"Support That Baby's Head!"
That's what my mother would say after I had my first child, and now what I say to my children who want to hold an infant. I spazz out a little inside when that head isn't held correctly. The baby's head is disproportionately large compared to the tiny supporting structures in the neck, and the baby is prone to injury if mishandled.
There is a viral video floating around the internet which, for a parent, is extremely difficult to watch. It features a female Russian yoga instructor who, believing that it is in the best interest of a baby to be stimulated by movement, literally swings a two-week-old infant around in wide circles. The instructor merely holds on to one leg or one hand at a time, casually swirling the baby in death-defying pendular movements.
The yoga instructor has reportedly defended her baby-swinging actions by saying that such exercises are common in Russia. Nonetheless, some American outlets have been so astounded by the video that they claim the video must be fake.
Let's just say this: Don't try this at home.
The instructor confines herself mostly to, as I described before, pendular movements. This is very important. If any of her movements had been jerky or sudden, the baby would be at an almost-sure risk of injury. I'll explain in a moment.
The physical aspect of yoga, to my understanding, is about simultaneous strength and control over your own body. A baby clearly has no power or coordination, which means that the baby has neither strength nor control. So whatever this video is, it certainly is not yoga. So what is the purpose of this passive "exercise"? An infant does get plenty of exercise, and, in fact, all it needs, simply by crying. Crying works the core abdominal muscles (the dominant muscles by mass in the infant's body), stimulates metabolism, and cleans the eyes with refreshing tears.
Babies are hardy creatures, to be sure. But are they designed to be flung about by the shoulder joint? Or by the hip joint? These structures, none too sturdy if used incorrectly in the adult, are not designed to bear one's entire body weight extended on the axis. The pendular movements ensure that there is angular motion propelling those joints, which does alleviate a small portion of the health concerns about torn ligaments and tendons, but this swinging remains firmly contraindicated.
Another interesting risk: what if someone (who is not a trained yoga instructor, though yoga instructors aren't trained for this) imitates this action and loses their grip on the baby? Horrifying.
A chiropractor focuses specifically on the baby's upper neck. The top two bones in the vertebral column, called the atlas and the axis, are vital to the health of the baby. The spinal cord exits the cranial vault and passes directly through the atlas and the axis. If the atlas and axis are even slightly out of alignment (which they often tend to be after the semi-traumatic birth process), they can have a profound effect on the baby's nervous system. Chiropractically speaking, what I see in this video is a shearing stress on the occiput and atlas, a sideways flinging motion which threatens to shift the head on the spinal column. The baby does not have enough strength in its neck muscles to stop the head after the rest of the body has come to a halt. The head, being disproportionately heavy, also has a disproportionate amount of inertia. If the head's shearing motion were to continue, the spinal cord would be stretched between the shifted occiput and the atlas. Stretched nerves are always damaged nerves, and damaged nerves that close to the brainstem can have some very serious effects.
Suffice it to say that I think this video was a very bad idea all the way around. Even if it is fake. Which it probably isn't.
7/7/2011 01:58:36 am
Appreciate the info, it’s good to know.
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Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
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