By Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT
Step into any baby store, and you will no doubt see a large number of devices that ‘contain’ your baby. These ‘containers’ range from Bumbo seats, swings, bouncers, car seats, walkers, jumpers and exersaucers.
The ‘container baby’ is a relatively new term used in pediatrics to describe a baby that spends a lot of its time in a containing device. When a baby is in this type of device, it does not allow the baby to move around and explore its environment. This places the baby at risk for gross and fine motor delays, torticollis (tightening of one side of the neck), plagiocephaly (flattening of one side of the head), and brachycephaly (flattening of the back of the head), not to mention a lack of sensory experiences.
Here are some tips on how to avoid your baby being a container baby:
Help your baby love tummy time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies sleep on their back. However, supervised playtime on baby’s tummy will help develop neck, back, and shoulder muscles and help to ensure a nice, round head.
Starting when you first bring your baby home from the hospital, place your baby on his tummy 3-4 times per day, and aim for about 5 minutes of tummy playtime each time. Some babies will not like tummy time at first, but will eventually prefer it. Incorporate mirrors at their level, use a boppy pillow for support, and even get down on the floor with your baby to increase bonding. Playing games like ‘airplane,’ placing baby on your chest on her tummy while singing a song, and colorful tummy time mats are also helpful.
Limit the ‘containers’ that you buy in the first place. Sure, car seats and strollers are must haves. However, Bumbo seats, bouncers, and swings should be used in moderation, if at all. A good rule of thumb is to think back to your childhood. Did your parents have enough baby equipment to fill up an entire living room? Probably not. In fact, the best toys and things for your babies are things that can fit in a toy chest: blocks, puzzles, books, colorful toys and balls. Baby store associates are very good at convincing you that you will need every item of equipment on the market. Try not to give in and think about what you will really need/use and what will best promote development and learning for your baby.
Good “containers” include playpens and front and back carriers. In a playpen, your baby will have room to learn to roll, pull to stand and crawl while you get a few minutes to do the dishes or put a load of laundry in the washing machine. The front and back carriers also promote good head control, allowing your baby to look side to side and increase bonding between you and your baby.
With the amount of baby equipment on the market, it is hard to decide what your baby will actually need and benefit from. Try to limit ‘container’ usage to help your baby have the best development possible.
References: American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.aap.org