Updated: Sep 20, 2021
WRITTEN BY KIRSTY BROCKLEHURST CHILDRENS PHYSIOTHERAPIST AND SALLY HILLS-DAVIS, CHILDRENS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
When babies are born they do not have the ability to change where their weight falls. Babies' heads are large and heavy in relation to the rest of their body, a lot of weight goes through their head, neck and shoulders when they lying on their back or front. This is one of the reasons why tummy time is so difficult for young babies.
As babies progress from newborn, they need to learn how to shift their weight. For example, in tummy time, babies need to learn to shift their weight down to their pelvis, so that they can push up on straight arms to lift their shoulders and head up high. This is essential before a baby can crawl. You can help with this by placing a gentle but firm hand on their bottom whilst they are on their tummy.
For crawling, babies need to learn how to shift their weight from left to right and forward and back. Parents often think their baby has got stuck on their hands and knees just rocking, but actually this is them experimenting with and learning that all important weight shift!
When learning to cruise (side stepping along furniture), babies have to learn to shift their weight away from the direction they are walking! Try it for yourself. Stand up with equal weight going through both of your legs and take a side step. What did you have to do first before you stepped to the side?
These are just a few examples, but controlling weight shift is a very important part of every movement skill. As adults, we do it without thinking but babies have to learn how to do it!