A baby’s sense of balance is the basis for all motor activity
The development potential of a foetus and a baby is fenomenal. During the foetus phase, development takes place in a natural manner through the flow of impulses from amongst other the skin and its touch with the womb, via hearing and from the vestibular system through the mother’s movements. These impulses are of vital importance to the foetus’ neurological, muscular and psychological development. During its first months from birth, the baby sleeps most hours of the day. For this development to proceed, the nervous system must receive impulses from amongst others, the skin as well as the vestibular system. Reflexes must be practised and muscles must be developed.
Our sense of balance is one of the most important organs in our sensory system. Our sense of balance is developed at a very early stage during pregnancy and is believed to be functional already during a foetus’ fifth month. The foetus’ own movements as well as the mother’s movements stimulates vestibularis. This stimuli appears to be of great importance to the development of the central nervous system, not only during pregnancy, but also after birth. Vestibularis is likely also important to a foetus’ ability to move about and orient itself so that its head is placed in the correct position prior to birth.
Both with premature and with babies born in the expected time, research has shown that by stimulating vestibularis, primarily by rocking vertically up and down, the activity of the respiratory system is stimulated, babies ability to fix moving objects with their vision is developed faster, motor development is improved, sleep becomes deeper and so on.
Clear age related differences in reflexes appear when induced by stimulating vestibularis. During the first six months from birth, a fast increase in reactiveness is noticed. Following the first six months, an adaptation takes place and around 10-12 years of age, the reflexes are similar to those seen in adults. The question is thus whether stimulating a baby’s sense of balance can make people better cyclists, car drivers and less inclined to fall and break themselves? Yes, there are a lot speaking in favour of this. Exercising various reflexes during the first few months from birth can be highly beneficial and important to a baby in developing its full potential. The abilities to walk, speak, perceive colours in three dimensions and so forth are likely embedded in our genes. However the environment influences how and how fast these abilities are developed. When viewing the possibilites to influence the nervous system in the light of what is said here, it should be of interest to individuals and to society to provide a comprehensive exercise of childrens’ reflexes from as early in life as possible.
Published with the permission of
Med.Dr and Associate Professor of physiology
Eliasson, R., (1993) Har idrottsämnet någon betydelse för elever och samhälle?, TiG 120:2
Parker, D.E., (1980) The vestibular apparatus. Scientific American, 243:5, 98-111
Super C.M., (1976) Environmental effects on motor development: the case of African infant precocity’. Develop. Med. Child Neurol. 18, 561-567
Thoman E.B. & Korner A.F., (1971) Effect of vestibular stimulation on the behavior and development of infant rats. Developmental Psychology, 5, 92-98