I recently went shopping with my sister for a baby shower gift. Her friend is having a baby boy at the end of the month. I work with babies everyday, but to say I was out of my element in this big bright baby store is a bit of an understatement. So much……stuff. And stuff babies don’t need! In particular, “buckets”.
I’m talking about vibrating seats, swings, jumpers, bouncers, walkers. All of which are contributing to gross motor delays in infants. Because we are very busy people these days, our babies tend to go from the car seat, right into the stroller, then they get home and lay in the swing, and then to the bouncer. Before you know it, the day has gone by with no opportunity to experience a position that isn’t fully supported and reclined. That means no chance to try to hold your head up against gravity and build strength in the neck and trunk. It also means decreased tummy time that translates to core weakness and delayed gross motor skills. If always in a supported reclined position, the baby’s weak neck muscles will seek stability by hyperextending and tilting to one side (torticollis anyone?). And reclined equipment isn’t the only culprit. It happens very often where a parent will put their baby in an infant walker and proudly tell me, “Look! She’s walking!” At this point I always think to myself “Oh boy, we have to talk”, because studies have shown that gait abnormalities are likely to arise after as little as 30 minutes per day in an infant walker.
Infant equipment was no doubt born out of convenience and yes, they are super convenient for busy parents. But they also contribute to gross motor delays when used consistently and they take up so much space! My advice….of course you need to put your baby down throughout the day, just put them on a safe space on the floor. And if you feel like you must use equipment because you got it at your shower from a well meaning friend, limit the time spent to no more than 30 minutes for the day. Instead of moving our babies from “bucket” to “bucket”, let’s try to give them some opportunities to experience other positions so they can build strength and stability for continued development of motor skills.