What impact do modern parents’ behaviours have on the early physical development and maturity of infants? This question is being answered in a ground-breaking Western Australian study.
The I-Chat study is investigating the influence of parents’ caregiving and the physical activities that babies do each day on the development of the baby’s head shape and movement abilities.
Ms Beaton, a paediatric physiotherapist with more than 30 years of clinical experience, will observe the daily caregiving routines of more than 150 families who live in the Perth metropolitan area. Over a 10 month period Ms Beaton will schedule regular meetings with parents to document their child’s daily activity and development.
“Over the course of my career, I have observed a significant change in the way parents and caregivers move and position their babies, following the implementation of the extremely important sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) prevention message of ‘back to sleep’,” Ms Beaton said.
“Many young babies are spending long periods of their waking day, as well as all their sleep time, lying on their backs. This could make vulnerable infants experience changes in their head shape or delay their mobility.”
Ms Beaton hopes that the results of her research will assist in the redesign of educational resources given to parents. These resources provide information which may reduce the incidence of plagiocephaly (a misshaped head) and motor milestone delays that are experienced by many babies.
This scientifically-based information aims to decrease the emotional and financial impact placed upon families by these conditions, building confidence in parents to handle and play with their babies in ways that benefit their development.
“This infant care practice has reduced the opportunity for many babies to experience the natural protective handling behaviours that parents are able to provide for their baby in the first six months which can resolve mild neck muscle conditions, preferred head turns, and lets the baby explore a variety of postures and movements that are essential for the development of head control, balance and independent mobility,” Ms Beaton said.
Parents can participate in the I-Chat study if they can speak and read English; their baby is born full-term and healthy; they are planning to live in the Perth metropolitan area in the first year after their baby is born; and they provide written consent to have their details recorded and used for study purposes. Candidates may withdraw from the study at any time.
(Source: The University of Notre Dame – Australia)