Balanced Bites Podcast with Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Baby-Led Movement & Milestones with Eliza Parker

Podcast Episode #336: Baby-Led Movement & Milestones with Eliza Parker

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Balanced Bites Podcast with Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Baby-Led Movement & Milestones with Eliza Parker Topics

  1. Introducing our guest, Eliza Parker [1:55]
  2. IDME and baby-led milestones [9:04]
  3. Baby propping devices [15:36]
  4. Examples of philosophy [24:46]
  5. Counsel and consultation [33:21]
  6. Paleo baby [40:17]
  7. Tummy time [46:03]
  8. Contacting Eliza for consultation [ 54:29]

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You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 336.

Liz Wolfe: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I'm Liz; a nutritional therapy practitioner, and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Eat the Yolks; The Purely Primal Skincare Guide; and the online program Baby Making and Beyond. I live on a farm in the mystical land of the Midwest, outside of Kansas City.

I'm the co-creator of the Balanced Bites Master Class, with my podcast partner in crime, Diane. We've been bringing you this award-winning podcast for more than 6 years. We're here to share our take on modern paleo living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week's episode, and submit your questions at or watch the Balanced Bites podcast Instagram account. You can ask us anything in the comments.

Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before we get started, let's hear from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I'm an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body's ability to heal. The NTA‘s NTP and NTC programs empower graduates with the education and skills needed to launch a successful, fulfilling career in holistic nutrition. To learn lots more about the NTA‘s nutritional therapy programs, go to Registration for our February NTP and NTC classes closes soon, so if you've been thinking about enrolling, now is the time. There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia, and a brand new NTC venue in Vancouver, Washington. So chances are you'll be able to find a venue that works for you.

1. Introducing our guest, Eliza Parker [1:55]

Liz Wolfe: Hi everyone! Liz here with a little prelude to today's episode. Today I'm going to interview one of the most impactful people in my life, whose help and counsel has not only completely changed the way I parent, but has also helped me personally and in immeasurable ways. This is an interview about babies and toddlers, not food. So it's a little outside what we normally discuss.

But as we know, nothing exists in a vacuum. How we move, how we raise our kids, what we know about how we move and how we raise our kids is a huge part of raising the collective consciousness. And whether you're a parent or not, I think this discussion might have an unexpected impact on your life. It certainly did for me. I've said many times that Eliza's work has really helped me reparent myself.

To be more concrete, we're going to talk about how babies move, how it affects them neurologically. And this goes for adults too. How modern life is messing with how babies move, and how we can empower proper motor and structural development with just a little bit of extra knowledge. So I hope you enjoy the show!

Liz Wolfe: My guest today is Eliza Parker. She is a certified infant development movement educator, aware parenting instructor, body-mind centering practitioner, and a trained Feldenkrais practitioner. Eliza respects babies as whole people who enter the world knowing how to communicate, learn, and self-heal within relationship. Her conscious baby practice employs a unique approach to baby-led “I can do it myself” milestone development as well as attunement to nonverbal cues and crying.

Eliza's life changing perspectives and respectful solutions towards common parenting questions transcend typical parenting advice. Her work addresses babies on the well baby spectrum and the those experiencing challenges, such as development delay.

Ok, that's Eliza's official bio. I'm going to give her a second bio that I wrote, because I have worked with Eliza over the last; my daughter is almost 3, and I think we started working together when my daughter was around 4 months old. We've worked together fairly consistently since then. So let me read her unofficial bio really quickly.

Eliza is an intuitive, insightful, amazingly aware, attuned, sensitive, extraordinary person who I would list as one of the top probably two or three people that have truly and completely changed my world for the better. And I'm not even just talking about this year, or this decade. I'm talking about my entire life. And I'm older than 30. Younger than 40, older than 30.

She brought a perspective to my life that was absolutely and completely life changing, both through her work in the emotional realm and helping me with my daughter's and my emotional needs. And by educating me on infant movement, which is so much more than just motor skills. How we move, how our physical bodies exist, is absolutely connected to our emotional lives. I feel like anyone who has ever had psoas work done probably knows this. But if I could give one gift to a new mom, it would be a session with Eliza.

Eliza set us on a path several years ago by teaching me what she did and without that, I don't know where we'd be. I really don't. And honestly I've talked a bit about Eliza in my parenthood Facebook post and a little bit online. But I haven't; it's been like 2.5 years since we started working together. So I have no real excuse other than I have no idea where that time went. And I've been intending to bring Eliza on the podcast, and talk about this more.

But I also feel like I knew that this information is so lifechanging, that once I actually shared it and started talking about it, it's basically going to become something huge and culture shifting. And I don't know; I feel like we're both ready for that. Would you agree, Eliza?

Eliza Parker: Oh yeah.

Liz Wolfe: Ok, good. I feel like I couldn't wrap my head around it for a minute, like how powerful this stuff is. But I think it's time to start talking about it. Because I've seen how powerful it is. People that I really respect, people that are in my professional community, have worked with you and seen. Just even in a session, where you're just like; wow. My perspective is totally different. And that changes everything in your external world. So it's been amazing.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. It's kind of the big picture. You can do the details, but it's an amazing big picture.

Liz Wolfe: Yes! Oh my gosh. I didn't want to go overboard and gush too much on this episode. But really and truly, you have been the catalyst for the most important aspects of how I parent. And I should have gotten my words together long ago. But like I said, I've been thinking about writing about this for a million years. There just aren't words for how much you did for us. So thank you for everything you've done.

Eliza Parker: You're welcome. Thank you for that amazing added bio. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: {laughing}

Eliza Parker: That just was beautiful, and your family is beautiful, and this work is amazing and beautiful. And yeah, pretty much life changing. World changing. Which is why I do it.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. So, this stuff is really, really powerful in many different ways. So I feel like we should probably state up front that this information might run a little bit contrary to what a lot of people are doing and have done. And that's ok. There's no judgement here. There's no shaming. There's no suggestion of wrongdoing. This is just information. And we feel like it's important so we want to start the discussion. So if people can just keep an open heart. See what might resonate. See what might fit into your life. I think that's the place to start. Do you have anything extra to add to that?

Eliza Parker: Yeah. And it kind of builds on what we were just talking about. But I will tend to talk pretty directly sometimes about things, but also I don't say any of this in judgement. I do feel like parents really need honest information. Because there's so much information given by the people who advertise baby products, who are not trained in movement and reflexes. And just that kind of thing. Just honest information.

And my invitation there is always; if you're doing things one way and you learn a new way that resonates with you, it's an invitation to shift or to heal something. Not to guilt trip. At least that will not come from me; the guilt trip part. But just an invitation to be like; hey, I learned something. What can we plug in now. And to trust the timing of when information comes to you in your life.

2. IDME and baby-led milestones [9:04]

Liz Wolfe: I love that. Well, you bring; I mean, your bio, we've already kind of put this out into the world. But you bring several things together in your practice. But today we're going to talk about movement and IDME. And we'll certainly have you back on again to talk about the other stuff. But today we're going to talk about movement. And I think we should start by having you explain; what is IDME?

Eliza Parker: Ok, sure. Beyond all those amazing life changing things we were talking about. IDME stands for infant developmental movement education. It comes from the body mind centering approach to somatic education, which is kind of in the alternative realm in the sense that it's a way to address our health and wellbeing through awareness and learning as opposed to treating symptoms.

So, all of this work was developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, who is an OT, occupational therapist, among many other things. IDME, the infant development part, is an application. It's the infant kind of part of BMC. Which actually, the body-mind centering work is all built on this infant work. Because, our first-year motor development patterns; reflexes and movement patterns are what set up the foundation for all human movement. So it's very, very foundational. And a child's early movement and touch experiences affect so many aspects of their lives. So that's kind of what we're looking at.

And we can distill it down into things like how to track and support motor development. It's baby-led milestones. And I'll explain baby-led more in a bit. So it's really understanding how milestones develop. Why each stage is important. Tips for ways to hold and move baby. And then it's also of course about so much more. Like bonding and regulating and wellbeing. Being in the world and feeling that it's a safe place. And that a child feels a sense of okay-ness and problem solving. A child's ability to relate to others. So it's all of that stuff too.

It's for babies on the well baby spectrum. So typically developing babies, around how to support motor development without pushing. And these handling tips. And then it also addresses motor challenges. And thirdly can be preventative. Sometimes signs of stress you can see very early when things might develop eventually into movement or learning challenges. So it kind of encompasses all of those things.

Liz Wolfe: And that's a lot of things. So I'm trying to decide what to home in on. I think maybe meeting. I'm thinking about where I was when you first introduced me to this information. So I'm thinking about meeting Liz where Liz was when this became important to me. Do you remember much about that? You can feel free to pull from our experience. But I feel like what stands out to me is this idea that babies need to be taught how to sit, and stand, and walk. And how maybe propping a baby or sitting a baby up, or maybe using devices might interfere with what is a natural imperative that babies have just naturally.

Eliza Parker: Great. And this is one of the potential trigger points for parents. So just so folks know. Here's a bit of the honest information part.

So when I met you, I believe your daughter was 5 months. Which is the perfect time when movement can start exploding. And I will circle back around to that in a second. But this piece that I think a lot of people actually aren't aware, and this comes as a surprise often to a lot of people. Babies don't actually need to be taught how to sit, stand, and walk. They will actually, in typical development, their natural reflex progression and movement progression will take them to sitting, standing, and walking.

It's a little different. Teaching them to sit, stand, and walk, it's like; you and I, as grownups. When we want to learn something new, we have to do it consciously. Like if we want to learn to tap dance, or play the piano, or ski. We actually have to practice doing that thing. For babies in the first year, their learning is what we call in IDME unconscious learning, or subconscious learning. Their reflexes and their movements; they're just going along be babies. Doing what they do. Interacting with gravity, and on the floor, and in movement. And then a reflex triggers, and a new movement pops open, and suddenly they're sitting up.

It's kind of this string of unconscious learning, so it's a very different type of learning than what we usually do as grownups. And I think that's part of the crossover for understanding. That I think it can be easy to assume that because we learn that way, that that's how babies are going to learn. That they need to practice sitting, standing, and walking. Or be taught how. When actually, doing that with them; and we'll get into this some more too.

But placing them in sitting, standing, and walking before they can get there themselves actually can cause some challenges and hinder their process. So this piece about, that babies their typical development will take them there, I think, is a new and surprising piece of information. Some babies still do need support, so it's not that none of them need support. But this is such a magical, magical piece. I can't even explain how magical this is to really follow baby-led development. And really watch the progression.

3. Baby propping devices [15:36]

Liz Wolfe: So what's interesting to me here is when we talk about; I don't know. I think in health we talk about this too. There are kind of different schools of health, right? And there's a philosophy, and I cannot remember if it's chiropractic or whatever it is. But it's a matter of removing the interference to enable the body to do what it wants to do. And when I think about this baby led, I think it's interesting. Because baby-led weaning is such a big thing right now. And we talk about baby-led milestones. And baby-led…

Eliza Parker: Play.

Liz Wolfe: Play, and all of that stuff. This makes so much sense that we're talking about this. It's an important piece. But I think you can't really educate people on babies do this themselves. I love how you talked about they interact with gravity. And there's a trigger or a precipitating event. And there's a new ability; a new thing. And all of these things kind of one builds on the next to go from; I move this way. I turn my head this way. And that's part of learning to roll over. And then I move my body this way. And that's part of learning to sit. And sitting is part of learning to stand. And standing is part of learning to walk.

Now, the impediment that comes to mind for me is all of the devices that were marketed. And I think to be fair, sometimes moms just need to put their babies in a device so they can take a shower. Or so they can answer the door. Or whatever it is. But like you were saying; these devices are also marketed sometimes in a somewhat I think disingenuous way where we feel like they're actually going to positively impact motor development. Like walkers, and whatever.

But when you're using those, you're kind of almost; I don't want to say. I want to be careful with my words here.

Eliza Parker: I'll still say it.

Liz Wolfe: Go ahead. Please.

Eliza Parker: Let me back up a little bit and just clarify some more about what I mean by baby-led, and then we'll look at the propping devices.

Liz Wolfe: Perfect.

Eliza Parker: OK. When I say baby-led, I kind of look at it as, there's baby-led and then there's parent-led. With the parent-led being putting them into positions. Or sitting them up. Or standing or walking them. So baby-led meaning, allowing them to find those milestone positions on their own without the use of devices or by holding them up habitually by hand.

And also when I talk about baby-led versus devices, I mean habitual use. So, if you have a 6-month-old who is not able to get herself up into sitting yet on her own, but you're doing solid foods. Like, that small amount of time sitting up to eat is ok. So we're not talking about militant view here. Or your in-laws come over and they stand your baby up, and they love on your baby. {laughs} Not so much that. Although it would be great if they didn't. What I mean is, a habitual and the majority of time being out of devices. There is some other cool stuff about baby-led.

But about the propping. So, what those propping devices do. Even if they say they promote development, or they help your baby learn how to sit or stand. This is specifically devices that hold your baby upright. So not talking about an inclined seat that has your baby on an incline leaning back. Although they still don't have the freedom of movement they would have on the floor. But it's not the propping devices that I'm specifically talking about.

Liz Wolfe: Think Bumbo or jumper or walker. That type of thing, right?

Eliza Parker: Or standing activity centers that are very popular. What those devices do is two things; contain the baby and it does it for them. So definitely, when you say; sometimes the temptation to use those is to put baby down in a safe place. Which is understandable. Mom, or dad, or caregiver is trying to go do something. Sometimes feel like the floor is dirty, or there is a dog or whatever. As we talk about this, I'll share some ideas too. What to do in place of putting them in a device.

But, those two things. They contain the baby, which means the baby is not getting as much free movement. Which means those reflexes aren't triggering naturally, don't have as much opportunity. And those reflexes; I keep referring to that. But it's that some of those; if you think of pulling your arm away from a hot stove. Or pushing someone away. Those, plus there's a whole ton more reflexes. But those reflexes carve pathways for the movement patterns in the first year, which open up three-dimensional movement. So that's why that's important.

So that's the one thing. And then the other thing is that the device does it for them. So an upright chair, for instance, holds them in the position. And if you look at it as, that's actually the key to this, you just have to kind of shift your thinking around it. It's like; if a chair or an activity center has to hold the baby up because the baby can't do it yet herself, that's what we want to look at. Actually, if the baby can't do it yet herself, then we want to look for; what is it that she can do, and let her do that. Like lie on the floor. We'll talk some more about floor time. But lying down, back, tummy, side. That's what she can do.

I want to go back to this very cool thing that might take us in a different direction. But it's related to this doing it for them. One fascinating piece to this is when we put them in a device, or hold them in a position habitually with their hands, this thing about doing it for them. Their experience in that case is; I need you to do this for me. For a baby, and baby-led development, who finds sitting completely on her own. Or who finds standing. Or walks for the first time ever, completely on her own, that baby's experience is; “I can do this myself. Look what I did.”

And again, reminder. This can be another trigger so this is not at all in judgement. But hear this kind of honest look at what we're doing; at what we think we're doing when we want to encourage and help our kids. But if you look at that and you pull that patterning, or that way of being forward into the future into your child going to school. Learning skills. Learning math, learning to read, anything they might come across. If you go forward kind of with the experience of; I need you to do it for me. Versus I can this myself. We really see this when we work with children. And even grownups.

I have a colleague who has shared; I was one of those babies who was not only sat, but things were brought to her. She never had to go get anything. And she kind of had to actually work through that as an adult. So these things carry over. So then it's not just school learning, but then it's relationships and communication skills. So that's kind of how this.

It's like; we can talk about it does apply to the very day to day level of having a baby. What do you do; you've just got to put your baby down. But then it applies to this big picture, whole life kind of thing.

Liz Wolfe: And how I don't want people to hear that is; if I use a Bumbo my baby's not going to have good relationships when they're 26.

Eliza Parker: Yeah, no.

Liz Wolfe: It's not that. This is like; let's empower a different; let's open this channel. Let's open this channel. And let's have these opportunities available to us.

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

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4. Examples of the philosophy [24:46]

Eliza Parker: Another way I talk about these things is about options. So it's having options. So if you've already propped, or used the Bumbo, or standing activity center, or even if you have an older baby and you did it, it's just like; let's open the door and create options. What are some other ways that you can add to what you're doing. Because habits can leave you feeling stuck. And at the same time as sharing this information, and kind of really taking this honest look at what we're doing with our children. There's also; how can you start changing a habit and working with that. How can you start shifting your thinking?

I feel like also this is an invitation not to be like; this is right and this is wrong. This is good and this is bad. Eliza said I should or shouldn't. There is some information out there that you need to know. But also, you don't have to approach these things through I should or shouldn't. If you can take a mindset of; let's create some options. Let's start opening this up and start shifting. Then you kind of give yourself some more freedom to walk into change. And really being honest with yourself about, what do I want to promote with my child? How do I want to raise my child? What foundations to I want to build for her learning skills, etc.

Liz Wolfe: So when we started working with you. And when I recommend you to people, I don't say; oh, Eliza gave us this list of things to do, and they changed our life. {laughs} I say; she was the catalyst for a complete shift in consciousness. And then other things started to make sense. And it all kind of went from there. Kind of like how babies learn to move. It's one small thing, and then another thing, and that leads to another thing.

So it's totally that shift. It's not like; you're going to give people 10 exercises. So in a way it kind of requires people to live in this nuance. This space of context and nuance, where we tend to like things black and white.

Eliza Parker: Yep. {laughs} I often actually have parents who are telling me; just tell me what to do! And I'm like …

Liz Wolfe: I know.

Eliza Parker: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: I mean, that was me. That's what I wanted from you.

Eliza Parker: You're not the only one. It's just, sometimes I can give you; ok do these three things. But sometimes it's like; this is really about a way of living and a way of being. Which, I think is the key. I think; I know we're all so busy, etc. But I think there's a key to this. How are we going to raise children to be society members in the world? And that requires kind of a shift of thinking sometimes for some of us, anyway.

It's about the day to day things. But it's also about the bigger picture. And if you “just” shift your bigger picture thinking, then these how-to. Just tell me what to do. Those kinds of things will fall into place.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. It becomes a lot more intuitive.

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: When you're just kind of working from a list of just tell me what to do, it's kind of like looking in the windows of a house. Whereas when you have that kind of overall shift in consciousness, I guess. It's, like you said, having the key and actually just getting in the house through the door. It's like; now you're in a different space and things change.

But maybe we can indulge people a little bit, and you could give maybe some examples of what this type of philosophy might look like during the course of a normal day. One of the things you gave us was how to pick her up and put her down.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. So, here's a fact about me. I've worked as a nanny a lot. So I've had a total of like 25 or some many babies. And what that did for me is; how do you make this a part of your daily life. Which is funny because I was just talking about; but it's the big picture. And now I'm going to be like; but it's your daily life! {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: {laughs}

Eliza Parker: Which also is typical Eliza. So really, how do you put these things into daily things with your baby so that it's not a therapy session. Like tummy time, for instance.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah, I have a note to talk about that, by the way. {laughs}

Eliza Parker: {laughs} That could be an enormous conversation. But, tummy time is usually prescribed with understandable reasons. But I like to make this much more about how can you weave it naturally into daily life. And one of those things is, there are some really cool handling tips.

So, putting your baby down, picking your baby up. The cool thing behind that is that babies will develop habits in their body and their being by how we hold and move and interact with them. Another way to say that is we pattern babies by how we hold and move them. Which means that some of how they develop, some of their body habits will develop around the ways that we handle them.

So it's really about some of the very, very common ways to pick a baby up and put him down. Actually will encourage the baby to brace. You'll see the baby kind of brace their shoulders or tense up their shoulders in order to be picked up. So this is about kind of how to bypass that, so you bypass that tension becoming habitual. But you also bypass the startle response and you use really good movement mechanics. Just like a chiropractor or a Feldenkrais practitioner might teach.

But then also, the other super cool thing about this is that for every stage of motor development, whether it's your baby lying down or a baby who can sit on her own. Or a baby who knows how to stand and crawl and kneel. At every stage, there is a corresponding tip for putting them down, picking them up, that follow development and supports what they're already doing, without pushing them ahead. So that's one thing.

But maybe another thing that's actually kind of more graspable and immediately usable is to think about coming down to baby's level. So we talk about not propping, because propping is going to bring your baby up higher. If we look at level, in terms of if your baby is lying down or if you're lying down on the floor, what you're aware of when you look around. Kind of your range, your sensory range. Versus if you're sitting, what you're aware of, versus if you're standing. Then you're aware of even more.

So, what I think in society, as grownups, we are accustomed to being upright, so it's easy to automatically bring the baby up to us, upright. But here's another one of those shifts in thinking. Rather than always bringing the baby up to you; think about in play times actually bringing yourself down to baby's level. So if you're baby is younger and not able to get herself into sitting yet, then go on down to the floor. So I hereby grant all parents permission to lie down on the floor. {laughs}

So thinking of baby's level. Whatever your baby's natural level is, to go down and match that. And go down, lie on the floor with your baby, so that he or she can see you. Make eye contact. Play down there together some at baby's level. So it's another shift in thinking.

5. Counsel and consultation [33:21]

Liz Wolfe: So, one of the things that you; and I'm sorry, were you going to go on to something else? Did I interrupt?

Eliza Parker: No. I left a pause because there's a million more things I could say.

Liz Wolfe: I know! It's so hard. And I was one of those people. I couldn't figure out how to hold my kid. So I just kind of held her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes {laughing} from very early on. But one of the cool things that I learned. Not even that I learned, but it just ended up happening as we started to incorporate some of what you taught me. Was that I was making a lot more eye contact. Because when she was kind of slung over my shoulder, there wasn't a whole lot of eye contact between the two of us. And as I kind of learned different ways to pick up and put down, I felt like I would kind of check in with her by making eye contact more than I had previously. So that was something pretty cool.

Eliza Parker: Mm-hmm. And again, this is not to say at all that it's wrong to hold your baby on your shoulder. It's also a very common way to hold a baby. But just kind of add in some options. And I think the thing, too, about this work. The IDME work. Is that everything is child centered and relationship centered. So like you said, it gave you an opportunity to interact with her when you put her down on her side, and picked her up. Gave you the eye contact.

And I think, too, babies will develop habits whether we do this consciously or not with them. But I think doing it consciously, making some of these choices, gives you that extra piece of interaction and eye contact and letting your child know what you're about to do. Those kinds of things.

Liz Wolfe: And it's such a two-way street. One of the things that we talked about a little bit; and that you talk about. And I know this is probably taking a whole other tangent. But one of the things that you have talked about pretty extensively in your work is tummy time. And tummy time becomes; it's prescribed and then it becomes something almost that you do to the baby.

Eliza Parker: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: And it's not that relationship that you're talking about. Would you agree with that?

Eliza Parker: Yeah. I feel like the tummy time thing can get shoved down parents' throats sometimes, which I hate. And there are so many aspects to that. But the relationship piece to that, I feel like part of that too that can come into play there is many babies now are not comfortable on their tummies because of babies being on their backs so much, and not liking their tummies. Tummy time has now become prescribed. And that is something that pediatricians will recommend.

And I think that, too, is what I mean by plugging the stuff into daily life versus you've got to do it as a therapy time or as a chore time with your baby. That's some of these things when they're prescribed like this, can become; it's like a chore you have to do. It's like; now there's a task you've got to do to your baby. Even if they don't like it.

In IDME, yes very much tummy time is important because it triggers so many reflexes when they're in relationship with gravity and the floor. But at the same time, it is not at all about forcing it. And then there are actually; I personally would say there are a couple of things that are more important than tummy time. Including how they get into and out of it. I feel like it's all of those things, and all based in relationship. I feel like that's the important piece that sometimes gets lost in common cultural practices.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. One of the things, one of the tools you used with us to help us understand some of these things. Because we worked with you via Skype. You do Skype consultations and you have a little baby doll. And you would actually show me different ways to pick her up, and how to put her down. This was at a couple of different stages that we worked together on this. And sometimes, via Skype, you're just watching. You're just watching the baby move, and just really getting to know where they are and kind of how to start.

So you gave me a ton of very specific examples and you showed me with the doll. So all of this is very; it's distributed in a concrete way. You give starting points. You give examples. You give counsel. It's not just a matter of; “You shouldn't be doing that and you should be doing this. Good luck.” {laughs}

Eliza Parker: {laughs} Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes it can take practice because you kind of have to reorient your thinking and your own habits.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. It did very much for me, by the way. I think you probably remember that. {laughs}

Eliza Parker: {laughs} But again, that just speaks to how much we pattern ourselves and our babies around how we hold and move them. Which is why we look at these things so much.

So, just to give people an idea. Because I've been pretty vague about how when you said how to pick up and put down. And this is not to say that a parent does not know how to hold their own child.

Liz Wolfe: I didn't! {laughs}

Eliza Parker: {laughs} So, I'm not going to go into the full description because it's a little hard to explain just with voice, and it's kind of multifaceted. But the starting point, if you have a younger baby. And kind of tying it into tummy time, is the side. Being on the side is such an important place. And for your baby to be able to roll into tummy time and out of tummy time gives your baby a feeling, sense, of how they're going to get in and out of it. So they're able to see and feel that they're not stuck there. It uses the pathway that they're going to use to get in and out of it.

So this tip for if you're going to go into tummy time, putting your baby down on the side and then going into tummy time. It's this kind of; that kind of tip that it just takes a little reorienting of your thinking. But then once you do so, makes a ton of sense. And then once you have those kinds of basic things plugged in. And again, it's kind of that way of thinking. Everything just makes so much sense. And everything follows from there naturally.

6. Paleo baby [40:17]

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. I think one of the really interesting things about; a lot of people come to us from the paleo, evolutionary, fitness and health community. They come to our podcast via that channel. And to contextualize this, the way I would look at it is. Paleo and a more natural evolutionarily appropriate diet; it's looking at, how's the world structured. We're kind of put into these constraints. So we've got processed food, and different ways food is prepared. All of these boxes that are kind of set out for us. And that's how the world is structured.

The paleo philosophy asks; how is the world structured versus how are we meant to live. And those can be two very different things. So a lot of us, I feel like, are living in that preset; I don't know. Premade set of rules and regulations and opportunities and devices and all of that stuff. And yet, the body actually doesn't naturally work within those constraints.

Eliza Parker: Yeah, that's a great way to put it. There is kind of a premade motor development, and then there's kind of your typical baby-led progression of motor development. And the link that I see, too, between this and a paleo lifestyle is kind of; getting rid of the additives and stuff and kind of going back to the old way.

Which, it's like, all these devices that didn't exist. What happened with babies when all these devices didn't exist? Just kind of going back to fundamentals and letting nature happen.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. And it's a really cool process to observe.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. To bring in some fun and light here, it's so, so fun. It's so fun to watch babies progress in this way. And just the amount of joy and confidence that babies will tend to have when raised this way. Again, it's not that baby's not raised this way will not have joy and confidence. It's just; when you can really watch this process and really watch a baby go through exploring and learning and finding this on their own. And then just the enormous amount of thrill that both of you get from watching it happen.

And then just as they get older, and they're walking and running, and seeing how steady they are on their feet. And how much good core control they have. They're not flip flopping around. They tend to fall less. They tend to be safer; they tend to be quite safe. Because they're really; here's kind of a little tangent again.

But when a baby develops from the ground up, so to speak. When they are little, and they're lying on the floor and they learn how to push up. Push their head up. And then they push backwards and pivot in a circle and belly crawl and then they come up to hands and knees. It's like; each stage, their brain gets to measure the distance from the floor. So when they learn to push their head up, the brain is like; I'm feeling my body in relation to the floor and space. And I'm this far from the floor.

And then they come up to hands and knees, and the brain has measured all this time that distance. So their brain and their body is like; now I'm this far from the floor. So all this time they're gaining this wisdom, this movement literacy. These smarts around movement, and their proprioception. Which is understanding subconsciously, or unconsciously, where their body is in space. And so they grow up with this really keen sense of their own movement and their own body. So they tend to kind of be safe in that way. Safer. And not fall as much. And just really have a beautiful sense of movement and skill in movement.

And again, like we're talking about movement. But this also relates to their ability to move toward and away. Which is like; on a physical level, is towards and away from something. But on a psychological level, moving towards and away from what you want, or from what you don't want. {laughs} So it's like all these things have these bigger parallels. So that was my tangent there.

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7. Tummy time [46:03]

Liz Wolfe: So I have a quick question. And then I want to talk a little bit about crawling. And then I'm going to have to actually ask you my question about crawling, because I want to contextualize it in a certain way. {laughs}

But my question is; I feel like a lot of parents right now might be thinking. “Well, what if they're pissed?” {laughs} What if they're down on the floor, and they're pissed, and you pick them up and they stop crying. Let's explore that.

Eliza Parker: {laughs} What do you mean? Do you mean they're pissed because they can't quite move and get what they want? Or they want to be a part of things?

Liz Wolfe: Maybe both. So I'm just envisioning a baby that's on the floor, and is upset for whatever reason. Maybe I'm thinking of a parent who has their kid in tummy time, and they're ticked off and they're crying.

So I'm envisioning what I did with my kid, which was; she doesn't like being on the ground on her back playing. Or playing on her tummy. She doesn't like that floor time. So rather than getting down on the floor with her, like you talked about before. And even if I was on the floor with her, she still might be expressing some upset.

So what I would do. And this kind of ties in some of the emotional aware parenting stuff that you and I consulted on, as well. Which would be for another podcast. But we might have to take a quick, dip our toe in that pool quickly. So any time she would get upset, and I would pick her up and prop her upright, she would stop being upset. So can we explore that quickly. Like maybe the more; not appropriate, but maybe trying on a different response to that type of situation that maybe takes into account the strong feelings that baby is having without necessarily swooping in and taking them out of that comportment.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. So, this kind of takes us into; is the baby simply frustrated in a developmentally typical way. Meaning; they're on the verge of something, and there's a toy they want, and they can't quite get it. On that level, some amount of frustration is normal and healthy because it propels us to the next stage.

Is it that, or is the baby uncomfortable? Are they protesting because they're uncomfortable? And I personally feel extremely strongly that if a baby is crying, there's a reason. And if a baby is protesting tummy time, there's a reason. So it's not about forcing a baby into tummy time. But it's also not about avoiding it.

But let's look at what is that about. So sometimes, this will then kind of take us into the realm of aware parenting and crying in arms. But sometimes a cry is needed so babies will; if a baby is crying beyond immediate needs. So that type of crying; crying is also a stress release mechanism. It's how they process their experiences, like birth. It's how they release stress. So sometimes they need to let off some steam. And sometimes a position like this. Like if you're in tummy time, maybe they can't see you. Or you happen to be doing something and you're not on eye level. Or it's just kind of uncomfortable. Or they're tired or whatever. It can trigger that cry to come up. So there's that piece.

But then there's also; so it's kind of like, kind of gauging. Is it a situation where we, as the grownup, can go down and be with them and listen? Is there a way that we can shift the situation, not necessarily completely take them out of it? There are times to completely take them out of it. But then there are times like; could I shift this by just rolling you on your side and staying down here with you and listening. Or do you need to be picked up.

And then also, if a baby is uncomfortable, and that's why they're crying, there are ways to kind of back up. So also the IDME work is about providing support that will allow the baby to then be comfortable, or to do whatever is next for them. So if tummy time is a challenge, is there a way to; how can we back up to something that's going to give them the support they need. In which case, you stop doing that tummy time, and do something else that will help them on the way to tummy time. I'm not sure that; did that answer your question?

Liz Wolfe: I think it does. I think maybe what I was thinking about was a lot of parents are like; well if I did that, they'd be pissed. And my thought is, maybe there's something else there. Maybe it's not so much we have to avoid going from the Bumbo to the floor, because baby's not pissed in the Bumbo, and she's ticked off on the floor.

So maybe kind of moving through that objection by maybe being there. Getting down close and listening for a minute. Or like you were saying; maybe shifting from one position to something that is a lead in to that position. Which makes total sense. Not just swooping in and saying; ok we're done. You're sitting up again.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. Well, ok, it's a little different if you have a baby who is used to being sat up. Or stood up. And you want to switch over to a more baby-led approach. So if you're baby is used to be sat or stood but she can't get into sitting or standing herself. Sometimes, if you take that baby down and try to put them on the floor, you will get some protest. And again, some of that is going to be that they're used to being upright. They want to see you. And some of that is going to be letting off some steam.

And it might even be, we haven't talked about this yet, but being placed in those upright positions can be very sensory overwhelming. Because our senses develop in tandem with our movement. And they may seem to like it. They often seem to like it, and even request being upright. But in actuality, it can be very overwhelming because it's more than their body or their brain can actually process. So it's stimulating, but it's more than they can process.

So for all these reasons, sometimes when you take that baby and try to put them down, you may have an adjustment period. It depends on your baby and where they are and what they're doing. But there can be this adjustment period where they just might need to tell you about it some and need your listening ear while you stay there with them.

But then it's also; is there something that's authentically uncomfortable? What I find from working with parents with this is that; yes, in this ideal scenario of, again, not judgmental. But this scenario of baby-led development, what you want is the baby in whatever their natural level is. At the same time, when you start making changes with that baby, sometimes it's going to be easy and seamless, because some babies will just take to it naturally and start doing their thing. And then other babies will be used to being upright and just kind of want to pow wow with you down on the floor.

8. Contacting Eliza for consultation [54:29]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. Oh my gosh. There's just so much. This is such a huge topic and we're trying to encapsulate it in 50 minutes, and that's impossible. But I guess I would ask you, what else do you want us to know about IDME and about baby-led?

Eliza Parker: One thing I want to say, back to the touch and movement thing. A child's early movement and touch experiences really affect so many areas of a child's life. They're the first ways a child learns about himself and the world. And that this is one way that parents can make a huge difference in their child's life.

Which is so cool, that you can kind of plug in some of these foundations just in the way that you hold and move your baby. Or just in the way that you allow them to find these milestones. Which is very cool. And again, it's really taking in this honest look at; are we doing what we think we're doing with our babies.

But another thing I might want to just bring up is I often will hear folks talking about; babies know best. Babies will do whatever they need to on their own. So I want to kind of address that a little bit.

This is sometimes said in conjunction with propping, with babies being propped up in devices. And that's kind of its own thing. Because we didn't talk about this quite as much, either. But when they're propped up, before they can get into the position, the brain really has to protect itself. So if they have small falls, even if they're contained in a device, their reflexes will kick in. And that can affect whether or not they crawl, etc.

So kind of aside from that effect, the baby knows best thing is that; yes, most will find some or all of their milestones regardless. But also, no not necessarily. Not if a movement is stuck for whatever reason. There are all kinds of reasons. So if they don't have the freedom to move, that can be a part of this picture. But also there are other things that are completely out of our control. It might be the baby's position in the womb, where one foot was tucked in. Or we may not even know. But for some reason, sometimes a reflex doesn't trigger and they don't find the belly crawling forward. Or they'd crawl but with two hands, one knee, and one foot up.

So when there's a spot like this for the baby, it's not a conscious decision for the baby. And sometimes a little bit of respectful and noninvasive support and facilitation can help some of those spots to open up. So baby knows best; again, it's kind of a shift in thinking. It's like, innately, yes. A typically progressing baby does know best. But the layer on top of that is that sometimes these things get stuck, for whatever reason. And there are very respectful ways to address that and to kind of help support.

And again, it's not at all about forcing anything. And I think that baby knows best comes out of, honestly, good-hearted attempt at trying not to force babies. Which I absolutely agree with. And this is kind of taking a whole different perspective in that, even with everything I've said, it's still not about forcing them. But are there things that we can do that will actually open up doors for them in order to find their full movement. To actually have access to their full movement, and their full potential? As cliché as that sounds, it's completely true. To really open up those spots so they have freedom of movement and expression and communication and all that.

Liz Wolfe: And I'll say; I didn't have a particular reason to work with you on the IDME stuff. I just felt like it would be good stuff to know. I probably; I came to you for a different reason originally; to talk to you about the aware parenting piece, as you call it. But I also felt like I understood that the physical movement, that realm, would have some interplay with the other stuff that I had come to you about. So I'm going to ask you, when parents should reach out to you. But I also want people to know; there might be a reason that you're wanting to reach out to Eliza about this type of thing. But you can also just reach out out of just interest about what you might be able to do differently or better.

Eliza Parker: Yeah. That's great, too. Thanks for bringing that up. So one realm of inquiries in parents that I work with is just what you say; those who are curious, and just want to know what to do to support their development. How to track milestones. And kind of get set up.

Because when I teach a baby class, I call it first year foundations. Because it's these little things, again, that are day by day but they set up all these great foundations. Confidence, and communication skills, and interacting with the world, and movement, and actually even lower back health and hip and joint health ongoing. True story about back health through life. And those kinds of things.

So sometimes yes, it's definitely curiosity and interest and intrigue about ways to support your baby in this kind of baby-led, gentle parenting approach. And then the other realm that I work with often is when there's either a gut feeling. So this is; I'm a huge supporter of, it's usually the mom. Mom's will have a gut feeling about something, but then you might ask your family or the pediatrician even. You may get feedback saying; don't worry, they'll grow out of it. Your child will grow out of it. It's fine. Don't worry about it. But yet, you have a gut feeling. If you have a gut feeling about something, that's one category of parents to definitely reach out.

And then, the other thing is when there's an obvious challenge. Like when the baby is not rolling. Or you see motor delay. So that kind of leads me into the rest of when to reach out.

So when to reach out is those things. But also things like; if tummy time is not enjoyable, skipping milestones. Your baby is using one side and not the other. Like one arm and not the other. Or belly crawls, but only with one leg and not the other. And even things like a difficult birth sometimes can come into play here. Or things like, your baby is on the floppier side and can't really seem to get going. Or your baby is on the tense side, and just for some reason seems tense. Things like arching a lot. Also scooting on the bottom, or crawling with one foot up. There's ways that we can support that respectfully through play.

And then sometimes these things are new to parents, but things like your baby prefers to be held up and standing is a time to reach out. Or your baby rolls to travel distance. I don't mean just rolling, but I mean, will roll from one place in the room to the other to travel a distance. Instead of pushing on the tummy. Or your baby sits but doesn't roll. Even if your baby doesn't want to cuddle.

All of those things. Especially if you have a gut feeling and you don't even know why. And all of these situations, just sometimes a movement doesn't pop open and there are some very respectful, noninvasive ways that we can provide support. And it's through play. It's always through following your baby's own motivation. So what is it that they are after. What are they trying to do, and how can we actually come in and build support so that they can then find it on their own?

Liz Wolfe: Perfect. Well, I think that's what we're going to have to close it on today. But I do want to talk to you again and record with you about maybe crawling, and about diapers and motor development, and all of that fun stuff, if you're up for that.

Eliza Parker: Love to. Yeah. Let's do it.

Liz Wolfe: Alright we will do that. Alright folks, that's it for this week. You can find me, Liz, at and you can find Eliza at She also has a Facebook page, and you can find her posts about infant motor development under the blog categories motor development and baby-led versus parent-led. You can also go to the show notes if you need to just click over to her website. You can go to the Balanced Bites podcast show notes, and just click over to Conscious Baby from there. Remember to join our email lists for free goodies and updates that you don't find anywhere else on our website. While you're on the internet, leave us an iTunes review. See you next week.

Comments 3

  1. Interesting episode! I agree with most things on the podcast especially not using devices for baby development, however as I’m interested in the paleo approach I have been reading the book ‘Hunter Gatherer Childhoods’ as recommended by Katy Bowman in her Paleo Parenting course, and there are a few contradictions I would love your opinion on. The main one being that observations on various hunter-gatherer tribes show that babies would be held in the position of standing from a very early age (weeks old) as well as bouncing and stretching babies to help them along with development. They also deliberately teach babies to sit and walk and one tribe said if they were not taught the babies bones would remain ‘soft’. Babies in these tribes would be walking by around 7 months old and be a lot further ahead than our Western babies are expected to be. They are also held a lot and not put on the ground very much before they can walk because it can be potentially dangerous when living outside. What are your thoughts?

  2. Pingback: Interviews About Milestones • Conscious Baby

  3. Pingback: Baby-led Milestones & Crawling - Interviews with Liz Wolfe - Transcripts available • Conscious Baby

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