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August 19, 2022

Balancing Natural Gross Motor Development and Starting Solids

Six years ago when I was pregnant with Gus, we decided that we would take a more natural approach to gross motor development moving forward. The ideas come from Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler and super basically mean, allowing a child to develop their gross motor skills at their own pace without adult "help" or intervention. In strict terms this means avoiding tummy time, any device that places a child in a position they cannot achieve on their own, and no propping of babies. As we learned in my RIE training, and in my personal experience, this leads to safer, confident, and capable babies, toddlers, and children. 

But, in reality, leaving babies to develop their gross motor skills completely on their own is easier said than done. There is a lot of pressure to do tummy time with babies - whether they like it or not - and so many devices/containers that are designed to contain and "entertain" babies. Plus, there are some practical considerations, like with starting solids. Babies need to sit with little support in order to mostly safely eat and often it's best to start solids around six-months. And they need to be placed in a chair or highchair to do it.

For some (not all) babies, they take some time to get into a seated position on their own and have enough stability to really be safe to eat. Unlike babies that are propped up from a much earlier age, these babies may not be physically ready to eat even if they have all the other signs of readiness. This is honestly the exact situation we find ourselves in with Penelope right now. She wants to eat, is starting to show a lot of interest, but is still not quite sitting enough. And either way, she would need to be placed in a high chair/weaning chair.

Our Approach to Sitting Up Babies

First, off I want to say that I don't find that it's totally necessary to take a hard lined approach to anything in parenting. There is always room for you to make the decisions that feel best for your child and your family. For us, this means we do hold our babies upright to prepare them for things like sitting at the table. As soon as Penelope started to hold her head steady, we started holding her upright more and more of the time. It feels most natural to me to hold babies like this (verses a cradle hold), and it's something that she really enjoyed. 

As she has gotten older we sit her on our laps, and the kids hold her on her lap. All of this helps her strengthen her core and helps her get steadier on her own. We also place her in her Montessori friendly highchair (we have not started using a weaning chair at this point) during meals. This allows her to see and be part of the meal and practice her sitting skills. She only lasts a few minutes at this point, but overtime she will build her strength and stamina. 

But, we will NOT prop her to sit on the ground. We will not use things like a boppy/bumbo/small chair/baby container with her. We also won't get upset or worried about her own individual path. No two babies are alike and we can't expect their individual gross motor and weaning journeys to be the same either. 

This post is week 28 of my Montessori baby series focusing on Penelope.


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Anonymous said…
My 12 month old has just started getting into a sitting position independently. He started eating solids seated in a high chair at 6 months because he showed all other signs of readiness. Same for 2 of my other kids. Sitting was not a preferred position for him but he wanted to eat what we were eating!