From the essentials, such as a carseat or stroller, to the non-essentials (although many may disagree with that classification) like swings, bouncy seats, jumperoos, and more, most parents have plenty of options when it comes to finding a place to put a baby down. But did you know that there is one place for your baby that trumps all the rest in terms of promoting baby’s development, coordination, vision, and more? Yes, it’s true! And it’s free and almost always available. If you guessed the floor, you are correct!
Certainly, there is a time and a place for other baby devices. The problem comes when baby devices become the norm, and floor time (including tummy time) becomes the exception. The article referenced below, written by a pediatric physical therapist, recommends that babies spend only 30 minutes per day in baby seats, swings, jumpers, etc. Thirty minutes total! All day. That recommendation is a bit of a wake up call for this busy mom of 3!
You can read the article here: Moving Away from Positioning Devices in 2017
So without getting too hung up on the numbers, let’s talk about some alternative options that can help us strike a healthier balance between using these devices (or baby “containers” as they are often referred to in the medical community) and not:
The Almighty Pack N’ Play
In my opinion, this is an often underused baby gear powerhouse. It allows you the developmental benefits of floor time while still providing safety (from older siblings, the dog, etc) and convenience (shower time, anyone?). You can even use it for tummy time, provided you are supervising. Yes, it takes up a good chunk of floor space, and maybe isn’t always the most glamorous looking, but I have found it to be more than worth it. In fact, I find it so helpful that I have two in my house. One for each floor.
Play Gyms/ Activity Mats
While these require a little more supervision than a pack n’ play, they can provide a fun and developmentally appropriate place for your baby to play that doesn’t restrict movement. These mats can be used for tummy time and babies can lay on their backs and observe, bat, and eventually grasp toys dangling from the soft arches above. (Note: all of these actions are developmental milestones in and of themselves!) Play gyms are easy to clean and are also portable (at least much more so than a Mamaroo or other similar seat) so you can easily move it from room to room or even throw it in the car when going to Grandma’s house.
Strapping your baby to your chest can free up your hands so you can chase a toddler at the park or do some chores around the house, but there are other advantages. You are in constant contact with your baby so you can respond easily to your baby’s cues. Your baby’s close proximity may also naturally prompt more verbal communication with your baby as you talk about what you are doing or the things you see around you, and we know that verbal communication is essential for language development. Also, babies can lift and move their heads around and work on head and neck control when being carried. This cannot happen when a baby is lying on her back. A quick google search on the benefits of babywearing will show you that these perks are just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s important to remember that baby wearing and all baby devices do come with safety warnings. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on any product you use and check your baby regularly for proper positioning when babywearing. More on that here and here.
If you have concerns about your baby’s developmental timeline, call us today or talk with your child’s doctor about finding a pediatric therapy practice near you. Our team is always ready to help!
Avruskin, A. Physical therapists guide to baby container syndrome. Available at: http://www.moveforwardpt.com/
Hunziker U, Barr R. Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 1983;77:641–648.