I’ve recently come across the term ‘container baby’ and to be honest, it scares me to think that we might be hindering our children’s development through our love of convenience and the fear of not keeping our little ones safe . In this blog, I thought I’d share what I have discovered about ‘container baby syndrome’, the name used to describe a range of conditions caused by babies spending too long in containers, such as car seats, bouncy chairs, bumbos etc.
What is Container Baby Syndrome?
Over the past few years, health professionals have seen an increase in a number of movement disorders, behaviour disorders, and cognitive problems, that have been attributed to the increased amount of time that babies are spending in contained spaces.
Movement and physical activity, as much as food, contributes to growth and organisation of the brain and nervous system. As such, it underpins ALL other areas of development. If a baby’s movement is restricted by being placed in a ‘container’, then he/she is missing out on vital time to wriggle and squiggle, to stretch, to roll and lift, and importantly, to organise their brain and nervous system.
If this process is restricted, it can have huge implications on a babies physical and mental development.
What is classed as a ‘container’?
In the name of convenience, love or safety, we are keeping babies off the floor more and more. Manufacturers seem to have taken advantage of this and lead us to believe that to be good parents we need a whole raft of baby equipment. Think about the equipment you have and use. This probably includes some, if not all, of the following:
Car-seat and travel system
Although these containers and equipment can be useful (if used occasionally), when a baby is confined for too many hours a day, they are being denied the opportunity to move parts of their bodies. Lying on their back in a container, for example, allows little to no movement of the baby’s neck, spine, or body.
What impact can Container Baby Syndrome have on my baby?
Babies need movement to develop both physically and mentally. By the age of 12 months, a baby’s brain should have already learned 50% of everything it will ever know! This is a critical stage of a child’s development and anything that hinders this development could have lasting effects on the child.
Spending too much time in a container can cause issues such as:
Delay in developmental milestones such as rolling, crawling and walking
Speech, sight, hearing and thinking problems
Problems with gross and fine motor skills
Problems with coordination
Sensory Processing Disorder
Facial asymmetry - that sides of the baby’s face may appear unequal
How can I prevent Container Baby Syndrome?
Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to prevent container baby syndrome.
Limit time spent in containers
Firstly, you need to be aware of the amount of time that your little one spends in containers. Think about your day. For most of us it may start with our little one being placed in a nest or activity centre, whilst you get ready. Then it’s off to the shops in their car-seat and straight on to the travel system. Maybe you’re off to friends and your little one falls asleep, of course you don’t want to wake them (you’ve had an awful night), so you leave them asleep in their car-seat. Then it’s back home and lunch is given in a bouncy chair. Suddenly, you realise just how long your bundle of joy has been cooped up in a container. What can you change in your daily routine to give your little one more wriggle time.
The importance of tummy time can not be overstated. Although we know that babies should always be placed on their backs when sleeping, time spent on their tummy when awake, is critical for healthy development. Schedule in some time each day for your baby to have some valuable tummy time.
Tummy time can be started from 2 weeks old. At first, your baby might protest. Start with short 30 second to one minute sessions and gradually build up the time. Placing your little one of your chest or across you lap is a great way to get them accustomed to this position.
Once your baby gains more head control you can place them on a blanket/mat on the floor. Maybe use a tummy time pillow to prop her up or a rolled up towel under his chest, with his arms over it
Try to schedule tummy time into your babies daily routine. Experts recommend that you allow your baby 30 minutes of tummy time each day. Make sure that your baby is awake and alert and always keep an eye on them.
Nappy changing time is a great opportunity to allow you baby some time to wriggle and squiggle and build that all important nervous system. Swap the changing table for a mat on the floor for safety, and allow him some freedom with his nappy off. You might want to strategically place a muslin over little boys to stop that inevitable fountain!
Hold your baby
Remember, it’s okay to hold your baby. Not only is this important for bonding and forming strong attachments but it’s also important for physical and neuron development. Experiment with different positions. This will also help develop your babies sense of balance - believe it or not, this is essential for higher learning and thinking skills.
I hope you find this blog helpful. I’d be interested to know what you think and if you have any tips/advice for other parents to prevent Container Baby Syndrome.