Normally I comment on books that have had a positive impression on me. Books that have helped me discover something new and interesting or even torn apart my own beliefs. This is great for humility and to enable advancement.
Here, I will concentrate on the book “Freedom of Movement” by Emmi Pikler. Pikler offers a fundamentally positive message. Children need space in order to move freely and develop. According to her, the ideal situation is to follow the different stages of development without pushing at any stage, without forcing advancement or omitting any stage of development the child must pass through. Who could object to such an obviously reasonable message: “give the child complete freedom to move”?
Actually, freedom of movement is not the problem-quite the opposite. This is a great idea for all children. The problem stems from elsewhere. What is the ideal position for a newborn? Face up, face down, or in his mother´s arms?
Face up or face down?
Obviously for Emmi, it is face up (supine). So there is no need to modify this position because the baby is not able to turn until six months old. In 1992 the American Pediatric Association recommended placing children in a supine position for sleep. This was in order to avoid sudden cot death syndrome. Now there is the suggestion that not only should children sleep this way, but also spend all day like this, a suggestion which is unfortunately gaining influence.
Firstly, we should establish if being face up is the natural posture in humans. Humans are the only mammals that can be in a supine position. The face down (prone) position is much more connected to evolution. Without a doubt, the supine position avoids deaths in children that have some neurological difficulties. However, there are other drawbacks. The biggest problem is the flattening of the head which rose alarmingly after this recommendation. There was a worldwide rectification. “Sleep face down” this then became “sleep face up, play face down.”
In the article “time to revisit tummy time”, Wittmeier and Mulder (2017) revise something quite fundamental. Not only does being face down avoid plagiocephaly or asymmetric deformation of the head, but it confirms that children who spend time face down when awake and under surveillance develop better. This is not the only demonstration of this research. I will upload this article to our private area.
Why shouldn´t a child be in its mother´s arms? This would stimulate the vestibular and tactile systems, guaranteeing the formation of a strong link (see the book “Ayudale a Despegar” -“Give him a good start!” by Pastor I and Acin J.) Pikler would have difficulty recommending this as the study was done in the Loczy Institute in Budapest, with children a long way from their families. Is this the ideal place to observe normal development of a human being?
The edition of Narcea 2018 “Moverse en Libertad” (“Free movement”) just clouds the issue. It uses statistics from 50 years ago. Have we learned nothing in 50 years?
I will finish with a shared point of view with Emmi. It´s true we shouldn’t sit babies up nor make them take their weight before time, not before they do it on their own. It takes about seven months for them to sit up and nine months to stand.
Even though we need to help and stimulate children with difficulties, can anyone imagine “not intervening”?