By Dr Melodie de Jager
According to Dr Debra Sunbeck[i] moaning and groaning stimulates brain growth because ‘the brain is an infinite reservoir of potential that lies dormant until you develop a need’. The brain responds to a baby’s persistent enthusiastic need to move by creating just the right neuro-chemical pathways to fulfill the desire to move. These pathways prompt muscles to develop in a specific sequence: head control, rolling, sitting, grasping, crawling, pulling up, cruising and finally walking.
A baby tends to start the moaning, groaning and struggling from a very early age but it tends to peak around 6 months just as baby’s brain develops the intricate neuro-chemical pathways for crawling. Their frustration levels increase because it is very hard work for a baby to coordinate two arms and two legs and then to lift the entire body off the ground and move forward.
Click to see a clip of a baby working really hard during Tummy Time. Make sure your sound is on, you want to catch every little grunt and moan that brave little Jacob Silbermann utters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U1k4xioTAI&feature=youtu.be
Dr Heyns[ii], a Cape Town based paediatrician, says ‘the sequential coordination of a baby’s muscles and his mental capacity is closely correlated to parallel this development’.
You didn’t learn to walk just because you were at the right developmental stage to stand up and walk. Your desire to get across the room, to run into your mom or dads embrace, or play with your sister or brother, charged you up with an intense enthusiasm to learn how to walk – Dr Debra Sunbeck
When a baby is placed in a walking ring:
According to paediatrician, Dr David Geller[iii], studies have shown that babies who use a walking ring may actually learn to walk about a month later than those who don’t, because walking rings allow babies to move around before they are physically ready for it. He continues to say that when a baby skips the developmental steps leading up to walking, it can cause unusual movement patterns and delayed muscle control. Usual movement patterns and muscle control develop when babies watch their feet while learning to walk and understand how their feet and legs move. Most walking rings have a tray that prevents babies from seeing what’s happening with their feet, and without this visual and proprioceptive feedback, unusual movement patterns develop which may delay muscle development.
The Canadian government passed a law in 2004 to prohibit the sale and advertisement of new and second hand walking rings[iv]. The driving force behind this law was that walking rings were responsible for thousands of accidents involving babies that could have otherwise been avoided. The American Academy of Paediatrics[v] also advises against using walking rings not only because they can discourage a baby from learning to walk on his own, but also because walking rings can be dangerous. The article continues to say: ‘thousands of babies end up in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices from falling down stairs or bumping into furniture while in a walking ring’. The European Child Safety Alliance and ANEC supports the ban on walking rings with a joint statement that reads that in many European countries, baby walkers (walking rings) ‘are linked to more injuries than any other type of nursery equipment, causing an unacceptably high number of severe falls, burns and scalds, and poisonings[vi] [vii]
Many European organisations have called for bans on baby walking rings due to the level of risk and injury they pose, combined with their lack of tangible benefit or necessity[viii].
Movement is so much part of everyday life, that it is very easy to take it for granted. It is equally easy, and may even have quite serious consequences when we overlook the importance of the role of movement in learning to read and to write many years later[ix].
To move appropriately is a sign of development – Mollie Davies
What one also needs to consider is time in a walking ring detracts from time spent crawling on all-fours and we all know we want every single benefit that crawling has to offer our little ones:
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Raising your little one is teamwork, you don’t need to know everything, you just need to know who to ask.
[i] Sunbeck, D. 1991. Infinity walk. New York: Infinity Press.
[v] American Academy of Pediatrics. Injuries associated with infant walkers. Pediatrics. 108, No. 3 September 2001.
[vi] Emanuelson, I. How safe are child care products, toys and playground equipment? A Swedish analysis of mild brain injuries at home and during leisure time 1998 – 1999. Injury Control and Safety Promotion 2003, Vol 10, No. 3, pp. 139 – 144.
[vii] Petridou E; Simou E; Skondras C, et al. Hazards of baby walkers in a European context. Injury Prevention, 1996, 2(2),118 –
[viii] Health Canada. Board of review inquiring into the nature and characteristics of baby walkers. June 2007. Available online at: http://www.hc-sc-gc-ca/cps-spc/child-enfant/equip/walk-marche/overview-apercu_html.
[ix] De Jager, M. 2014. Crawling / creeping: is it important. Johannesburg: BabyGym Institute.
[x] De Jager, M. 2012. brain development MILESTONES & learning. Johannesburg: Mind Moves Institute.