A term I do not love but I will explain what it is and why I don’t love it!
Overall, baby containers are items that “contain” free movement of a baby. Things like carriers, jumpers, sit me up, walkers, exersaucers, bumbo seats, bouncers, swings, etc. Things that we put babies in to “contain” them.
I hate the term “baby containers”, because it can be correlated with a lot of judgement. A baby doesn’t meet certain motor milestones or develops flattening of the back of the head (AKA plagiocephaly) and automatically a parent is shamed for using various baby gear, when in actuality it wasn’t really these things. But also, in general, parent shaming is not fun to see or feel.
So my goal is to explain the limitations to these various items and also explain balancing with other developmental activities or avoiding some of these altogether to save money!
If you think of the basics, floor time is extremely important for babies.
Floor time forces babies to utilize their big and small muscles. By laying toys around in a playpen on a playmat, babies are using their motor and cognitive skills to lift their head, reach for objects nearby, roll, crawl, pull to stand and eventually walk. I think of it in basic terms and from an evolutionary perspective—if you have nothing holding you back, you will learn to move to keep up with your adults aka caregivers.
So from a motor standpoint, floor time is an AMAZING and FREE way to encourage baby development.
Ideally, I want you to encourage floor time as much as possible. Play time on the floor is the most ideal, or you can use a playpen if you are busy in the kitchen but need them in a safe area.
But what about all those items on the market? They say they’re great for baby development – are they?
Let me start with, be wary of marketing!
I want you to be wary when purchasing these items. Many parents feel these items help their babies sit faster and walk faster but it’s actually the contrary. And if you’ve used some of these—please remember it’s okay. It’s all about big picture here and balancing other developmental activities!
Using these items in moderation is fine, but we need to discuss some popular “baby containers”.
The hard reality is—moderation is a loose term. There is no amount of time where it becomes detrimental. But, my philosophy is:
- If you feel they’ve been in these things for too long, you’re probably right.
- AND when you’re playing with your baby, move them out of these and onto the floor.
Balance is possible, but you have to have insight into knowing the balance is important.
So let’s discuss 6 of the most popular “baby containers”.
Remember it’s important to look at the weight requirements and not just age as children come in different sizes.
- Bouncers like the Baby Bjorn (The age is marketed for 0-2 years (8 pounds-29 pounds))
- Pros: We actually used this for our son and we loved it. It gave us an option to put him if we were cooking in the kitchen and wanted him with us. Ryaan loved it because he would use his own momentum to bounce in it, so it was a fun activity for him. I liked it only because it wasn’t battery operated so he used his own body to move it, unlike an electric swing. We liked this item so we could bring him into the kitchen with us and he could watch us cook.
- Cons: With overuse— this can lead to flattening in back of head. This can happen due to friction, so we balance it with tummy time/floor time whenever able to.
- Best Practice: Balance with floor time and stop using when showing signs of sitting.
- Bumbo Seat/Sit me up seat
- Pros: Sorry, I don’t see many pros. I see no benefit of putting a baby into a seated position before they are ready.
- Cons: Can cause slouching issues as well.
- Best Practice: Would be not to use it. Remember babies will learn to sit when they have a strong core and can practice balancing and best way to do that is on the floor.
- The Upseat
- Pros: This is a good item for a baby who you are starting to puree feed who is not completely independent sitting but you want a space for them to sit with support.
- Cons: My concern would still be putting them in this position before they are ready as a play area.
- Best Practice: I do see this as an alternative to the bumbo or sit me up seat if baby is starting puree feed.
- Exersaucers (Skip Hop)
- Pros: Somewhere safe for them to be while you cook, some fun lights and activities, and they can bounce around and have fun. We did use the Skip Hop one and Ryaan did love it.
- Cons: If the foot pad is not in right position, babies can be forced in tip toe rather than their whole foot which is not optimal and it also doesn’t give them balance practice that floor time would or working towards crawling or pulling to stand.
- Best Practice: Wait until sitting your child is sitting independently and balance use with floor time.
- Jolly Jumpers
- Pros: I am not a fan. I don’t see the point of babies needing to jump. Sure it’s fun, but so many other things are fun!
- Cons: The momentum can put pressure on the hips and joints.
- Best Practice: Balance it with floor time and interact with them while they’re in it. I would much prefer the exersaucer or putting them on a mat in a playpen if you need to use the restroom, prep something in the kitchen, or put away laundry-for those expected small moments away.
- Walkers (There are two types of walkers—the ones where babies stand inside and the push walkers)
- Pros: It’s a no for me.
- Cons: The ones where babies stand inside should be banned as they have been associated with many injuries—rolling over while inside, rolling down stairs as examples. So, the walkers where baby stands inside is a hard NO from a safety perspective.
- Best Practice: for push walkers only: Use once your child is taking 5 steps independently.
My bottom line with “baby containers”
- Encourage floor time
- Save your money on gear
- Beware of marketing and your child’s own development
- Create a balance with floor time and other activities
- Don’t blame yourself for developmental outcomes if you use gear