Babies & Movement (Part 1), Podcast Ep. 51

Episode 51: Babies and Movement, Part 1

Katy discusses baby biomechanics! Did you know that load and frequency affect the stages of development—like how babies from more primitive hunter/gather-type populations develop differently than our modern-lifestyle babies? We‘ll also talk about baby wearing and baby carrying, and how this affects both the parent AND the baby.

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KATY: It’s the Katy Says podcast, where movement geek, Dani Hemmat, joins biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA for discussions on body mechanics, movement nutrition, natural movement, and how movement can be the solution to modern ailments we all experience.


DANI: And today on Katy Says, we witness the birth of the baby episode – but it’s not just a singlet. No, no – we’re expecting twins. Because there’s so many baby questions that we get, and there’s so many threads to follow, that I thought we should be like wise King Solomon and cut this baby in half. So we are going to have 2 baby shows for starters. During this first episode, we’ll discuss how the baby biomechanics of load and frequency affect the stages of development – like how babies from more primitive hunter-gatherer type populations develop differently than our modern lifestyle babies. And we’ll touch on baby wearing, which is very exciting – and carrying, and how this affects both the parent and the baby. I’m also hoping against hope that we’ll get through some baby strength – core and neck strength – but who knows? Depends on how fast it develops. (ding!)


KATY: We’ll see how it goes. Yeah. Jeez.


DANI: And then next episode, which you’ll get later, we’ll venture hopefully into the categories of breastfeeding and the positions and maybe some talk about upper body and arm strength development babies along with maybe some hanging.


KATY: And walking – so many questions.


DANI: Walking, reflexes – there’s – we could cut the baby into many parts, but let’s just start with two.


KATY: Okay, you have to stop that. You need to knock that off.


DANI: Sorry, is that grim?


KATY: I don’t know what grim means really, except dark and creepy, but yes. Is that what it means?


DANI: Yes. Hey, I can say whatever I want, because I was a baby once.


KATY: That’s true.


DANI: I can say what I want.


KATY: It’s like, I’ve been there. I’ve been there. Okay, well, so we’re trying to figure out how best to get into this show, and for some reason I find that I can talk and talk and talk and talk – and I do – but nice summations come in from other people asking a question or sharing an experience. There’s such – I think they’re much more rich, and so there was this Facebook post that a woman sent regarding baby wearing and baby carrying, and would you – I think if you could read that to open the show, that would set the right tone.


DANI: Yes, I would be happy to. Okay.


KATY: Okay, go for it.


DANI: And I didn’t – I did not get her name, but we’ll just – she – she writes – “I have a sling, which I used a lot with my first child. But after living on your blog for the last couple years,” I didn’t know we could do that! “I’m really motivated to hold this one more. I just keep reminding myself to untuck my pelvis, drop my ribs, feet forward, etc., about 7 million times a day. What I’ve noticed is that my pelvic floor is happiest when I’m holding baby and saddest when I’m wearing her. Interesting. Girl is 9 weeks now, and has gone from 6lbs even at birth to 11lbs. just before Christmas, so my arms feel like they’re struggling to keep up but I’m doing it.” Wow.


KATY: Yeah, it was a good – like, I don’t think I could have framed a question as well, and when I posted – she sent a picture, right? So she had her post, and she had a picture, which was darling. But I posted my comments on top of it, because this is a question I get a lot, certainly about pelvic floor and diastasis recti, and carrying and holding and how are they different or whatnot. So here’s the – this is the comment that I wrote – my commentary above hers – so I will read it, and then we can spend the rest of the show clarifying it and getting into it a little bit. “The work necessary to carry a baby in your arms is different than the work necessary to carry a baby that is strapped on. In the former, which is on your arms, your posture constantly varies. Working muscles constantly vary, and the way your core muscles fire to cope with this variance in posture is ever-changing.” So to pause, it would be really helpful to go back and listen to, I believe, our first show on diastasis recti where we talk about the core as having many possible shapes, meaning that you’re not always using your core evenly all of the time. The net work of the core is really just different muscles contracting in different ways, and all of those change depending on what you’re doing with the rest of your body. So as you change – go ahead.


DANI: And “core strength, schmore strength” really illustrates that beautifully in Move Your DNA.


KATY: Yes, lots of resources. But if you’re on a podcast roll, that’s a good one to listen to next, besides the other parts of the baby shows. Gross, okay, sorry. “When you strap something to the main axis of your body,” okay, so now I’m talking about wearing – baby wearing – whether it’s any sort of device, and a piece of material is considered a device, okay. So when you wear something, you’re strapping it to the main axis of your body. “The response for your core muscles is to develop tension and increase intra-abdominal pressure to stabilize your spine.” So 1) – I’m breaking out of me reading – as we all knew that I would. 1) There’s nothing – it’s a completely natural, like, bracing – it’s also called bracing – that tension that develops that increases your intra-abdominal pressure is a natural bracing response. What’s going to be unnatural is the frequency of repetitive positioning, right? The fact that you’re bracing in exactly the same way for a long period of time. So the bracing is great for your spine, and it’s – the word great is really going to imply over a certain period of time – all movements are dose-dependent, so a little bit is great. You can also have too much. You can have too little and too much, but a high frequency of a high tension, repetitive pattern and this resulting increase in intra-abdominal pressure also means constant downward forces on the pelvic organs and the pelvic floor. So I was trying to give a little explanation of – when you’re using the main axis of your body to bear weight, yes, you are using muscles, but you’re not changing your geometry. You are essentially strapping something to your body – and anyone who puts on a big – this goes for backpacks and everything. When you put it on your body, backpacks are a technology. They’re a way of reducing work. And if you want to test that out yourself, take everything that’s in your backpack and see how much harder it is to carry in a different way than putting it on the easiest part of your body, which is strapping it on the main part of your body. You tend to tense your abdomen, and then here you have this downward pressure. And that’s fine, but when you couple that with pre-existing pelvic floor weakness, or neurological inabilities for whatever reason to respond to the load, diastasis recti where your core isn’t really able to withstand that constant intra-abdominal pressure without other tissues deforming – baby wearing can be – can create kind of a repetitive use injury. Which isn’t to speak anything really about the benefits to the baby so much as just, this is mechanically what happens when you do it. So she was like, she’s essentially going, why is baby carrying easier on my pelvic floor than baby wearing? And this is why; it’s because when you strap something on, there’s an intra-abdominal increase that’s greater than if you just have something in your arm. Because you’re essentially using your biceps and your shoulders to carry on. On the main part of your body, you’re just bracing.


DANI: Mm-hmm. And you just have to shift all the time because you cannot carry in the same –


KATY: Exactly.


DANI: Yeah.
KATY: Exactly. So if you carry something long enough, you don’t carry it in a particular way repetitively. It’s like, left arm’s tired, right arm. Right arm’s tired, left arm. Oh, left arm is tired, I’ll add the – I’ll hold my left wrist with my right hand, and then vice versa. And oh, now you’re going to go on my shoulders – depending on the age of the kid, and now I’m going to lean one hip out and let the hip hold you for a little bit. So the catalyst for variance exists much more readily when you’re carrying than when you’re wearing. When you’re wearing, you will just use one single strength, and when you use one single thing over and over again, it’s kind of what leads to a repetitive use injury essentially.


DANI: That just brings the frequency. Can we talk about that a little bit?
KATY: Yeah.


DANI: Cool. In your –


KATY: No! What would you do if I said no? I’m sorry, you’re going to have to pick something else.


DANI: I would just bully on past you. I would just run like a football player with one arm straight out in front of me and just be like, we’re talking about frequency!


KATY: It’s a question blitz! All right, go for it.


DANI: I just finished watching the Paleo Parenting course, which is awesome. It’s like an hour and some extra’s worth of – just so much information. But all that information really – it brought forth a lot more questions. There’s just things I wish I had been able to ask you 12 or 13 years ago, but I’m going to ask you now, because I’m just curious. Just say I’ve got a baby. What’s the difference for that baby’s development if I’m holding it in my arms all the time and going about my day, or having her strapped into, like, a Moby wrap while I do my stuff? What’s going to be the difference there?


KATY: So let’s compare that minute-by-minute.


DANI: Okay.
KATY: So it would – that’s the easiest way to kind of grasp the mechanical difference. So there’s position: position is going to affect your relationship with gravity, and thus change the loads experienced. We’re just going to talk about the baby right now, but you can really apply all these same things to the person facilitating the loads, right? So it’s not – it’s movement ecology. This is going to come up again, because I can’t even really talk about all this stuff, especially parenting and infant development without referring back to this larger idea of movement ecology, that there’s multiple benefits going on. So if –


DANI: Spoiler alert.


KATY: If you are holding a baby – let’s say that the baby’s position is vertical, you know, as vertical as an infant can be. Head up, over shoulders, over hips. You’re supporting the bottom. And I believe in that course – was there video of me walking my daughter when she was a couple days old?


DANI: Yes. Just 3 days old. It was crazy!


KATY: And she could already hold her own head up. So her muscle response – and again, this is the difference between exercise and movement. And I will answer the question that you asked, but you have to remember that muscle is reflexive. We have kind of flipped it all around to something that we control – because it’s somatic, I can push it and shape it the way that I want it – but it is always reflexive. The reason it shapes to you lifting the, you know, the kettelbell is because it has to generate force to execute the motion that you requested of it, and thus it conforms to your wish. But you didn’t have to actually say, you know, sarcomeres overlap. All you have to say is, I want to pick that up.


DANI: Right.
KATY: So you’re controlling it to a certain extent, but the details are left over to the little people which are the sarcomeres that make up your muscles. So it’s that same thing. So with my children, and in this video of my daughter, you know, she was on a walk with me – I mean, I was walking. I mean, I’m not going out and stomping around, but I was taking very slow, short walks – fresh air, movement for me – and I was carrying her while I did it. She wasn’t strapped on, she wasn’t in any sort of device, she was just in my arms. So I was supporting her, and supporting the back of her head, but a little bit – enough to keep her head from falling over. I was facilitating as she’s moving, she was like, oh, so this is kind of how your muscles are going. Your muscles are going, oh, here’s the weight of the head – respond. And their response is to strengthen. That is their response. If those muscles do not feel the weight of the head, then they will not respond. Or they will respond to the weight of the head being zero, which is to stay at the strength capable of carrying a zero pound head. I’m writing this book Movement Matters on movement ecology that I’m writing, there’s a huge section on movement ecology but specifically all following under this umbrella of we live under a sedentary culture, and our entire mindset is sedentary. So there’s this, don’t facilitate children’s physical development; we’re rushing them, they should hit these natural milestones. And I might have talked about this before on the show, but I don’t agree fully with that perspective. There’s certainly arenas in which I would, but you are always facilitating development, and you having a couch and putting your kid in school and putting them in shoes – these are sedentary facilitations that we don’t recognize because everyone culturally does them. So when you do something like facilitate movement, it seems huge and potentially egregious for doing it. It’s like, it’s too much! These children, their bones will collapse! And I’m like, that’s because you facilitated 23 hours of sedentary behavior. So I don’t pick up my daughter on day 1 and her head flops off to the side and then I take her for a walk and go, straighten your head! No. I am doing, you know, what a natural primate does which is get my child from point A to point B not having anything but the things that I have on my body, and by doing so, her ability to hold up her own head developed extremely quickly.


DANI: Right. Your child is not like a super baby. This is just natural –


KATY: This is not – no. Right.


DANI: This is just normal; because you did that, this is what happened. That was the response.


KATY: Yes, I am not interested in having super children. Like, having super children is not my intent.


DANI: We should emphasize that.


KATY: I’m just trying to really – yes – and I’m really just trying – and also, this is a good point, perhaps even at the beginning of the show – if you have kids – this is not a judgment about any other way of doing it. This is just – this is just an explanation of really loads and frequency and distribution. How muscle works, and really being aware of the influences of a sedentary culture. Also, a sedentary culture and a particular type of culture that has a single parent responsible for all of the other children plus a newborn baby. So I’m not suggesting that you do any of the things that I’m talking about; this is just to inform you kind of of how things work. So I did that, just because that’s just how we choose to facilitate our lives. I needed to take a walk, I needed to take her out with me, this is how it goes. So anyway, the result is a very quick ability to hold up their head. Also, now, you’re holding up your head – your eyes are – you’re awake more – maybe we’ll get into that in a second.


DANI: Okay.


KATY: So that’s enough. We’ll set that off to the side. Now let’s go to – we have her position as upright, holding up her own head, supported by my hand. So the duration that she has to hold it up is low, because intermittently she’s going to rest her head against my hand, right? But then she’ll pick it back up again. Just like you learn anything, when you’re teaching a kid how to ride a bike, you kind of keep your hand there, so you’re falling a little bit to the right and to the left; you’re not holding it so tight because if they don’t ever sense falling to the right then they don’t know how to correct a fall to the right. So essentially I’m taking my daughter out on a walk on this first week, and multiple times for a short period of time, and essentially I’m doing the things you do when you help your kid ride a bike. You’re guiding but also allowing. I’m not guiding to the point of not letting her muscles respond naturally, at a natural frequency, and really at a natural time to the loads created by her own body. And she becomes – she becomes strong enough to move herself around. So now, things like lifting her – like, we tend to put kids in these positions where maybe neck extension, the thought of holding up your head is, I think in the traditional type literature, well, help them work on their neck strength when they’re prone, which is face-down, like tummy time for holding up their head. I’m like, but that is when they have become extremely heavy – they put on lots of weight pretty quickly, so then you take a much heavier baby that has had – it is much easier to hold your body vertically than it is to extend it up off of the ground and hold it up.


DANI: Sure, I mean, an adult can try that. Do it sitting up and do it lying down.


KATY: That’s trigonometry. That’s trigonometry if you want to do the problem yourself. So I was like, well, instead of waiting, you know, 6 months or 4 months and then giving her a really hard neck holding problem, how about if I give her an easy one where she can pick it up real quick, and now she can turn her head, she can – she can see what she’s interested in. If she hears something she has the strength and also the ability. So that’s in arm. Also of interest – let’s just go – I’m sorry – I apologize to everyone. For everything. When you – if I had her in the same position but tied, she could still have her head up and her eyes could still move around, but that would be passive positioning, meaning that her body’s work has been outsourced to the device. So even though the –geometry is a very small picture of movement. We’ve focused hyper on ergonomics on geometry and very little on kinetics or what’s happening within the muscles and the loads that those muscles are sensing, and the way that the cells are being deformed That’s my focus. You can learn more in Move Your DNA about that. So what is the difference between the two? Active vs. passive, more work for the child, benefitting also you, more work for you, or perhaps it’s exactly the same amount of work but that work is being more evenly distributed over your body, right?


DANI: Mm-hmm.
KATY: I was referring back to that first question. Then there are the issues, though, of what am I supposed to do – how am I supposed to keep 2 arms occupied? And that is a sociologist’s question. The biomechanics don’t change just because we live in a life where you – where us – as new parents very rarely have any help or have anyone else besides our nuclear family living in our home. So –


DANI: Right, and we’ve talked about that before on other shows.


KATY: We’ve talked about that before, yes, and so this is not, again, to say, that you do any of those things, only just to start recognizing maybe where the limitations would be if you wanted to try it like that. But anyway, even if you just replaced some standing around time. Here’s something else, and I wish that I had gotten video of this – and this was before I had the knowledge of GoPro cams, it would have been perfect. When I would walk every day, I don’t know, maybe like 3 miles, carrying my daughter in my arms, which yes, is fatiguing, but whatever. You just rest one arm by going to the other arm. When I was carrying her in-arms, so this is always in the same period of the day, not only am I switching her from my right side to my left side; when I switch her from one arm to the other, it’s not a baby doll that maintains its same shape. By me switching her from one side to the other, she has to adjust her musculature to balance. So the same geometrical position is not being maintained. Also, when she got a little bit older, she would always want to turn and look forward when she was being held in arms. When I was carrying her on one side, she would always be turned to the one side.


DANI: Totally.


KATY: But by me switching her to the other side, now she’s rotating her torso to the other side. So it’s extremely dynamic, and I don’t mean a frozen baby statue and a frozen adult statue just changing hands.


DANI: Okay, now who’s getting grim?

KATY: That’s not grim!


DANI: A frozen baby?


KATY: I said frozen, not cut into pieces.


DANI: It’s creepier, it’s creepier.
KATY: A statue! Well, I think that people just – their mind, they’re just thinking rigid body mechanics, you know, like it just goes over here. No, the baby – they rotate their neck in the other direction. And we tend to strap on devices in the same way that’s comfortable for the current shape of our body, and thus the child in coping with the repetitive positioning develops its own repetitive positioning which is a narrow range of strength, which means a wide range of weakness very quickly. I mean, this is all happening within the first 3-5 months.


DANI: Wow.


KATY: When you’re extremely malleable and when they’re super primed for all day movement. So I would watch her and she was just like turning her head from side to side, and then I noticed because I have really the ability just from observing so much movement and being trained to observe movement, of paying attention to what initiates it. Pretty soon I realized that she could actually get me to switch arms.


DANI: Really?


KATY: By – she would turn herself to make it so I couldn’t hold her – I mean, you’ve picked up a kid that doesn’t want to be held, yes? Everyone raise your hand, yeah.


DANI: Yes, they go into protest mode.


KATY: Right, but protest mode is if – in geometry, they’re creating a geometry that makes you unable to hold them.


DANI: Yeah.


KATY: That’s what babies do. Infants are like, I want to go over here, so we talk about infant led weaning and all – infant led holding. They are in control of their body much more and they can choose to – I am interested in saying that or continuing to watch it, and I just – I didn’t put a cast on that.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: Because it’s a cast, yes, it’s completely supportive and you’re doing it for lovely, loving reasons. It’s not just to take away from any of those things, but at the same time, it’s nice to recognize the full list of all the things that it is affecting. And so she would stay awake for that entire 3 mile walk.


DANI: Wow.


KATY: When I started that same walk at the same time in a device, she instantly fell asleep.


DANI: Really?


KATY: I just attributed it, frankly, to boredom. She couldn’t move to see anything differently; she was really given the same view over and over again. You kind of sense that you can’t move, I guess? I mean, you’ve essentially binded just a little bit, and instead of fight, you can just say it’s cozy or whatever, but what is cozy for me? It usually means I’ve got a bunch of heavy blankets on me and it’s forcing me to stay down. So she would sleep if I put her in something, and not sleep if I didn’t put her out. And then I was like, okay, well, and I started to really think about things like rest and all of these things that are cultural norms of what children, what infants, what they need. And you go back and look at the sources and I’m like, what are the underlying assumptions for these things? So anyway, that was really big for me. The same period of walk was extremely dynamic when it was unrestricted, and when I made it cozy and, you know, reduced the ability to move she would just fall asleep. And I noticed the same thing with older kids – you know, if you strap them in to a car seat in a car and go on a long drive, they’d fall asleep. At that exact time were you not in the car or not being held in a position, they would be running around. Like, it’s how you deal with boredom.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: I think in a lot of cases.


DANI: I’m just curious, when you – when you put her in a device, were you just like, oh, I’m going to wear this just for the heck of it, or were you doing a little experiment? Because you weren’t really a device user, right?


KATY: I wasn’t a device user. I mean, I didn’t have an opposition to devices; at my first baby shower I was given one of everything, and with my first child I used – I tried to use a tie on thing. I used a sling, and I had nothing where the legs dangled because I didn’t want the pelvic pressure – you know, that’s another load. And I used them probably less than 15 times total. Like, less for a total of 15 hours with the first one. With the second one, it was with a device that my sister had that I was just kind of experimenting with. The first time I ever did it, I had to go – maybe she was a brand new newborn and I was like, oh, she’ll just sleep and I can walk her with me, and then I had her in my arms and I was like, she’s not sleeping in my arms, and that’s when I noticed it that way. And the video, the GoPro, what I wanted to speed up is that you can actually see this movement – rotate – it’s like there are 200 torso rotations happening right now, and I’m quantifying everything in my mind, just to see really all of the movement that comes from in-arm holding. It’s not a static baby being held in your arms. And then to compare it to the exact same baby, same weight in a device.


DANI: Ah, see, now you’ve just planted that seed in some listener’s head that either has an infant or is going to have one, and maybe they can make a GoPro video and send it in to us when you get a chance.


KATY: For all those new moms out there with tons of extra time, go ahead and make us a movie.


DANI: Strap that camera on your baby’s head!

KATY: Yeah. That’s the biggest – um, certainly there is a – I imagine if you’re listening to this and going, ugh, just pay attention. Use your device but in a different way. You know, that gives at least a second option and then don’t use it – you don’t have to use it all of the time if there’s an ability to do in-arms or you can ask other people to do in-arms. I think that’s the thing, too is that this is not about the amount of work that one single person can do to facilitate one other person’s human development. That development – that input, that environment has really traditionally been many more people.


DANI: Right. I actually – we had a workshop, a Move Your DNA workshop and one of the gals had twins, 6 month old twins, which was awesome. And on our walk, she brought them with, and I asked her, you know, can we pass your babies around, just so people can experience what this is like to be walking with that load of a live, squirmy child. It was really fun for everyone; it was really an eye opener for everybody.


KATY: Well, and that just goes to show you, the fact that there are a ton of humans right now that have never carried a baby. Like, that’s not how it’s been historically. That you wouldn’t have been carrying lots of other peoples’ babies for them, you know, from age 4 or 5 all the way through, you know, til the rest of your life. That’s not what you would see in the natural world of humans.


DANI: Yeah, and when you talk about, like, that’s – everything that you just talked about with your daughter – and that was essentially all facilitated with you carrying her in arms, and that’s a whole lot of strength development reflexes just for that one simple thing. And I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s just very basic. It’s simple.


KATY: No. It was not easy. It’s not easy at all.


DANI: You know, and –


KATY: And strollers. We didn’t have really any devices. We’ve never owned a stroller or a baby bag, for that matter.


DANI: Well, that will lead us to the next question, which is –


KATY: Which is?


DANI: What are some other ways that we can cultivate these kinds of reflexes by creating a different environment? What are just – carry more, okay, try that. But what else?


KATY: Well, some of the other things – grasping reflex, they believe it’s about – they call it a vestigial reflex because babies don’t have to hold on anymore, but I would beg to differ. I mean, I guess it depends on what the definition of that is, you know, if you get down to the actual semantics of it, but because I was an in-arm parent – both of us were in-arm parents – 1) the children had the opportunity to, so the environment was there, but also it was a request of us to, like, you’re going to have to hold some of your own weight here. Again, they are not big baby statues. Very early, you know, they have – once they are putting their arms on your or lift their arms up to be held – there’s so much cool research, too, on when a baby sees you walking over to pick them up, they automatically generate the motion that facilitates – you’re not picking up a dough ball.


DANI: Right.


KATY: You know, they are learning to match motions based on you and what you’re doing. And then in the course that you took there were babies that were in – what’s the difference between a baby being on a person, connected to a person, baby wearing, you know, so what’s the difference between a baby being worn by someone who is non-sedentary vs. someone who is sedentary. So babies on the back of people who are foraging for food and gathering water, that is a much more dynamic state than being on the body of a person who is, for the most part, fairly sedentary, who has very low variance in movement. So if you’re on the back of someone who is bending all the way over and coming back up and may jog a few steps and is squatting and coming back up and down, your movement environment is much more rich, and so is your awareness, because you learn to watch the environment to go oh, we’re at the lake again, here we go. And so you are busy – awareness and your participation in your own physical support is cultivated very early on. So a lot of times we’ll extract something that a particular group of people does, and then put it into our culture and then go, but it’s the same – and it’s like, well, actually, it’s quite different, because it’s not only the device, it’s how it was used within a context. And so just consider – again, sedentary culture, sedentary culture is the umbrella over ever tying. And so you just – the more movements that they were facilitating themselves, or that they were part of a team of movement being facilitated – of course, then, the more rapidly they’ve developed structurally, the more robustly, meaning when you do lots of things, a lot more parts of you get stronger in many more ways. So that’s really kind of that point of the difference between carrying and wearing.


DANI: Okay.


KATY: And then other stuff: like, my kids would have to hold on. They weren’t just – they were in my arms as infants, but very quickly it’s like, no, you have to hold on here. And we would play games, I think the games are – they have the games on the video, too, that you watched where I would reduce their support. So they’re not going to learn to hold on until you stop holding them. So I don’t suggest that you just drop your arms out underneath, but it would be this, I would take one arm away, they would weigh heavier to their little fists that were grabbing onto my fists or my hair or my shoulders or whatever, and thus their muscles would respond. So it’s just – I think more so than what you need to facilitate is really your own movement with a baby attached to you, you know, or just have that baby with you, because you moving more is the environment natural for them, and then they respond. They respond naturally.


DANI: So it’s both parties then. Then I think just a way to reframe that or think about it a little bit is that if I were an adult, I would want to hang onto something. I wouldn’t want to be a lump of dough; if someone took one arm away, you know, I would hold tighter with the other arm, and that’s just a normal human reaction, so there really should be no age limit to that.


KATY: Right.


DANI: You know, it’s not something that’s like, okay, now they’re old enough to learn that. Those reflexes are completely normal.


KATY: Well, they’re reflexes, so that just means that we come with them. The question is, are they useless or not necessary? Or are they quite necessary for human development and movement? Again, it just depends on how you’re defining things like development or whatever. But like, are they necessary, perhaps, to facilitate a robust development, meaning of lots of parts? Of lots of different movements perhaps, so it’s kind of hard to find real definitions for things like that and I did a big piece on it on the stepping reflex, you know, how forever that was like, this is left over! Don’t let your babies walk, you know, wait until they’re – there’s so many theories that when children are ready to walk, their brains aren’t formed so don’t encourage really any movement, and then they will express it again later on, this desire. And then it just turned out that this reflex never stopped, they had just gotten so heavy without moving that their musculature to body mass was the correct ratio, that it didn’t allow anyone to see that stepping reflex. So if you hold a baby up, it’s like step-step-step. As soon as it senses something underneath its foot, it immediately starts right, left, right, left walking. Did you read that piece?


DANI: Uh, was it on a blog?


KATY: I think so, yeah, and you know, it’s walking right, left, right, left, and then it would just disappear in this laboratory setting and then someday someone put a baby with their head above a tank of water and when the baby was buoyant enough to not be burdened by its own strength-to-weight ratio, the stepping reflex had been there the entire time. Right, left, right, left, right, left. It just – if you don’t – you know, babies – if they don’t move at all, you were just in bassinets or just being pushed around, and movement was not on the list of things that baby needs. Food, water, or milk. Comfort. But not movement.


DANI: Interesting. I’ll find it and link to it, and also that good series you did with Breaking Muscle was good – I’ll add that to the thing, too. Alright, I can’t even remember; I can’t keep up with all your books now. I can’t even quote where this is from, but you – I love how you define, “ergonomic.” Would you mind, just for the purposes of this discussion clarify what ergonomic means, and why it isn’t always the best thing, because a lot of times you’ll see carriers or seats or things that say, “ergonomic!” I think it’s important to understand just what that means.


KATY: Well, ergonomics is – it was really the study of body positioning. The best, repetitive body positioning. And it comes from a work – a business – background. It’s not as separate from, perhaps, economics because repetitive positioning is directly related to making your living in a particular way, meaning doing one single thing quite a bit. Specialization, you know, of where you spend your time. So it just came from this idea that people who were at work who were in this repetitive positioning had particular injuries or diseases so it was this search to find, like, how can I have this employee – it’s an investment, essentially, training of businesses, and an investment of an employee, so you want that employee to be showing up for work every day for their career. So you’re trying to maximize the physical body for the period of time. Which is fine if you recognize what it is, because then the idea of ergonomics became what’s the best positioning? What’s the best repetitive positioning? And that’s a question, but the other question or the assumption then is that repetitive positioning is the only option that you have. So then you’ve already limited – you already have a sedentary perspective. Your assumption is that I’m unmoving, what’s the best way to be unmoving? If you always frame everything that way, you can find the answer to that question but that answer changes every hunk of time, because what we recognize really now is that the repetitive positioning is the problem. Sitting is one repetitive positioning. Actually, before that standing in factories was one repetitive positioning. Bad – here’s a, oh, you’ve got to sit and support your weight. Okay, sitting, and then now we’ll go to standing desks, and then we’ll go back to something else, because it just takes enough time to get that body of data to go here’s the ailments that arise from this particular repetitive positioning. So I don’t find that ergonomics is the best – for me it’s not the best portal to human function or biological function or health, because it’s kind of – the slant of it is economics or working or implied stillness, so, I’m like, well you don’t have to be still, so let’s talk about some other options of not being still and see what we get from there.


DANI: It’s kind of like adaptation. It doesn’t always mean better, and ergonomics doesn’t always mean better. It’s just important – I like how you define it.


KATY: Thanks.


DANI: Yeah, you’re so good at that, oh my gosh! Back to when you talked about things that you were talking about that a baby needs – this came up in the course and it’s so cool. Could you just talk very briefly about our cultural response to crying babies, you know, to a crying baby, and maybe reframe that with what you’ve learned with your research and experience?


KATY: What was that, I taught that course a long time ago – so the references were in that course, but I believe it was a paper from a Mali population of what their infant practices are. But it was saying that we tend to recognize, and I think that I listed them – he’s tired, she’s tired, hungry, you know, like if your baby’s crying, you’re going to like go to a few basic things first. But what this population does is they recognize a lack of movement as one of the catalysts for crying. And perhaps we do, too, because what do we do for comfort? You pick up a baby and you shake it, you’re like, here’s some movement, here’s some movement, this is relaxing. But if we could extract this idea of comfort from just movement, where the shaking of a baby is like a vitamin that we’re trying to give them.


DANI: Can we call it rocking or something?

KATY: Oh, yeah, I guess baby shaking is not right. Is that too grim?


DANI: Not advocating baby shaking.


KATY: What is it called when you go – what is it called when you get one and you’re like,


DANI: You bounce them. You bounce them or you rock them.
KATY: Yeah, so baby bouncing. Right. Baby bouncing. So everyone’s like, I got this special ball to baby bounce, and I was like, okay, but think of your baby as just like, what if your baby was just like a pedometer, right? You’re trying to turn the signal off with like, here’s some movement, here’s some movement, like treating it after the fact and it’s like, well, what if there was a way – this is that stacking your life perspective of – what if, instead of having so little movement in your total life and in your baby’s total life, and then dealing with the struggle of someone being upset, like, movement malnourished if you will, and then trying to put it in after the fact in a stressful, Reactive kind of way, that it was thought of as more of a nutrient and given to them before. Like in the same way, it’s like, okay, here’s their food and their movement needs, maybe that movement can happen within their life and then they don’t have to cry out for it. you know, type thing. So that’s what this – these interviews with these populations is movement is actually their first go-to. It’s like, oh, it needs to be – and I used to pay, when I was really paying attention and I have to many other kids after the fact is that a lot of times they’re fussing like, pick me up and help me so I can get a few steps. Get me to a place where I can challenge myself beyond where I currently am. So that idea that you’re not supposed to facilitate a child’s physical development in any real way where you were acting as a support – I don’t know if that’s really the case because your child needs you. Like, that is – that’s to say that you shouldn’t give them food in their mouth. It’s like, why not? You’re a team, you are an essentially an appendage for the child until they are able to get their strength. So that’s how I behave, as an appendage. It’s like, oh, you need to move and go out for a walk and put the kid down. I’ve hiked with a lot of other people with little kids and they’re trying to walk and oh, the kid is fussy, he needs a nap, and I was like, I think he wants to get down and try to walk himself. You go ahead and I’ll stay here and do the tedious, slow steps. And instantly, no more fussing.


DANI: Wow.


KATY: Doesn’t need a nap, like, he’s contained. And I’m thinking of a real specific, so I’m using, “he” because it was a boy, and it’s just – our lives are so fast, there’s not time for human development anymore. There’s not time to remove the casts off. What are you supposed to do? The cast allows it all to happen.


DANI: Mm-hmm.


KATY: So, anyway. Do you feel uplifted by this podcast? I feel good about it because I like having the information out there.


DANI: It’s awesome.


KATY: But don’t feel badly, like, I don’t want anyone to feel –




KATY: It’s not a – someone wrote me something and I was like, no, I feel really disturbed, like, I’m upset by the information that you put out. And like, they weren’t upset with me as much, but they were like, I think you really need to be putting it this way. And I was like, here’s the deal: just – if there was a book of nutrients, you wouldn’t want the information about certain nutrients left off just because they weren’t available in the place that you live. You have to write a book on nutrients or else the big picture is missing. You can’t edit information just to make everyone feel okay. Feeling okay – not feeling okay, like, I’ve gone through this comfort of learning something and i have to change this and I don’t want to – it’s like, no one failed, it’s just expanding this body of understanding of movement. What does it mean to be a movement-based culture? What does it mean to be a sedentary culture? These are some of the components of that. So again, this is not about any particular person. I’ve never looked at a person and been like, wow – I met a woman at the Santa Barbara zoo, and there’s a bunch of kids there, and there’s a girl who I was like, I’m Katy, and she was like, I’m Katy, too! And then we were – they were on the train with us, and she was like, I’m so embarrassed right now, I have a stroller, I listen to your show or read your blog or whatever. And she’s like, I know you must think so little of me, and I was like, I’ll go, you’re here at the zoo by yourself with your four kids. Trust me – it never even crossed my mind! It never even crossed my mind to think about you and your stroller. Here’s your kids! It’s awesome. It’s just not about – it’s not about a judgment, it’s about having all the information so we can make the choices that work the best for us.


DANI: Everybody does the best they can with what they have, and then you just keep going. That’s just the way it works. And for anybody that doesn’t know Katy, I will tell you right now: she’s so not judgmental. She stops me from being judgmental about myself and everything else.


KATY: I do, I’m like, why are you so judgmental?


DANI: She’s just like – she’s information. It’s information.


KATY: I’m an information junkie.


DANI: But it’s just – it’s just – anybody else who is listening who has older kids like I have, and didn’t know this stuff, you know of course I read this and I’m like, aw, I wish I would have done that. But just listening to this conversation today – everything that we talked about applies to any age.


KATY: Yeah. Including yourself.


DANI: We’re talking about babies being movement malnourished and being fussy – I was just interviewing for a different nature school today and one of the owners said, yeah, we haven’t had kids that have been diagnosed with ADD and ADHD and whatever, but when they get here, they don’t have it anymore, because they’re outside and they’re moving, and I was like, wow, this movement applies to any age. And you didn’t miss the boat, because the boat leaves every single day. It’s like, every moment is an opportunity.


KATY: The boat leaves – the boat leaves 10,000 times a day. That’s the crazy thing. You can get on whatever boat whenever you want. Exactly.


DANI: There’s no – don’t feel blue, don’t feel bad, because it’s just every second is an opportunity, and that’s pretty exciting. That’s the way – I’m sticking to it.


KATY: All right.


DANI: Well, let’s stop there.


KATY: All right, let’s have our movement break be just turn off the show and go walk.


DANI: Well, hopefully everybody was walking anyway, so just go another mile and turn around and go back home. Thank you for listening! For more information, books, online classes – including the one we mentioned today – etc. – you can find Katy Bowman at, and you can learn more about me, Dani Hemmat, former baby and movement warrior at Thanks!




We hope you find the general information on biomechanics, movement, and alignment informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and shouldn’t be used as such.


SHOW NOTES:[field_topic-term-raw]/katy-bowman-and-the-biomechanics-of-human-growth-the-necessity-of-monkey-busi






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