An interview with a woman that swings babies


After this video showing the "swinging, flipping and lariat-like twirling of a tiny infant" became popular, Nathan at Dadwagon got an interview with the woman who swings babies. Her name is Lena Fokina and she runs a baby yoga business in Egypt.

I have two small children and I was, you know, careful with them when they were newborns. So it was hard for me to watch your video. It looks like it has to injure the child. Their hands? The cartilage in the joints? Their brains?
No. It makes the hands stronger.

Did you know that YouTube took the video down because it was in violation of their policy on "shocking and disgusting" content? What is your response to that?
Did they notice that the babies aren't crying--they're even laughing--and that this system has been used for over thirty years in Russia and the children are all alive and healthy? If you need more proof, the best thing is to come see us.

Interview with Baby Yoga's Lena Fokina


  1. The babies were not crying, and I didn’t see any moves that obviously harmed the baby.

    But I sure wouldn’t let her do that to MY babies.
    It seems like the baby equivalent of being in a car accident.
    There is a reason there’s a minimum age to go on a rollercoaster.

    And if she ever slipped…

  2. “Shocking and disgusting” seems a little extreme, but on the other hand that’s sort of my personal reaction to babies in general.

    I didn’t realize that youtube was making value judgments like that, though.

  3. Yeah the most upsetting thing about that photo is that she’s holding two babies. As far as I’m concerned the other hand is for CATCHING THE BABY if he slips out of one hand.

  4. 1) 10 bcks sys sh’s gypsy.

    2) I don’t think she is harming the kids, but I can see someone trying to replicate the moves, not knowing how to do it, and hurting one. It looked to me some of these twists and things were a quarter or half turn from breaking or dislocating something.

    If you want your kids to grow up tough, leave them alone in the woods to be raised by a family of wolves. It’s the only way to sure.

    1. Irrespective of what she’s doing, so what if she is?

      Are you implying there’s something wrong/bad/meaningfully different about Gypsies?

      What if we substituted “jew” for “gypsy”? Would that sound wrong to you?

    2. Why are you making ethnic slurs on a Boing Boing post? A moderator should remove this post. It doesn’t belong here.

  5. I don’t know what to make of this. I saw the baby wince a few times, like it was about to cry, but really, it was hard to make out since the kid was all over the place.

    I did notice that at the end, when the baby swinger puts the kid back down so its feet touch the grass, it’s unable to take instinctual steps like it did in the beginning of the video. It looked the kid was completely beat and compliant (well, more compliant than a newborn would be normally).

  6. Here, let me make a prediction: If anyone ever studies this scientifically, they will determine that A) when done correctly, baby-flippin’ is not harmful and B) there is no reason to do this other than to make internet videos.

  7. As a pediatrician, I’d be very careful about this, and about judging whether this is safe purely on the video shown.

    Infants can quite easily have serious brain injuries, without any external signs, and sometimes without major immediate changes in their behavior.

    The infant brain is especially sensitive to rotational forces (ie spinning), for multiple reasons including skull shape, relative head size, weakness of neck muscles, high water densityy of the brain, etc.

    Unfortunately we don’t know the minimum forces necessary to cause injury (or the maximum safe force), as most experiments aren’t possible/ethical. Data from pigs demonstrates that the forces involved aren’t huge.

    Suffice to say, I wouldn’t let her do that to my kids.

  8. I haven’t seen anyone do this with an actual baby before, but this isn’t really any different from stuff I’ve done with 3-6 year olds. The kids LOVE this kinda thing, and swinging the bigger kids around is a good workout. What fun is growing up without roughhousing? But then, my parents let me run around in the woods unsupervised at 5-6 years old, so my judgement on these matters might be a little skewed from the current cultural norm of completely insane overprotectiveness.

    I would guess that families of circus performers all do this, across the board. Assuming you don’t drop them and break their soft little heads, this should do wonders for building body awareness, upper body strength and resilient flexibility right from birth.

    Remember, among indigenous peoples, children are able to feed themselves and find their way back to camp by age 3-4! Your kids are tougher than you think.

    My verdict? I say if you’re careful about dropping the baby, and the baby enjoys it, just go for it. My dad always roughhoused with me, and I turned out to be a tough, independent outdoorsman and martial artist. I never get injured in falls even when I’m carrying something heavy, and I have to think spending my formative years jumping off of ledges and climbing trees and tumbling down hills is a big part of that, though martial arts training obviously makes a big difference. Anyway, the point is that you have the choice as a parent to raise a cowardly wimp like the rest of polite society, or you can raise a badass. I know which I’d choose.

    1. You might want to read the post above yours, which is from a pediatrician.

      There’s a BIG difference in physiology between the brain of a 3-6 year old and the brain of a baby. Just because actions are safe when a toddler and young child do them, doesn’t mean they’re safe for infants.

      Babies aren’t as breakable as they look, that’s for sure. But I wouldn’t do this to a baby, or let it be done to any baby I had any kind of control over. And it’s not because I’m against rough-housing, or I’m a helicopter parent-in-training who doesn’t think kids are tough.

  9. “The babies aren’t crying” doesn’t mean a damn thing. Most victims of shaken baby syndrome were put through that abuse to STOP them from crying.

    I’m sure that this woman genuinely means no harm, just like when M.J. dangled his kid off a hotel balcony and Steve Irwin held his in front of a crocodile. That doesn’t mean it’s a risk any responsible adult should condone, however.

    1. Good point about shaken baby syndrome. I don’t, personally, doubt that it is possible to swing a baby so that it *isn’t* getting brain damage.

      But honestly I wouldn’t risk it. I’ve seen firsthand what shaken baby syndrome can do to kids who didn’t die because of it.

  10. I could only watch a minute. Why did she have to swing the babies outside near rocks? If one of them slipped out of her hands, they would have ended up head first on the rocks. If one is compelled to swing a baby then do it over a mattress.

  11. I’m sure it’s the overwhelming smell from the combination of garlic and patchouli that lulls the babies in to some sort of trance.

  12. While the swinging lifestyle may be a valid choice for some adults, I just don’t feel it is appropriate for babies.

  13. MY baby held her head up and is creeping early for her age. It’s because of the ancestral French tradition of baby telepathic meditation I perform on her. YOUR kids are gonna be sooo retarded without it!

    1. Your baby is creeping me out! What is the appropriate age for creeping anyway? And how about lurking?

      :p I’m only joking. I assume you mean what we normally refer to as “crawling.”

      1. No, SamSam, babies creep before they crawl. Before they creep, they roll. I described that stage as army crawling to my kid-free friends and relatives. It’s all elbows and forearms.

      2. I know: I also had the persisting mental picture of someone tiptoeing around with a sneaky grin every time I said ‘creeping’ ;)

        I was repeatedly informed that ‘crawling’ is when the baby is moving on all fours without the belly touching the ground, and I’m only just beginning to use each terms properly. It still sounds weird to me though.

  14. Apparently the reason why a lot of older Americans need hip replacements is because of the way they were birthed. Doctors used to hold the babies upside down by their ankles after they came out, which apparently caused permanent damage to the cartilage. I don’t know the details, but the babies in this video would likely suffer from the same debilitating health problems in a few decades.

  15. I’ve lived in Congo and Gabon for short periods of time and realized babies are much more resilient than we are led to believe. Babies are lifted up by one arm, kind of swung on to their mother’s back and tied on with a sort of blanket for hours. Once they learn to walk it seems they are allowed to roam free as much as possible.

    So these videos are shocking to see I’m really not too concerned about those kids. Babies are born with the natural instinct of holding their breath and swimming as well and it is allowed to forget resulting in people with irrational fear of water. Finally I do believe that those swings probably do help the children develop stronger joints and muscles. Jury’s still out on the possibility of brain damage though..

  16. looks like she’s getting ready to throw them on the grill after pulling them out of the marinade. Mmmmm, long pig.

  17. this system has been used for over thirty years in Russia and the children are all alive and healthy?

    I’m not sure Russian health and longevity is a good indicator for this technique.

  18. I wonder whom I should listen to… an entire culture of women who have done this for decades, or a bunch of people who spend most of their day in front of a computer screen of some kind.

    I think I’ll take “experience” over “armchair scientist,” Alex, for 100.

    1. Listen to the pediatrician who posted above here.

      Thousands of people a day bath in the ganges, which is full of sewage, feces, and human corpses. If an internet nerd from America said “that’s probably not very sanitary”, would you discount him out of hand?

      That’s a logical fallacy I outgrew in elementary school.

      1. “However, kids need to be stressed to grow strong.”

        Children do, infants do not. For one thing, they’re already being stressed like crazy, trying to adjust to the entire world. These were fetuses not so long ago. You wouldn’t try to make sure a fetus got a good workout, right? Then give the thing a chance to finish properly becoming a kid before pushing it too hard.

      2. Piffle. If your baby gets brain damage from being swung, you just touch a slice of raw potato to her head and bury it under the full moon. Problem solved.

        1. Hello Antinous, I had the problem just a little while ago of a shaken baby, so I have followed your advice as we just had the full moon.

          Was the baby supposed to make all that noise after burying? It’s stopped now so I think things are working. How long do I keep the baby buried, and do I need to do anything with the potato?


      3. Actually, I’ve been in the Ganges.

        I’m not dismissing anyone outright- I’m saying, on one hand you have actual experience, with real people who were babies that went through this “horrific” action and grew up fine. Maybe grew up even better than fine- have healthier bodies, flexibility into old age, who knows. On the other hand, you have people screaming in horror because they’re watching something that’s totally outside their understanding of the word “normal.”

        Western doctors have all sorts of crazy ideas in their heads, but we trust them because they have degrees. I wouldn’t blindly send my kid to Russia now, but I also wouldn’t dismiss it until I had more of a clue about the subject than a boing boing post.

        1. Do many western doctors really have “crazy ideas in their heads”? And even if they do, do they test their ideas with wild abandon? No, they really do not. Their ideas are based on science and research.

          Baby Yoga, on the other hand, *is* a crazy idea, with no scientific backing. If doctors – and I would certainly accept doctors who come from Egypt, or Asia, or wherever, not just western doctors because I freely admit they have different ideas – chimed in saying there was some benefit to do this and no chance of harm, then I’d think differently. All common sense and basic medical knowledge says that this *is* a crazy idea with no scientific basis!

          1. My epidermis was burned off my body when I was a newborn because a practicing pediatrician thought that the best way to deal with my diaper rash was with topical sulfur, and he was more than willing to test his theory out.

          2. If “all common sense” says this is a crazy, dangerous idea, then 30 years of practicing it should show some pretty clear results. Retarded, boneless Russian 30 year olds walking around, for example. If the evidence is there, I’m more than happy to call these people nuts. Until then, however, all I see are a bunch of knee-jerk close minded “happy mutants” who consider themselves to be really open minded. Most of the stuff on boing boing would make the majority of Americans cringe in some way- politically, religiously, morally, whatever- which usually brings sneers from the comments section, wise-ass remarks about how inferior republicans are. Now we find something that finally pushes your buttons, and, what do you know, the moral police are out with their judgment sticks.

            Lena is clearly not afraid to have people come check out their digs, so go over there and expose her for the fraud that she is! In the meantime, I am inspired by that super mom-baby bond and the amazing things people figure out and develop on their own.

  19. Very few people can have a rational conversation about child safety and almost no one can about their own children. I submit as evidence all the comments to the effect that the wee ones do not seem to be in danger but why take the risk. We avoid even the most remote chance of risk when it comes to our own children. However, kids need to be stressed to grow strong. Overly sheltered kids are like green house grown plants, take them out of their protective bubble and they don’t do well, some may adjust, some don’t survive.

  20. As the mother of 7 children (who have all reached adulthood unscathed,) I must say I find this video, and this woman’s practices to be offensive and horrific. One of my sons at age two, had his arm dislocated as I was helping him up the stairs by his simply twisting to sit on the step.The cartilage and bone development in children is nowhere near complete at this stage, let alone the fact that this infant has been flipped fairly vigorously, head down for several minutes. I would hope someone in her country will see this and pursue a charge of child endangerment .

  21. I seriously doubt this is producing more internally-concussive force than carrying your baby while running would– and that’s something babies are absolutely designed to be able to handle, evolutionarily speaking. To put it another way, bouncing a baby on your knee is not going to give your kid brain damage. Look at the motions she’s using– that is not the jarring force you see while shaking a baby, it’s not even the jarring force you get bouncing a baby, and it’s not like she’s windmilling the baby around or anything. If the baby’s head is hitting 3G at any point in this video I’ll eat my stereo whole. This is obviously not harmful to the laughing, happy baby. And remember, a knockout punch produces 58Gs. Ya rly.

    I’ve no doubt that it takes a lot less force to cause concussions in babies than toddlers or adults, I’m saying that it’s obvious that what she’s doing isn’t going to cause a concussion. Would you seriously expect a baby to suffer from shaken baby syndrome if they fell from your hands onto a pillow on a mattress just a couple feet below your arms? Because it seems abundantly clear to me that the sort of force you’re seeing here is a heck of a lot less jarring than that. Let’s be realistic– this is a case of culturally ingrained fears of child fragility overcoming basic reason. The threat here is dropping the baby, causing a 20G+ brain impact, not the activity itself. That kid is moving no more than a couple mph at any point, so how could a high G event happen without dropping the kid or whipping their head around?

    I mean really, the world where this sort of thing is even remotely harmful to babies is one which even the mildest of 25mph car accidents instantly kills your baby from brain trauma 100% of the time. And though culture-blindness is rampant with these sorts of things, let me just add a hearty fucking DUH. Should you be careful about whacking your baby’s head into things? Yeah. Should you not shake your baby so that their head whips back and forth? Absolutely. But seriously, the part of you that says that this is child abuse is a form of cultural paranoia, it’s insanity, it’s not based in reason or fact, and it hurts us all a lot more than some fairly ridiculous and innocuous ‘baby yoga’.

  22. I’d NEVER do this to a toddler (you know 2-4), let alone a newborn.

    I’m willing to bet the children she swings WILL suffer brain damage. This is horrible, but there are sick and horrible people out there, and this woman fits the bill.

  23. “An interview with a woman that swings babies”. Excuse me, but that should be “a woman who swings babies”.

    But more importantly:

    – Have you ever had an accident while swinging around a baby?
    – I don’t recall any.

    Ah, the Alberto Gonzalez defense. Given the activity in question, she should categorically know whether she’s ever had an accident. I think she’s lying.

  24. I think my main concern here would be that at some points she twists the baby a little too forcefully at the joints. Obviously I’m not expert, but I’m worried about tearing the muscle fibers in the joints. I mean, if it’s incredibly easy for an adult to tear the rotator cuff, wouldn’t it be that much easier for a baby?

  25. @Hools Verne #48 I just got an old can of Sulpher from my Grandmother- who said she was given it by her mother (About 60 years ago, specifically to use for diaper rash. I wonder if your docter used the wrong kind? (Although, she never tried it herself- hence the full can).

    Also- the baby swinging is how Russians can grow up to do this:

    1. I’m, um, less that convinced by an article on a medical issue that primarily cites legal precedents and Discover.

  26. This is a really worrying video. Here are some facts.

    1. Yoga is not inherently ‘good’. Research shows that stretches that last for more than 30 seconds have no additional beneficial effect. Yoga was developed by pre-scientific people as part of a religious lifestyle – not as a health system for toning up.

    2. Babies are not the same as older children. They’re developing as fast as they can (for instance, they’re born without kneecaps). This kind of stress, though fine for an older child, is not fine for a baby.

    3. There is no proven upside for this, so the obvious oft-mentioned downsides make this utterly pointless.

    4. Babies are no property and they can’t consent. Thousands of kids worldwide are placed in cars and on motorbikes every day without helmets. It doesn’t mean it’s safe or wise. Silly ‘it’s been going on for years’ justifications don’t hold water.

    This woman needs to be educated by the kind of ‘western’ doctors she claims to be superior to. These poor kids.

  27. I work the night shift in a hospital, and part of my run covers the pediatric ward and neo-natal unit.

    This looks like an interesting way to liven up a shift, but I’d really be concerned about the potential twisting of the brain, and the legal consequences.

    I’ll just stick to rubbing the babies heads against my coveralls and sticking them to the wall. That’s such a hoot!!!

  28. Oh…also…the babies are NUDE.

    Shouldn’t this post have, at the very LEAST been labeled NSFW? People have been disciplined for clicking on less, and the pic in this post shows not one butt but TWO, and there is blonde hair and cleavage involved. WTF were you thinking? No wonder some work-place censorware labels BB as a porn site!

    Mark! Think about it! Not everyone has a posh, cushy, lazy-boy, blogging job like you!

  29. As a neuropsychologist I agree with Ted Sears (pediatrician who posted below).

    Although there is no ‘impact to the head’ causing an obvious injury, potential damage to the brain could occur due to both rotational and translational forces. Rotational force is when you spin something, and translational force is when you move it up and down or side-to-side. Both of these will definitely put strain on a substance that has a similar consistency to tofu (the brain).

    To experiment with this anyone could take some soft tofu (the softest one you can find), put it in a jar with some water and then spin it and move it up and down very quickly. You’ll probably find that due to the forces involved the tofu breaks up. Now, the brain doesn’t break up like that because it is connected with fibres on the inside (amongst other things like tiny fragile blood vessels) that are ultimately connected to the spinal cord. But the thing is, that all of that rotational force is directed to these fragile fibres that keep the brain together.

    Now, strain on body fibres is generally not great at the best of times, but in the brain it is even worse because these fibers are actually nerve cells that transmit messages that ultimately make us who we are. So, not only would diffuse damage probably occur to the gray matter because the brain would press against the skull (think of quickly tipping the jar of tofu on its side), but damage would also be likely to occur to the white matter too especially around the point where it is connected (think of spinning the tofu; this is called centripetal force and shearing for those who are interested).

    The fact that this is happening to a baby is even worse because all of these effects are magnified. To mimic similar forces in an adult you would have to put them in an airplane, take them very high in the air, then somehow nose dive and pull up very quickly while spinning.

    You could imagine that you wouldn’t be feeling that great after taking the advice above. The baby in the video is certainly not feeling that great because it is confused, dizzy, and probably slightly concussed at the end (you don’t need impact to have a concussion (see Walsh et al., 1999 or any neurology textbook)). The reason it is not crying is because of these factors and, if I could speculate a little here, that the centripetal forces centered on the spinal cord may have affected the babies consciousness (i.e. causing the slight concussion) although not enough to actually pass-out. I’m sure that this is great for keeping this practice alive because it seems that the baby is ‘calm’ after wards.

    Peer reviewed scientific studies will never be conducted into such a practice because there is just so much evidence that forces such as this on a developing brain are not good. The sad thing is that the deficits that the baby might have when it grows up will not be obvious. They will likely be associated with an insidious cognitive reduction that would pass for normal development, but in actual fact the baby would probably have developed to a greater cognitive and emotional potential.

    To all have persevered with reading this, please don’t try to ‘toughen up’ your babies in any way that is remotely similar to this or to seek those who practice it. A baby’s brain is simply not worth the risk.

    Best wishes,

  30. …But Dominic, what about the “super mom-baby bond and the amazing things people figure out and develop on their own”?

  31. The problem I see is that given all the potential risks involved with this practice, there should be a really really good reason to do this.

  32. I’ve actually seen something similar to this before in a documentary.

    I forget specifically what it was about, but in one scene they were showing how the mothers of an African tribe were making their babies work out by doing similar exercises like in this baby yoga clip. Although not to this “let me entertain you” extent. The infants were dangled from their hands and feet, but the women were sitting down. There was a purpose for the seemingly brute man-handling, as it helped the babies develop strong muscles, which is useful for hunting.

    Although having seen this sort of thing before, this clip shocked me not because of the baby dangling but how this could easily be a video of a teenage boy showing off his nunchuck skills.

    I just hope nobody picks this up as a sport, a baby is not a twirling baton!

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