Going Barefoot (Both you and your kids)

When are children are born the bones in their feet have yet to fully develop.  In fact, they are just balls of cartilage that as the age will grow into 28 distinct bones of the adult foot that will be the root of their bodies movement.  Today, kids are put in shoes all to often and they are put in shoes that allow no movement or growth impeding their foot’s natural development.  Improper footwear will alter the child’s natural gait and make it harder for the children to improve balance and learn how to walk, run, jump, and do other natural movements as the age.  More and more parents today are putting children in cute shoes that offer no movement or bending in the sole whatsoever allowing for no movement in the forefoot.  In order to prevent problems later on, we need to start being more aware of what footwear we are putting our kids in.  Going barefoot more is one option that is easy to accomplish and the best way to promote a more natural development for your child’s foot.

Kids going barefoot is essential for the arch development. The critical period of the development of the arch occurs before the age of six. Walking outdoors offers natural messages to children’s feet as they walk on different sizes pebbles and uneven ground. The resistance and inconsistency nature offers integrates reflexes in the foot and forms strong arches. Going barefoot out in nature helps to develop normal gait patterns, balance, and tolerance of touch in the feet, all of which provide a strong foundation for confident and fluid movement. According to Katy Bowman, “Shoes alter human movement.  Many of the ailments we suffer from, musculoskeletally speaking, are a result of our dependence on footwear and the strain on the ligaments and plantar fascia from decades of muscle atrophy.  If you can start a kid off with a preference to minimal footwear it saves time and degeneration.”

Nervous to let your kids go barefoot?  Try minimalist shoes instead  so that the arches of the feet can still receive sensory input. A great, cheap option are water shoes. (Not a bad idea for you to try it too, because it is beneficial for everyone😃) Additionally, minimalist shoes are great to wear when you are not in the comfort of your own home and are worried that you kids will step on something sharp.  Vivobarefoot offers some great toddler shoes starting at 18 months.  What about shoes for kids that are not on 2 feet yet?  Shoes then are basically just for warmth, but other than that they shouldn’t be wearing any.  Crawling becomes more difficult to master when shoes are on.  It is very important for children to master the art of crawling before walking because according to Tracey Byrne (a podiatrist specializing in podopaediatrics) “Crawling stimulates the brain to develop convergence of vision; people who skip this phase as babies may find it extremely difficult to learn to read and write as children. And in the case of children who crawl backwards to begin with, shoes can put extra pressure on the structures of the foot and leg.”

 

Here are some great books to learn more about it:

1.) Balanced and Barefoot, by Angela J. Hanscom

2.) Whole Body Barefoot, by Katy Bowman  who you can follow on Instagram @nutritiousmovement and her website is www.nutritiousmovement.com

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Bumbo Seats and Jumpers

I often get asked at when it is OK to put babies in bumbo seats and bouncers.  The big concern is if they are putting them in too soon and/or what are the detrimental effects of putting them in too soon.

My advice is to wait until they can sit up on their own (meaning unassisted and for at least one minute).  The average age is anywhere between 6-9 months.  When a baby is placed involuntarily in a seated position before he or she is able to sit up on their own, the body is impeded from developing necessary tone for creeping and crawling.  Many babies will develop a less-than-optimal movement pattern of bottom scooting instead of crawling to try to get to where they want to go.  This has been found to not be optimal for the joints or development of lower body and torso tone.  Additionally, it hampers the upper tone and chest strength related to speech and language development.

Furthermore, babies have the ability to arrive in a seated or standing position on their own if we let them have floor time to explore and strengthen their developmental movement patterns.  Skipping a step in the pattern is not helpful, as each pattern connects to brain and social-emotional developments, as well as speech, language, and developing stereoscopic (depth) vision.  By encouraging and being present with your baby, it helps him or her to develop a strong sense of body and self awareness and a deep trust and attachment with his or her parents and caregivers.

So what can you do instead to help aid development of necessary tone?  Have the baby on his or her tummy as much as possible when he or she is awake.  (tummy time is an easy way to help combat Torticollis along with chiropractic adjustments) Once the baby starts to elevate their lower legs and feet you can start to prop their arms up by placing a rolled up towel or breast feeding pillow under their chest to help them find their feet and engage with the floor.  This helps to elongate the fetal “c” curve and start to develop the natural form of the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical curves.  Additionally, it is helping develop muscle tone and strength in the legs all the way through the trunk,or core, of the body.  Next, you can start to place objects out of the babies reach to help build up their arm and shoulder strength.

On a final note, until the baby can sit up on their own I would recommend to instead use assisted devices such as the moby wrap or ergo carrier.  This allows you to do more while giving the baby the ability to explore his or her surroundings instead of putting them up in a bumbo seat or jumper when their body is not ready for it.