An Infant’s Developing Spine

By Fred Barge, D.C.

Congratulations, you are a parent!  Did you know that how you care for your newborn baby can affect the development of their spine and hence their health?

Read along as we explain to you the development of your baby’s spinal contours and how you can help make sure that they develop correctly.

The Primary Curve

When the baby is in the womb, and when they are first born, the spine is in a “C” configuration.  This configuration is called the primary curve.  The secondary curves have not yet been formed and the early days and months of the baby’s life are of the utmost important in the development of these contours.

The First Secondary Curve

Most parents realize that their newborn baby cannot support the weight of its head.  At this time the baby’s head must be supported.  It is important to be careful how you hold the baby, always caring to support the neck and head.  The baby’s little neck continues to wobble and they strain to hold their head upright.  As the baby gets older these motions and exercises develop the muscles of the neck and begin to promote the development of the first secondary curve of the spine,which is the arch of the neck.

One of the best positions for the baby when they are awake is on their stomach.  This “tummy time” permits the baby to lift its head off the ground and develop the arch of the neck.  When on their tummy you may notice how they raise their arms and legs in the air and wiggle.  Their head is arched up.  These actions are exercises for their little body preparing them for each stage of spinal development.  This tummy position also lays the groundwork for the second secondary curve, which is the arch of the low back.

The Second Secondary Curve

This second secondary curve continues to develop when the baby begins creeping and crawling.  When the baby gets up on their hands and knees you can see the arch in the low back.

Many babies today simply are not allowed to creep and crawl long enough. We try to encourage early walking with our children and this can be detrimental to their spinal development.

Today, for the convenience of the busy parent, many carriers are made to occupy and pacify the baby.  These carriers and walkers put the baby in the upright posture before the baby’s spine is ready to support this weight.  They encourage the baby to stand before they are ready and before the baby has developed their low back arch.  This may lead to a flat lower back which is called a  lumbar kyphosis. This can lead to problems in development.

The baby swing is also a danger to the infants spine.  This puts the baby’s spine back into the “C” posture and prevents the development of the secondary curves of the spine. The same goes for the infant car carrier.  Babies should not be kept in these car seats or carriers for extended amounts of time.

Let your baby play on their tummy and creep and crawl like nature intended.  Do not confine your baby to a pen!  Make your living room into a playpen if you must.  After all, they are only in this stage of development for a short time.  Proper development of normal spinal contours in your child will help avoid future problems with spinal curvatures.

Healthy spinal development in the child leads

to a healthy spine in the adult!

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