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Childhood Developmental Milestones and Why They are Important for Brain Development, Socialisation and Learning

Have you ever wondered about the perfect order of things in nature. There is an exact sequence by which things occur, rhythm and development is exquisite, and you understand that there is purpose behind everything.
Take for example a seed. With the right quantities of sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil, this seed will germinate, and out pops the shoot. As it does so, it cleverly knows to grow towards the sunlight. The whole process occurs in a perfect sequence, one essential step followed by the next.

Likewise, there is a perfect order for the development of our children. When these developmental milestones are followed in sequence this primes us up for success. The brain literally is able to wire up in a fashion which supports optimal development for that child.
As happens in nature, when steps are missed or skipped this can skew with optimal development and therefore function.

Our development as humans can be understood as physical, (both gross and fine motor movements) as well as cognitive, emotional and social development.

As humans we are born with a set of primitive reflexes which are designed to ensure our survival in the first few months of life, when we are most vulnerable. How clever is the human body, to equip us with these vital reflexes? For example the ‘rooting reflex’ means a baby will turn its head towards the cheek which is stroked and open its mouth ready for feeding. Obviously, being able to feed is essential to our survival.

As babies develop, these primitive reflexes are integrated and make way for postural reflexes, which are designed to equip the baby with reflexes to support survival as we navigate movement in a gravity based environment. For example the ‘propping reflex’, which develops as the child is able to sit and to stop itself from falling from the sitting position and potentially hurt itself. If a child is knocked when sitting, they will put out a hand to stop themselves from falling.

When we say the primitive reflexes make way for postural reflexes, the brain must be in an optimal and clear state in order for this natural progression to occur. Delayed or retained reflexes can sometimes let us know about how stress in the nervous system is playing out for a child.

Each developmental milestone is met sequentially as the baby becomes more able and mobile, and to ensure its survival and safety in the world. The nerve connections in the brain are ‘wiring up’ as the baby grows and experiences life. This process is called myelination, which makes these new connections permanent and fast. Physically a baby must first be able to hold its head upright against gravity, this is promoted by ‘tummy time’. An excellent nourishment for the brain, which you can hear more about on our podcast here

In order for the next developmental milestone to be met, ideally the previous should be met first. After being able to be safe and strong when lying on the tummy the baby will then be able to start to roll, which is the next step in its development. Once rolling the baby will be shortly be able to sit and then crawl. From crawling, the baby will then pull to stand and start to cruise around furniture, before lastly walking on its own.

Because the brain is designed to sequentially develop, it is important to support our little ones to reach each milestone.

Rather than worry about reaching a milestone at a particular age, it is more important that each milestone is reached in sequence.

For the first three years or so of life the baby will regulate itself via the caregiver. This is a right brain function, we are literally wired in a social way to our primary caregiver, and this is how we learn to navigate our world. We do this through touch, and sound.

It is so remarkable that over the space of the first few years, so much development has occurred, and what we know now is this sequential passage of milestones creates a wonderful foundation for success with future learning and social development in later childhood.

At Advanced Health Chiropractic we work with families, and this care often starts with women in pregnancy. When a baby’s nervous system is working optimally we know that these developmental milestones and the baby’s development in general will be best supported.

Often we will be approached by concerned parents when things may not be tracking as expected.

Subluxations of the spine can interfere with the optimal development and growth of a baby. Signs that subluxation may exist could be a baby who is having difficulty with feeding or latching, an unsettled baby, a baby who is suffering with digestive challenges such as reflux or constipation. If you notice your baby is not able to reach its milestone, or perhaps has skipped a stage, this may indicate there is interference to that nervous system. Sometimes it might show up as a child who is uncomfortable when you are changing it, or when it is in the car seat. If your baby is stiff and rigid to hold, this also can be a sign of subluxation.

When thinking of older children, these little cues may show as an uncoordinated or wobbly child, w-sitting, difficulty with activities such as the monkey bars, or even a strong sensitivity to touch and feelings of clothing tags/socks etc.

Chiropractors can assess for subluxation and perform Insight Scans which help to detect dysfunction in the nervous system.

Like all parents we are interested in supporting your child to thrive and be primed for success in life.

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