Connecting With Our Babies, Connecting With Our Core - Guest Post from Melissa LaPointe
There are many terms used in the world of health and wellness that often become ambiguous, depending on the context and the speaker. Take “core strengthening” for example. This has become quite the buzzword in the fitness industry, and using plyometric training and total body workouts to achieve the elusive six-pack and toned abs is popular.
In the practice of yoga and Pilates however, the focus shifts to the deep core and the pelvic floor, the breath, and the root chakras. As we look from a more specialized point of view - moving into prenatal/postnatal health or pediatrics - core strengthening requires an in-depth understanding of the inner core muscles groups, how they are intertwined with alignment, self-regulation and the breath. The world is changing, and so is our concept of the core.
For myself, as an occupational therapist with dual training in both women’s health and pediatrics, I place great emphasis on the inner core in both mother and child - as separate and yet interconnected. I incorporate my training in functional core stability and neurodevelopment with my study of mind-body science to help my clients feel more grounded and connected with their body at any stage of life. In the field of prenatal and postnatal health, I am both an advocate and an educator as I use therapeutic movement, breath work and mindfulness to help women connect with their inner core on a deeper level, providing numerous health benefits to both Mom and her child.
Building Better Brains
Over the past decade, we have made leaps and bounds in the world of neuroscience and child development. We have come far in our understanding of how the brain grows in relation to the environment, and in response to the caregiver. When entering the world, humans are unique from other mammals in that our babies are born “half-cooked,” with an underdeveloped nervous system. In fact, a newborn’s brain is about 25% the volume of an adult brain and all of the senses are not yet developed. Without having developed the physiological ability to calm herself down and self-soothe, a baby is quite literally dependent on her environment and the adults around her to provide sensory-rich stimulation, to regulate emotional responses and to cope with stress.
What helps to mature a baby’s nervous system and build a better brain? Close proximity to a responsive, sensitive caregiver: the repeated experiences of baby wearing, breastfeeding, therapeutic touch, skin-to-skin contact, the dance of attunement, and being held and nurtured. All of these are critical to an infant's healthy development and long-term wellbeing, and they all require patience, endurance and core strength on the parent’s part. This is not easy work, especially considering the growing number of medical interventions being used in childbirth including the growing rate of C-sections. A mother’s physical and emotional recovery process often goes unrecognized and unsupported. To put it simply, as a community and as a society we need to take better care of our mothers, to help them better raise their children.
My professional advice for every woman, regardless of her age or experience, is to be proactive with her health and connect with her core. Learn about your body, it’s never too late! Have your core and pelvic floor assessed by a properly trained practitioner who can provide you with resources and strategies on growing stronger from the inside out. Do this for yourself, for your family, for your children. Your pelvic floor holds in your organs and forms the foundation of your every move your body makes; it receives every breath, and is part of every emotional response. It is, and always will be, a powerful part of your being. By learning how to optimize your own health - how to connect with your breath and core strength and how to connect with your own feminine wisdom - you are better able to respond and attune to your growing baby and family.
Melissa LaPointe is an occupational therapist, educator, advocate and consultant with over 15 years experience and study in the areas of child development and mind-body science. She is founder of Strong Beginnings, a family wellness & consulting company with a unique focus on pediatric health and wellbeing that includes prenatal & postpartum health services. She shares her passion for learning through community seminars, professional growth workshops and collaborative projects with like-minded practitioners. Looking to connect and learn more? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, find her on Facebook (facebook/StrongBeginnings), or follow her on Twitter (@StrongBeginning).