Developmental Movement Patterns That Carry Us Through Life

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As a Family Health Coach, a big part of the work I do with my clients is educating and helping with their baby’s development.

Whether that be physical development through reaching milestones, helping with introduction to solids and other feeding concerns, or even helping navigate through their baby’s sleep development. As babies grow up, into big kids, I also work with them on more specific development of fine and gross motor skills, as well as development of social-emotional regulation skills, attention, focus, and more, so that they can become functioning little humans and reach their highest potential in their daily lives.

Today I wanted to talk about physical development, and specifically about the 4 main developmental movement patterns that help us achieve our motor milestones, and literally carry us through life.

  1. Naval Radiation

  2. Homologous Movement

  3. Homolateral Movement

  4. Contralateral Movement

1.Naval Radiation

Let’s start with Naval Radiation…

This is the pattern you will notice when baby is first born. Their breath and movements are initiated from the middle of their bodies, at their navel (aka belly button). This has been the centre for baby’s nourishment and connection to mom for 9-10 months in utero, so it is no wonder that this is where the movement begins!

2.Homologous Movement

The second movement pattern to develop is called homologous movement, which means from head to tail. Examples of this include:

  • lifting of both feet towards the mouth

  • lifting of the head and chest in tummy time

  • pushing the arms/hands into the floor to lift head and reach with eyes

  • lifting the bum slightly in tummy time (like an awkward down dog attempt or the “knees, chest, chin” yoga pose)

3.Homolateral Movement

The third developmental movement pattern is homolateral development

Homolateral means ‘same side’. This can be seen when baby:

  • reaches for his/her foot and tries to get it in their mouth (same side of body)

  • reaches with one arm/hand when on tummy

  • is creeping (aka army crawling) on belly.

  • later on, as babies become bigger kids this pattern is seen with jumping jacks.

4.Contralateral Movement

And last but not least, the fourth pattern is called the contralateral movement pattern. This one is an important one for brain development and crawling!

Contralateral movement means that opposite sides of the body are working together and that one can cross midline (ie. reaching with the right hand, across the body, for a toy on the left side). Crossing midline is an important milestone in and of itself, as it triggers the transmission of information, crossing a structure in the brain called the corpus colosum. This structure allows information to be passed from the left brain to the right brain and vice versa, essentially allowing the two sides of the brain to ‘talk to each other’.

Some examples of contralateral movements are:

  • grabbing the opposite foot

  • crawling hands/knees

  • walking

These 4 movement patterns underlie our motor development. It is important to note that an individual can go back through these developmental movement patterns again and again in life to relearn them and retrain the brain, through something called neuroplasticity. Pretty cool, right?

These are all concepts that we learn about and practice in my Babies @ Play classes, which are mom & baby classes focused on infant development, through songs, playful activities, bonding with baby, and of course FUN, in an inviting and safe space.