What is a baby container . . . and why is it bad?

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.

TBS Rule

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.

 

Why exercise babies?

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As a pediatric physical therapist, I always tell people

my job is to teach children to move so that they can explore and learn from their environment

What does this really mean?  Take a baby who is seven months for example.  Typically this baby should be rolling around their environment and getting into places where Mom and Dad don’t want them!  In doing so, they touching different textures that they have not been able to get to, playing with the box that is on the floor, getting to new toys that they were not able to reach previously.  As the baby touches the new toy, they learn about the properties of the new toy.  Perhaps they put the box up to their mouth and yell into it and hear their voice echo back.  Perhaps they put their hand inside and realize that it is a hole and something is inside of it.  Perhaps they bang on bottom of the box and listen to the noise that it makes. 

What if this baby does not roll, while the baby is able to play with toys that are near them if he or she can reach them, they are not able to learn and experience new things that are self motivated unless someone brings a new toy to them.  Not every child that does not roll by seven months has a developmental problem, they just maybe lacked the proper exposure strengthen the muscles they need for rolling. 

Therefore, effective exercises for baby from the start can strengthen the muscles necessry to help her to move so that she can explore and learn from her environment.

Welcome to Babies First Fitness

Image Welcome to my blog about fitness for babies!  This is the place to be if you are interested in putting the fitness for babies (and toddlers) first.  I am a pediatric physical therapist that treats primarily infants and toddlers.  I work in the hospital NICU, an outpatient setting as well as in family’s homes. I am also a devoted mom to three lovely (very) young children.

I have been inspired to write a blog that shares tips and tricks to exercise with baby.  When searching for exercises with baby, the internet is flooded with exercises for mom, perhaps with the baby, but mostly for Mom . . .  I guess perhaps it is mom searching for the exercises!  Some sites will talk about how important tummy time is, but they lack in telling you how to do it if your baby hates it.  Other sites talk about how important it is to be active with your toddlers, but they do not provide games and activities that will improve their balance and coordination. 

Parents who are involved in pediatric therapy for one reason or another have an advantage, they have someone telling them how to exericise their babies and toddlers.  However, typically, most parents do not have this benefit.   I am here to provide my services to offer tips and tricks from a professional baby and toddler exerciser on how to really exercise your children so that they strengthen the muscles they need to create coordinated and efficient movement patterns.  Does this mean that baby is going to crawl early or walk early . . . no. . . talk to any therapist they don’t want that, but their movement will be smooth and coordinated and delays may be averted if the baby is exercised effectively. 

So, follow along and learn ideas on how to exercise our babies effectively.