How To Maximize Movement For Baby’s Development

Infant seats, bouncers, jumpers, and walkers look convenient and are marketed to parents as beneficial for their baby, but these containers come with known and documented side effects that parents should be aware of before use. Ever heard of “Container Baby Syndrome?” It’s a real diagnosis!

The term “container” refers to:

  • Car seats
  • Strollers
  • Jumpers
  • Bumbo seats
  • Baby walkers
  • Vibrating chairs
  • Bouncy swings
  • Activity gyms / centers

For example, in one day, a child might ride in a car seat, fall asleep in a lounger or swing, sit in a high chair, stand with a walker or in an activity center and this is what I like to call the container baby shuffle. Each one of these containers reduces the ability for a baby to freely move.

As a mother myself, I understand that these containers are useful in helping to keep the baby safe from accidents, allowing me to attend to other children or obligations, and can be quite entertaining for a little one, but the equipment inhibits the child from being able to explore their environment. This directly affects the baby’s gross motor skills, language, cognitive growth, and may cause structural deformities. 

Babies need unrestricted movement to develop the strength and coordination to learn new skills such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking.

A study published in “Child:  Care, Health and Development” examined the motor development of infants allowed to use play-assist equipment. The study suggested that infants who had the highest equipment use tended to score lower on infant motor development, whereas the infants with lower equipment use scored higher on motor development (1).

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics banned the manufacture and sale of infant walkers? Many families continue to purchase and use these devices. The ban is due to infant walker-related injuries, but infant walkers contribute to delays in a child’s ability to walk, crawl, and balance (2).

The good news is that container baby syndrome is 100% preventable and free!

In order for your baby to develop optimally, all you need is a floor! When your baby is awake and happy, place them on their tummy on the floor as much as possible. I don’t like to think of it as tummy time because then it feels like a chore that can be accomplished in just 15 minutes everyday. Allow your baby to explore their environment on their tummy as much as possible and they’ll get better and better at it each and every day. They may only be able to tolerate one minute at a time and that’s okay as they get started!

Pro tip:  Pull their socks off and let them be barefoot. A little tip I learned from On-Track Baby! This allows their toes to practice gripping the ground and that’s foundational for learning to roll and crawl.

Baby Containers We Use

While our home is free from infant seats, bouncers, activity centers, etc., we do keep a few containers, but use them for a specific purpose.

We use a car seat only in the car — it does not ever come out of the car. While it may be frustrating to transfer a sleeping baby out of the car, car seats are not designed for sleep and are not safe or recommended to be used in this way. Car seats are for the car. We opted for a convertible car seat and skipped the infant seat altogether to encourage baby-wearing instead of lugging an infant car seat around. Not only was this choice better for our bank account (we saved hundreds of dollars), but it’s also better for our baby and my body! If you want to read more about this decision, click here and go to the “Gear” section.

We use carriers for baby-wearing such as wraps, slings, and soft carriers. These are technically considered containers because they restrict an infant’s movement, but there are many positives to wearing your baby. We opt for bonding and connection as much as possible. Never let your little one cry on their tummy on the floor for the sake of their development. Observe your baby and listen to their cues.

Now that our little girl is eating solids, we are utilizing a high chair. This is only used during meal times and then it’s back to the floor to explore and play!

I understand that placing your baby out in the open on the floor on their tummy may not be the safest option for your family at all times. Feel free to utilize a playpen! This allows for a safe, contained space without restricting movement. We use the Guava Lotus Travel Crib which was recommended by my friends at Branch Basics!

Developmental Delays

If your child is experiencing delays in motor milestones such as rolling, sitting, or standing (check out Pathways for age appropriate milestones), you notice some flat spots on your little one’s head (known as plagiocephaly), or there’s an imbalance in head and neck movement, I would recommend bringing your child to a pediatric chiropractor for an evaluation. I’m in Dallas, TX but you can visit this resource I created to learn how to find a gentle + specific nervous system focused chiropractor near you. Curious what an infant adjustment looks like? Check out my ADJUST story highlight to watch me adjust my baby girl at various ages.

And it’s never too late to start giving your baby free unrestricted movement on their tummy on the ground, so go for it!

Additional Questions:

1. When is the right time to put a baby in a chair, jumper, walker structurally speaking? Explanation of how you want the baby to master the skill before using the container — like sit up on their own before in a device that sits then up, walk on their own before walker, etc. 

If you want to utilize some baby containers at some times, it’s important to use them when they’re developmentally appropriate. For example, you can put your baby in a high chair when your baby can sit on their own.

2. If using a container that’s appropriate for a baby’s structural developmental level, what is the most you want to put them in there at one time? 5 min, 10 min, 15 min?  

However long your baby is in a container, do twice as much time of free, unrestricted movement on the floor. Try to limit the time spent in a container (developmentally appropriate or not) to 15 minutes and then do 30 minutes of floor time!

 

Dr. Courtney Kahla is a wife, mother to her miracle baby, Rosie, and the holistic chiropractor at Free to Be Chiropractic in Dallas, TX.

She specializes in infertility, preconception, prenatal, pediatric, women’s health and whole family wellness. Her firm belief in the body as self-healing and self-regulating permeates her online presence as she shares health + wellness from a normal human physiology perspective which is often backed by peer-reviewed scientific literature, natural living, and her raw, real, and vulnerable heart as she navigates everything life brings. Her mission is to empower others to take control of their health by living a lifestyle that honors their God-given innate ability to heal.

Sources:

  1. Banh, S., Leung, M., & Bartlett, D. (2016). What do we know about the relationship between family characteristics and infant gross motor development? Research findings and clinical implications. Retrieved July 23, 2020, from https://www.canchild.ca/en/resources/275-what-do-we-know-about-the-relationship-between-family-characteristics-and-infant-gross-motor-development-research-findings-and-clinical-implications
  2. Sims, A., Chounthirath, T., Yang, J., Hodges, N. L., & Smith, G. A. (2018). Infant Walker–Related Injuries in the United States. Pediatrics, 142(4). doi:10.1542/peds.2017-4332

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One Comment

  1. There is a lot of good information here, but it does come off a bit pretentious and tone deaf especially given the current climate. Some of us are working from home with babies and can’t entertain them all day. My 5 month old uses an activity center and a jumperoo and still can roll both ways and scoot around the floor when I can sit with her. I think it’s important for babies to have unrestricted movement but also acknowledge real life and the current state we are trying to parent in. Some days you just survive and those crutches are what get you through.

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