I’m not sure where it started, and I have searched the web to determine who coined the phrase “containment syndrome” but I cannot find who started this phrase. (If you know . . . please tell me!) Anyway, containment syndrome is the description for babies who are in some sort of a container all the time. Containers are car seats, bouncy seats and swings (I would also add exersaucers). These are helpful devices and are not bad all the time . . . but they are bad when used all the time!
Containment devices do not allow babies to move with the freedom of movement that they need. None of these devices, if you think about it, allow a baby to do any sort of extension (movement into a straight position of the spine). With the exception of the exersaucer, they all put baby in a position where the spine is rounded into flexion. I had a baby once that was adopted from a mother who sadlyneglected the baby. The baby was never moved out of the carseat. The baby’s spine was exactly the shape of the carseat and was stuck there. It took a lot of therapy to improve the spinal alignment. It does not have to be that severe though, I have had many well intentioned families sleep their babies in the carseat and the baby’s head is very misshapen and the baby has a lot of unnecessary tight muscles as a result. Some families just don’t know that every product out there is not necessarily good for baby. My least favorite product that was out a few years ago was a swing base made for the carseat. This meant that a baby never had to get out of their carseat!
So, as parents, we cannot avoid carseats, swings and bouncy seats altogether. We definately need them! But, how can we allow our babies varied movement experiences even though we use them?
First, make sure that your containment devices have varied footprints. Make sure the bouncy seat, swing and the carseat do not all have the same angle of rounding. A flatter seat (like a sling bouncy seat) will make the baby work a bit harder, allow more extension movement patterns and be less passive than the deep bucket of a carseat.
Second, use an upright baby carrier like a BabyBjorn or Ergo Baby Carrier. Both of these allow the baby the unique experience to adjust their body in relation to what you are doing. For example, if you bend over the baby will activate their flexor muscles a bit more to attempt to stay upright if the baby is facing toward you. If facing out (BabyBjorn), the baby will activate extensor muscles to stay upright (outward facing should only be done when baby has independent head control).
Finally, and most importantly, I always tell my families to follow the TBS rule whenever you have a put a baby down.
T – Tummy First
B – Back Second
S – Swing (or Bouncy Seat) next
Basically what this means is that if you have to put a baby down (which is a lot), try to put the baby on tummy first, then if they fuss try back then try a bouncy seat or swing. This ensures that the baby is allowed sufficient time in the day to move his or her body with appropriate freedom and no restrictions.