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Babies: Stimulating Physical Development – Part 3

For the earlier posts in this series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3: The Grasp Reflex

The grasp reflex is part of a newborn’s instinct to form a fist the moment an object comes into contact with his palm.  Any parent of a newborn baby will notice that baby’s fingers will automatically close around any object that touches his palm.  You will also notice that this grip is pretty strong and it requires considerable effort to pry a baby’s fist open after your baby has gotten hold of something.

The purpose for this reflex is evolutionary.  It is instinctive to grasp objects without letting go because this is how baby gorillas hang on to their mothers – they cling to their mothers’ hair and body.  Letting go means falling off.  This reflex is the same one that keeps a bird on a tree branch without falling off even after the bird has fallen asleep.

As baby grows older, this reflex lessens therefore it is important to commence the grasp reflex exercises recommended by Glenn Doman in How to Teach Your Baby to be Physically Superb as soon as possible after birth.  For instance, Gareth has already learned to let go.  As it is, I can barely get him to hold on to my finger without him letting go after a while if I tug gently.

In principle, if you train your baby’s grasp reflex from birth, your baby will eventually be able to hang onto a bar and support his entire weight similarly to the way a gymnast hangs from the bars.

The exercise involves lying your baby on his back.  Slip your thumb into his hand and slowly lift your hands until your baby releases his grasp.  Watch your baby and only proceed as far as he is comfortable.  The book doesn’t really talk much about head support but I’ve seen pictures of baby’s wearing that collar that patients with neck injuries wear.  Personally, I haven’t had to worry so much about neck support because Gareth is already able to support his own head fairly well.  Besides, he lets go so quickly that there isn’t any need to worry about neck support.

The unfortunate thing about the exercises described in Doman’s book is that they don’t tell you enough about what to do if you’ve missed the boat.  Gareth is only 7 weeks old and already he’s missed the boat.  His lost the grasp reflex and he’s put on so much weight that he tires of tummy time quite quickly.  Even now it’s tough to catch him in a good mood where he actually wants to work on his crawling.

If you follow the recommendations from the book, you need to offer your baby the opportunity to practice those exercises as often as possible. The more regularly your baby has the chance to practice, the faster he will develop.  The minimum is at least 10 sessions a day.  For me, all we get is usually one session for each exercise.  It is virtually impossible to do this when Gavin is home because Gavin gets intensely jealous – not to mention that I need to spend time with Gavin, too.

When I read about all these early child development programs, I was really keen to get started with them on my second baby.  It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be as straightforward as it would have been for a first baby because of the presence of an older child demanding attention for himself.

If you have done any of these early childhood development programs (anything – reading, math, knowledge, etc.) with a second baby, please share how you managed it without alienating your older child.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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