Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wearing baby as therapy--Part 1

There are many ways to accomplish a similar therapeutic goal.  It's a matter of finding what works for you and your child.  Of course, that's the hard part.

I started "wearing" Baba (his nickname) long before I learned about "Attachment Parenting".  Before he was born, I knew my physical limitations would prevent me from picking him up and carrying him without assistance.  So I bought the one I saw on everyone...the Bjorn.

When he suffered a stroke, I knew one of the usual problems was sensory regulation (the ability to organize sensory information in a useful way).  Vestibular or movement input is on way babies begin to organize.  It starts in-utero, when mommy is walking and continues outside of the womb for months.  Touch is also a powerful organizer, since the skin is the largest organ.  Deep touch or proprioception is below the skin level and is often a calming sensory input.  As you probably guessed, these are the main sensory inputs a baby gets inside the uterus.

Being able to organize vestibular, touch, and proprioception input vastly affects a baby's ability to calm himself, his ability to perceive the physical world, and eventually his ability to learn movement.  Everything that affects his senses also affects his brain development, which of course affects his physical development.

Sound like we're going round and round?  Hang in there!

Typically this all happens without needing therapy.  Baby cries, mom picks her up and gently rocks her and starts breastfeeding.  Both activities provide touch, movement, and deep touch input and baby calms down and sleeps.

Sounds easy?  Well...maybe not easy, but logical?  The problem is that babies all need different amount of input.  Some need very little and some need a lot.  The amount of input needed also varies from day to day and even hour to hour.  The key is learning your baby's cues, which most parents begin to learn.

In general, boys usually need more vestibular and deep touch input for good development.  This later looks like rough play.  Of course, this is not always the case.

A stroke can have profound affects on this developmental process.  The stroke victim's ability to process sensory input may be affected.  Most children begin to learn when they need more input (i.e. pick me up, rock me, I need to suckle, cuddle, etc.) or when they've had enough (i.e. put me down, look away, I need space, etc.).

Children who suffer a stroke, may not be able to read their body cues accurately.  They may need to be picked up, but they don't realize it.  Their inability to organize makes them feel uncomfortable and when time passes they feel awful.  By the time they cry, nothing seems to make it better.

Her parents try to figure out whats wrong, but it seems that what worked before isn't working anymore.  They try rocking, feeding, light rubbing, and finally swaddling seems to work.  She needed deep touch.  Suddenly she starts to cry again.  They take her out of the swaddling and she screams harder.  They put it back on.  She stops crying for a minute, only to start crying again.  Mom starts rocking her gently and singing soothingly.  Baby finally goes to sleep exhausted.

What happened?  By the time baby cried, she was extremely uncomfortable, which also made her more sensitive to stimuli.  So everything the parents were initially doing was making her feel worse.  She needed deep touch to desensitize and followed by movement to calm down. 

Most babies are able to read their body cues a little more accurately and they aren't as sensitive to stimuli.  This means that they are able to communicate their discomfort in a timely manner and are easily comforted by rocking, feeding, swaddling, rubbing the back, etc.   

So how does "wearing my baby" help with this problem?  Read Part 2 here!  Part 3 here. and Part 4 here.

still napping in sling after being carried

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