What Are The Implications Of Baby Equipment And Containers On Infant Development?

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Emily

Emily

There are countless baby products and equipment available to new parents. Parents can spend a lot of money on various devices hoping these will help speed up a baby’s development but unfortunately this is not the case. It’s not a baby race!

Baby equipment that restricts a baby’s natural movement and exploration of their environment (also known as baby ‘containers’) can place excessive forces on the body. Examples include:

  • Newborn swing
  • Bumbo seat
  • Baby jumper
  • Walker activity centre

Baby equipment that promotes functional activities can be used to assist physical milestones and play an important role in developing motor and sensory skills, balance and coordination. This type of equipment allows freedom of movement and require babies to actively support themselves, rather than being held in a fixed position. Examples include:

  • High chair with back and foot support (for eating and drinking)
  • Standing play table or activity cube
  • Push along walker
  • Swinging
  • Balance bike

For an activity to be appropriate for the age and stage, a baby or toddler must be able to safely and adequately stabilise them-self in the position. There are also safety considerations (accidents and injuries) with various types of equipment that need to be considered.

Don’t get me wrong, baby equipment can be a life saver when you need to shower, go to the bathroom, cook dinner, make a phone call, attend to your other children’s needs etc, or even just if the parent needs a break- this is totally ok.

“Moderation is key! That is why as a general rule, I recommend limiting time in restrictive baby equipment to 15 minutes per day (while being supervised of course). I also recommend balancing this with plenty of floor time and other varied developmental activities and positions to allow ample opportunities for play.

However, there are certain circumstances where I recommend to families to avoid restrictive equipment all together. This may be the case for a baby with a flat head (plagiocephaly), developmental hip dysplasia, low neurological tone or developmental delay, just for example.

So what can you do instead?

  • Instead of a newborn swing, try baby wearing to calm an unsettled baby, or floor and tummy time – from birth.
  • Instead of a bumbo, try a high chair with back and foot support (for eating and drinking) – from around 6 months when your baby is learning to sit.
  • Instead of a baby jumper, try a standing play table or activity cube – from around 9 months when your baby is learning to stand up.
  • Instead of a walker activity centre, try a push along walker – from around 12 months when your baby its starting to take steps.

Still stuck for play ideas? Playgrounds provide rich opportunities for movement and learning and best of all are free!

Would you like to find out more about helping your baby enjoy tummy time? Click here for further reading. 

Emily Jones, Advanced Paediatric Osteopath, IBCLC and owner at Align & Nurture

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