Whether you are a new parent for the first time, have just added another child to your family or have been a parent for many years, you are probably familiar with all of the activity centers and gear you “need” for your child. Parents think that all of these help a child with their development but did you know that you might actually be doing the opposite for your child?
When your child is put into equipment such as a swing, bouncy seat, walker, floor seats, high chairs or even a car seat their movement is limited. These items are often referred to as “containers”. Prolonged use of these day after day can lead to what is called Container Baby Syndrome. Now, we know that car seats are very important for safety, but try to limit the time your child is in one to only transportation purposes.
The reason this can become problematic is because babies are often moved from one container to the next throughout the day and are not given time to be on the floor moving as freely as they can. The equipment that you are using for several hours per day can, and does, put your child into positions they are unable to maintain on their own. This puts stress on their muscles and joints earlier than they are able to withstand and can lead to long term problems. If your baby has not completed a milestone on their own, try not to put them in that position and keep them there. That means if your child is not sitting up on their own, they are not ready for a floor seat or high chair. If they are not pulling themselves up to stand, a bouncer or walker are too progressive for them. This is inhibiting your child’s muscles from learning how to activate and can lead to weakness in those muscles. In the short term, your child may develop things such as plagiocephaly ( a flat spot on their head), tightness in their neck resulting in a head tilt (called torticollis), delays in milestones such as rolling over or the ability to sit up on their own and more.
At this point, you are probably saying to yourself, how do I keep my child safe and still accomplish any task if I can’t use this equipment? Well there are a few different solutions. First, you can continue to use the containers, just limit the time to 15-20 minutes at a time only a few times per day (2-3). Be sure to give your baby plenty of time on the floor to move freely and explore between their container time. Another solution is to establish a safe place for your child to play on their own. A blanket on the floor is the best place, so maybe putting up a playpen or gate to keep pets away, with some toys that spark their interest is another way to let your child move freely. Tummy Time is also really important (there is a whole post about this too, feel free to read it!) so incorporating that into your child’s schedule will help to avoid any problems from being in a container for too long each day. A baby carrier could be an option if all else fails. While this is still considered a container, you baby does have the ability to kick and play more freely while still interacting with you!
One final tip, if you need to use a container more than recommended for one day, it is not going to be a big deal, but try to give your child more free play time the next to help balance it out!