of the car.
To avoid your baby spending a lot of time lying flat in a pram, you could invest in a sling. Slings hold babies in the foetal tuck position which supports the natural ‘C’ shape of your baby’s spine. Being held upright allows your baby to develop and use muscle control to stay upright, get comfortable and look around. Baby wearing is a great way to support the natural development of your baby’s spine.
Baby Hammocks and infant spine development – If you take a look at the Poco baby hammock you will see there is a clear but long subtle ‘C’ curve. This is a great benefit to your growing baby, giving a firm and slightly curved surface, supporting your baby with a firm mattress yet allowing for healthy growth and spine development.