Helping or Hindering? How Our Best Intentions May Be Impacting Our Infants
Baby carriers are everywhere these days, and with just cause, we want to keep our babies safe! But what if I told you that our obsession with keeping our babies safe is actually hindering their development? That’s right, all those toys purchased with the best of intentions may actually be holding your child back. The key is in how you use them.
The primary use of the car seat is to keep your baby safe while traveling in a vehicle from point A to B, and it does that very well. However, due to convenience (and increasingly busy lifestyles), the car seat has become much more than what it was designed for. It’s now used as a carrier, a place to nap and a place to play. Add in the time spent in a stroller to this and baby is now spending a lot of time on his back.
There are several things that happen when an infant spends this much time in a car seat. First off, it can lead to physical deformities such as plagiocephaly (flat head) and torticollis (tightening of the neck muscles on one side causing the infant turn their head in that direction). It also limits the infant’s ability to develop strong head, neck, shoulder and core muscles, as they’re constantly being supported. Instead of keeping your baby in a car seat when outside of the car, consider using a wrap style carrier, if you’re able (Bonus: this helps with attachment too!). Another way to counteract the car seat is by doing three to five minutes of tummy time two to three times per day. Simply put, tummy time is anytime that baby spends on their tummy – it can be on a blanket on the floor, on mom’s chest when laying down or in a “Superman” position on dad’s arm. Tummy time allows baby to develop the muscles needed to hold their head against gravity and lays the foundation for skills like crawling and even sitting at school.
The car seat isn’t the only infant device that may be affecting your baby’s development. Bumbo seats, jolly jumpers and exersaucers are all guilty of the same. Bumbo boasts that their seats help infants learn to sit earlier, but what actually happens is that the seat locks baby’s hips in a posterior pelvic tilt (tilted back, causing slouching). This makes it harder for the baby to get into a position of function and they’re not able to turn their hips to reach for nearby toys, which eventually leads to the crawling position. As for the jolly jumpers and exersaucers, they promote tiptoeing, which develops leg muscles unevenly, delaying developmental milestones. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with using these devices for short periods of time while mom or dad takes a shower or makes supper – just make sure that baby has good head control and that their feet are flat on the floor when standing in devices.
The bottom line is this: Allow your child the time to explore their body and their natural environment. Babies are naturally curious and will find their way into all kinds of positions that will help them grow strong and develop their muscles age-appropriately.
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s development or feel that your child is not meeting their milestones, a paediatric occupational therapist or physiotherapist can complete an assessment and provide you with recommendations on how to assist your child.
*This article was originally published in Modern Mothering magazine, as part of the Pop up Baby Show, November 2018.