Anyone who thinks a baby is like a puppy who has just been born, curls up in his mother’s belly, and starts to crawl is wrong….
Children’s posture is naturally a major concern for parents. Therefore, to counter the many habits that affect baby spine development, it is important to know how it develops and what we should do to protect it.
Baby spine development
The development of the baby’s spinal column to the normal shape (C-shape) normally occurs within the first year of life and can be divided into four phases.
- At birth, the spine is in total kyphosis; it has a rounded shape (in C). At this stage, none of the muscles that help align the spine and support the body’s weight have sufficient strength
- Around 3 or 4 months of age, the baby can support his head alone. At this stage, the cervical spine begins to form slowly and, in the final stage, becomes slightly curved inward, causing cervical lordosis.
- When your baby learns to sit up, usually around 9 months, the muscles in his back become stronger and help support his weight. At this stage, the spine remains rounded in the central region of the spine, presenting a thoracic kyphosis.
- Finally, the lower back (lumbar spine) curves inward, creating lumbar lordosis. This phase ends around 12 or 18 months when the child learns to walk.
During the first 4 years of life, there is a rapid development of the vertebral structure and the nervous system, which is why the preschool years are extremely important for children’s “development and structuring” of good posture.
Why should I worry about my baby’s posture & baby spine development?
Did you know that a baby’s spine continues to develop after birth?
Still, in the mother’s womb, the baby’s spine is supported by cartilaginous material, being extremely flexible. However, it grows and consolidates over the months as the baby gains more firmness in its posture.
It’s interesting to know when the baby is born, the ideal position for the spine is the most curved, forming a C. Only with bone maturation and strengthening of the muscles will the baby gradually become more upright.
But this growth occurs peculiarly. Instead of expanding in length, the vertebrae increase in diameter, growing to the sides. Therefore, inappropriate postures and sudden movements can cause injuries.
Baby neck in spine development
The neck is another point of attention in the baby’s anatomy. This is where the child’s first three cervical vertebrae are located. Therefore, the head must be well protected to avoid twisting until the little one can steady the neck on his own.
When it comes to developing a baby’s spine, parents have a significant role to play in their child’s early life. What they do during the first weeks and months of life helps ensure the healthy development of the lumbar and cervical spine.
Baby spine development after birth
After birth, an effort should be made to preserve the curvature of the baby’s spine. The child should not be immediately placed on their back in a straight position, but rather with the thoracic spine in a slight flexion, as, for example, in a transport egg / Baby Cock.
- Between 3 and 6 months, the next step in vertebral development is cervical and lumbar lordosis, known as secondary curvatures. At this stage of spinal development, the baby can lift his head off the floor while in the prone position. For the correct development of cervical lordosis, the baby must spend a few minutes on his stomach several times throughout the day. Parents can lie on the floor facing the baby to encourage them to lift their heads.
- Six months and 1 year? The crawling phase begins between 6 months and one year of age, producing lumbar lordosis. Place objects in front of the child, encouraging them to crawl towards the object. Crawling (moving forward with one hand and the opposite knee simultaneously) is known as cross-crawling, a crucial step in brain development.
- Around one year, the child should already be trying to stand up and walk. Once the baby can stand up independently, and not before, walking should be encouraged. The lack of these developmental stages can cause spinal instability, scoliosis, and other health problems for the baby’s spine and indicate learning difficulties.
When to place the baby on his/her stomach or his/her back
As motor development progresses, the baby progressively evolves from a flexor pattern to an extensor pattern up to the bipedal (raised) position.
Therefore, it is essential to encourage the acquisition of this skill by the newborn. And when asked about the ideal time to start this stimulus, my answer is unequivocal – from the first day! There is no contraindication to doing this as long as the baby is awake and under supervision (this last part of the care and attention that we must give at that moment is of the utmost importance).
In fact, and returning to the first paragraph, some parents base their resistance to placing the baby in this position on the fear that the “baby will smother.” Indeed, your fear is justified!
Positioning in the prone position (belly down) increases the likelihood of sudden death of the newborn.
For this reason, and since 1992, the American Association of Pediatrics strongly recommends that when sleeping, the baby be placed in a position on his back (BACK TO SLEEP) to reduce this risk!
Toddler’s postural habits at Home and school
Children at school spend several hours sitting and, as a rule, adopt an incorrect position.
Tables and chairs are not adjusted to each child’s height and structure, causing abdominal and spinal muscles fatigue.
The backpack is very poorly used, subjecting children to serious postural problems. These end up adopting a more “crooked” stance due to excess school materials.
In addition to incorrect postures, sitting in itself causes problems with the spine. This is because it generates greater pressure on the intervertebral discs of the lumbar spine than standing, and frequent repetition of this pressure can accelerate the degenerative process of the discs, reducing their cushioning capacity.
Children who are not very active and very technological
The human body was developed to move. This is because the body develops and strengthens with exercise and physical activity. Thus, we acquire cognitive and motor skills such as coordination, strength, agility, logical reasoning, and even self-confidence.
Nowadays, playing on the street has been replaced by computer games.
The sedentary lifestyle of children (between 10 and 15 years old) due to new technologies, fast food, and little physical exercise contributes to children’s poor physical condition, leading to anatomical and/or biomechanical changes in the spinal cord. Spinal.
In addition to musculoskeletal changes, the lack of physical activity also has implications for the respiratory system, as it reduces the mobility of the ribs necessary for breathing movements.
Tips to counter vicious postures
Ensuring good posture in the first years of life considerably reduces back pain in children, adolescents, and adults.
Some important points, in addition to encouraging exercise, to prevent future spinal problems are:
- Avoid excessive use of cell phones, tablets, and computers, as they result in incorrect neck postures
- Reduce the weight of the backpack, which should not exceed 10% of the children’s body weight
- The backpack straps must be properly adjusted to not exceed the lumbar spine. Both handles must be used simultaneously.
- Encourage the child to assume a correct posture while studying
- Sitting time should be limited to avoid increasing stress pressure on the pelvis and spine
- The height of the chairs should not be too low so that children do not have to raise their arms and shoulders to be able to lean on the desk
- Desks must allow a relaxed torso position, where the elbows are at desk level
Physiotherapy as prevention and treatment
Finally, Physiotherapy plays a fundamental role in preventing and treating problems related to children’s posture. The earlier the intervention is started, the better the results.
At an early stage, the physiotherapist has an informative role, working to raise awareness among children and parents of problems and ways to counteract incorrect postures. An example of this is encouraging children to do more physical activity. When prevention becomes secondary and/or tertiary, this indicates that Physiotherapy intervention must move into a more active phase.
In this case, the intervention involves strengthening the stabilizing muscles of the spine and core (abdominal, lumbar, and pelvic regions). This is so that the spine gains the capacity to support the weight of the body and remains in the correct position.
Stretching is carried out normally – to avoid pain and muscle compensation – in addition to treating specific pain and complaints for each child.
Worrying about your child’s posture from an early age is super important to prevent pain and problems throughout the baby spine development.
So, be careful about the baby’s spine development from the first few days.
And if you notice any changes or abnormalities in your baby spine development, don’t hesitate to consult a specialist doctor. The sooner you have the appropriate guidance, the better for your little one’s health! 🙂