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What the fetal position does for your baby?

May 20, 2021

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<p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Many of us curl up into a ball when we may be at our wit's end; there's something so soothing and comforting about it. Countless artists have sculpted and painted adults in the self-soothing fetal position. </span></p>
<p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">It’s no secret that babies love it too. When you carry your baby with his knees flexed against your chest, the fetal position, the<strong> </strong></span><strong><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="http://www.eu.boba.com/blog/2009/09/20/exterogestation-and-the-need-to-be-held/#27" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pressure and containment</a></strong><span data-preserver-spaces="true"> he feels assures him that he is in contact with you and physically safe and secure. But there’s more to it than comfort! </span></p>
<p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Read on to find out how curling up into the fetal position truly helps your baby.</span></p>
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<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>1. BABIES BREATHE EASIER<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">A flexed position is optimal even for tiny delicate preemies. When you lay a preemie on his back it’s pretty stressful. His little underdeveloped lungs need to work against gravity. In a flexed position, a preemie requires less oxygen pressure and volume and breathes easier.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>2. GROW BABY GROW!<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Using less oxygen means that their little bodies don’t need to work as hard. Not working as hard means they can devote their energy and calories to growing.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>3. COORDINATION AND STRENGTH ARE NICE<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">The “spread out on the back” positioning of infants adversely affects the development of their muscle tone. Yet, the flexed position helps not only speed up muscle development but also speeds up the maturation of nerve cells that control the muscles. Stronger muscles and better functioning nerves telling those muscles what to do means better motor skills.</span></p>
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<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>4. NO ONE WANTS TO WEAR A HELMET TO RESHAPE THEIR HEAD<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Laying on your back all the time may dispose your baby to a </span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://eu.boba.com/blogs/boba-reads/strollers-baby-carriers-and-infant-stress" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><span data-preserver-spaces="true"><strong>deformed skull or plagiocephaly</strong></span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">- literally a flattening of the head.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>5. REFLUX STINKS<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Any eight-month pregnant woman knows that she shouldn’t lay flat on her back after eating anything. An infant in flexion digests his food easier.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>6. BABY'S BACKSIDE IS MORE THAN "CUTE"<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">When held tummy to tummy not only does the baby have mom or dad’s heat to help regulate his temperature but a protective heat-retaining barrier. Infants have more efficient </span><strong><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="http://www.eu.boba.com/research/the-fetal-tuck/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temperature regulating</a></strong><span data-preserver-spaces="true"><strong> </strong>cells and more fat cells that serve as superb insulation on the </span><em><span data-preserver-spaces="true">backside</span></em><span data-preserver-spaces="true"> of their bodies.</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>7. ANOTHER WAY TO KEEP WARM<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">In a flexed position, your baby’s arms and legs are bent, cutting off exposure of arteries to cold air. Bent arms and legs also cut in half the surface area from which heat can be lost to the air. Additionally, reduced stomach exposure means babies can better regulate their body temperature and subsequently use less energy trying to maintain warmth.</span></p>
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<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>8. PROTECTS THE BELLY<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">When we hold our infant stomach to stomach we are protecting all the receptor and vital organs. A cat tends to curl up when sleeping. If a predator were to come, the flexed position of the cat offers natural protection. Yes, it hides mama’s belly too!</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>9. HELPS HIP DEVELOPMENT &amp; IS AN OPTION FOR TREATING DDH<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Babies whose legs are swaddled or forcefully straightened (as in the Navajo papoose) have a higher incidence of hip dysplasia. Casts and </span><strong><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="http://orthopedics.about.com/od/pediatrichipinjuries/g/pavlik.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">harnesses</a></strong><span data-preserver-spaces="true"> are used to force the baby into a flexed widespread legged position to treat babies born with DDH (Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip).</span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 18px;"><strong>10. NEWBORNS ARE VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO STRAIGHTEN OUT<br /></strong></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">So many think it is gentler to lay a baby on his back than to carry him. </span><strong><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="http://www.eu.boba.com/research/spine-development-in-an-infant/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Babies’ spines are not straight</a></strong><span data-preserver-spaces="true">; they are born with a convex c-shaped spine so their thighs naturally pull up toward their chests. Laying them flat stretches out their natural position and can be stressful on their little spines and hips.</span></p>
<p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">When you pick up your baby his legs will rise to his chest. His body is </span><strong><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="http://www.eu.boba.com/blog/2011/10/02/how-your-babys-body-is-adapted-to-being-carried/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">naturally adapted to being carried</a></strong><span data-preserver-spaces="true">. The fetal tuck is soothing; it is the natural position of infants and helps your baby to thrive and grow strong. Don’t try to straighten out your babies!</span></p>
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<p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Reading to inspire:</span></p>
<p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">• Montagu, A. (1986). Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. Harper Paperbacks.</span></p>
<p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">• Ludington-Hoe, S. Kangaroo Care: The Best You Can Do to Help Your Preterm Infant. Bantam Books, 1993, New York.</span></p>
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