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Dynamic Baby Gymnastics Creates Controversy

No Dynamic Baby Gymnastics here!

Gymnastics could not be further from the thoughts of this little one! (A stock photo.)

A controversial video of a mother swinging her baby around, was banned recently by YouTube. They removed the high popularity video from their website, after a home-recorded video recorded by a Russian Mum, created outrage for showing what she described as “dynamic baby exercises” performed on her child of only 2 weeks old.

Reportedly, much heavy criticism from western viewers was evident in the comments to the video. In fact the reaction was so strong that news of the short clip had been spreading virally, and it was receiving a huge number of viewings.

In this morning’s instalment of “From Our Own Correspondent”, BBC reporter Tony Grant describes in one of his despatches, how she was seen swinging a baby around her head by its feet, and many people were appalled. However, the technique is known to its advocates as “dynamic baby gymnastics” and quite commonly practised in Russia and the Eastern Block.

The BBC correspondent became curious and undertook some of his own research, which he describes in his dispatch, because he could not find anything available on the subject elsewhere. He says that he has found that there are some hundreds of experts in Russia and other Eastern Block states who earn their living as dynamic baby gymnastics experts.

It seems that, although the act of swinging and catching looks extremely dangerous, and likely to cause injury or joint dislocation in very young babies, it is perfectly legal, and done for the perceived benefits to the baby. These are not callous parents disregardful of the safety of their offspring, quite the contrary. The belief is that these exercises, help the baby to relax after the trauma of birth, and to become familiar with its new environment.

Mothers see the exercises as part of an upbringing which will invigorate their children and inspire them to become gregarious and outgoing and ultimately very highly fulfilled individuals. They say that when the exercising is done by, or under close supervision from, an expert in baby gymnastics, it is not unsafe, and not in any way injurious to the baby. This is not a new practice either and has been a traditional part of the way of life in many countries, with a percentage of parents applying the technique across the generations.

In fact, Tony Grant has managed to find and speak to the mother who produced the original controversial YouTube video and she feels, quite naturally that she has been completely unfairly criticised. Rather than acquiesce with YouTube for their removal of the video, which one would have thought might have been her most likely reaction given the heavy criticism in the comments to her video, she apparently regrets the removal. She continues to support her actions and the thinking behind dynamic baby gymnastics, as normal parenting.

Tony Grant says that, from this point, he wanted to know whether in fact these exercise methods were supported by the Russian medical authorities. So, he made some calls and found that the view was that although not encouraged, it was not advised against either.  Such parenting could quite clearly tend to raise the risk of injury to the child if dropped, or excises are preformed too violently. If during swinging the baby he or she impacted a hard object there could, in a small minority of cases, be serious injury.

Child safety experts both internationally, and many in Russia as well, he reports, hold the view that it is an inadvisable risk to expose a child to. However, in Russia and other nations in the sub-continent they are more inclined culturally to believe that the benefits make these actions worthwhile.

So, isn’t it time that someone in Russia where this practise is going on, undertakes some basic research? Research is needed on the technique to establish whether, when an adequately large sample of babies are studied through childhood, these seemingly quite violent exercises do provide the benefits claimed. Furthermore, are those benefits substantial enough to merit the extra risk of injury from swinging and throwing such young lives around?

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