“Container Baby” is a relatively new term used in pediatrics to describe a baby that spends a majority of her time in some sort of enclosed space. These ‘containers’ can include car seats, bouncy swings, vibrating chairs, bumbo seats or other devices that ‘contain’ a baby’s movement. They can be used for any number of reasons, whether it be for safety or to give mom a few free minutes to cook dinner or fold laundry.
How “Containing” Your Baby Can Delay Motor Development:
Some babies spend many of their waking hours in a containing device and don’t get enough floor time to play. Floor time, where a baby is either placed on his tummy or back to play, is extremely important to help with strengthening his neck, back, tummy, arm and leg muscles. Floor time allows a child to explore her environment and provides essential sensory input, including tactile and visual information, that helps with development.
Plagiocephaly or Flatness of the Head:
Another direct cause of the “container baby” lifestyle is the increasing occurrence of plagiocephaly, or flatness of the head. Babies who are contained in the same position are at risk for developing flatness to one part of their head, which can lead to cosmetic deformities, facial asymmetry and torticollis, or the tightening of one side of the neck. Plagiocephaly often begins in-utero, but it can easily be prevented by making sure that your child is spending enough play time on his tummy. Aim for three hours of tummy time per day by the time your child is two months old.
Alternatives to Car-Seats, Swings and Other “Containers” for your Baby:
Devices like front and back carriers are a great way to help your child with their head control and serve as nice alternatives to carrying her in the car-seat if she is not going to be in the car. Car seats are heavy and awkward, and they don’t provide you with the opportunity to snuggle and bond with your baby. Once your baby is old enough to hold his head up, front and back carriers are a great way for him to help develop his neck and back muscles since he will be interested in looking around his environment.
All parents need time during the day to get some housework done and to spend time in places other than on the floor playing with the baby. A playpen is a great way to give yourself some time to make dinner or do the dishes while your child is occupied but not strapped down in a container. Your baby will love that she can be active in her environment, and it will give her great opportunities to develop the muscles that she will need to reach her gross motor milestones.
For advice and helpful tips on how to help your child enjoy tummy time, please refer to my blog, “Tummy Time and Infants”.