Over the first few months of a child's life her muscles strengthen and she begins to be able to coordinate movement. By the age of 3 months, babies can lift their head while lying on their front. By the age of 6 months, they can roll from their stomach onto their back and by 9 months they can sit unassisted.
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The Primary Curve
When a child is in the womb and when he is first born, the spine is configured in a "C" shape position. This position is named the primary curve. At this point, the child has not yet developed the contours that form the secondary curve; the early days and months of a child's life are vital when it comes to this development. Over the first few months of life, the baby's muscles strengthen and he begins to develop the ability to coordinate movement as the spine develops.
The First Secondary Curve
Over the first months of a child's life, the spine begins to change from the primary curve to the first secondary curve. The newborn baby cannot support the weight of her own head; the head must be supported. As the baby grows, she exercises the muscles in her neck and the neck begins to arch; this is the first secondary curve of the spine. One of the best positions to place a baby in the first months of her life is on her stomach; this allows the baby to lift her head off the ground and develop the arch of the neck.
The Second Secondary Curve
The next secondary curve develops in the lower back and is called the lumbar curve. The lumbar curve develops as the baby begins to crawl on all fours. For the proper development of the lower back curve, the child should be allowed to both play on his stomach and crawl as much as he wants to. The lower back curve provides for proper body posture, correct support of the internal organs in the upright position and sufficient weight-bearing ability.
Incorrect Secondary Curve Development
If the contours of the second secondary curve are not allowed to develop correctly, then the spine becomes at risk to degeneration due to gravity, trauma and general life stresses. If a baby is encouraged to adopt an upright position before his spine is ready to support his weight, problems can occur. Inappropriate carriers or walkers sometimes encourage the baby to stand before he is ready. This can lead to a flat lower back, called a lumbar kyphosis.
Parents should remember that every child develops different skills and capacities at different times. Children should be loved and stimulated but not pushed to develop new skills which they perhaps are not physiologically ready to develop. In the long run, this behaviour will only hinder the development of the child. For example, sitting up requires the coordinated contraction of muscles and properly developed bones, discs and ligaments. If babies are encouraged to sit before they are capable of doing so, the tissues of their spine may be damaged, leading to significant problems in later life.
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