“Baby flying” course shocks parents, country’s paediatricians


Many television viewers in the Czech Republic this week were shocked by a Czech TV broadcast reporting on a highly controversial and until now largely unknown method of exercising with newborns, so-called baby flying, offered by a children’s centre in the Czech capital. Images in the report showed naked babies being swung or twirled through the air by their parents – sometimes holding their child by just the legs or by a leg and an arm. Proponents say the exercises benefit babies’ health, but paediatricians are warning the opposite – that the method poses considerable health risks.

The “Baby flying” method was known by relatively few until this week, now the situation has radically changed: on Tuesday public broadcaster Czech TV broadcast images which had been captured on hidden camera, showing course teacher Blanka Kolářová-Sudíková and other parents swinging their babies through the air. According to Czech TV, the youngest child was just three weeks old. Not surprisingly the images shocked many, including the country’s paediatricians, who have warned the unusual exercise method puts babies at manifold risk, everything from dislocated joints to the threat of shaken baby syndrome, which can lead to brain damage or even death. A little earlier I spoke to Hana Cabrnochová, a Prague-based paediatrician who says parents need to be warned about the controversial method:

“Czech paediatricians have come out against this method across the board, everyone from surgeons to neurologists. There are dangers: every child is different and it’s impossible to say that even safe physical activities are suitable for all, let alone something like this. Newborns especially need a calm and reassuring environment, and this is the exact opposite. Swinging can have a very unnerving effect. A great deal of damage can be caused by this method, from joint problems to damage to the nervous system to shaken baby syndrome.”

Blanka Kolářová-Sudíková
For her part, instructor Blanka Kolářová-Sudíková maintains there is nothing wrong with “baby flying”, which she told the media she had learned from a Ukrainian midwife eight years ago; she also expressed disappointment Czech TV had not contacted her directly, saying she had never made any secret of her courses. I spoke with her a little earlier and asked her about the aim of the controversial method:

“Parents learn how to do it in a three-hour course and it helps them to connect more closely with their children. Parents are constantly under pressure not to make any mistakes in handling their children and this course helps them: they see that the babies are okay and are reacting well. The method helps a baby’s blood circulation and reduces tension and over eight years of practicing it I have never had any problems. My own kids did baby flying. I understand that the images can appear shocking but the moves are practiced and paediatricians who have firsthand experience know that the method can help.”

But most paediatricians, including Hana Cabrnochová, don’t agree and say they won’t be backing the method and strongly doubt that any serious professional could. Now not only the country’s Health Ministry is looking into the matter, but the police as well, investigating whether Mrs Kolářová-Sudíková or the centre is breaking any laws. Even if it turns out that they aren’t, given the risks involved many doctors are relieved the story of baby flying has surfaced so that parents can be duly warned of the dangers.

Photo: www.ct24.cz