Monday, April 12, 2010

Container Babies

Doctors and physical therapists around the country have coined a new term for babies who spend too much time in devices like carriers, swings and bouncy seats. They are calling it "container syndrome." According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune, these containers are causing an increase in cases of misshapen skulls, contorted neck muscles and delayed motor skills, like crawling and walking. A recent study conducted by the Pathways Awareness Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes early detection of movement delays, found two-thirds of physical and occupational therapists say they've seen an increase in movement delays in the past six years. The group surveyed 400 therapists.

"Tummy time" is promoted as the solution to this issue, but many babies don't like it, and it's difficult to fit it in when you're running all around town... however,  many people in the babywearing world believe babywearing is the same as tummy time, including Dr. Maria Blois.  Many of the same muscles are used, and it also gets baby off their back, so helps avoid the flattening on the back of the head.
Keeping babies strapped down in these "containers" prevents them from using all the muscles they need to grow normally. "Any of these devices that are developed to provide basically convenience for the parents, such as seats for feeding and some of the other play saucers and things like that, and play mobiles and things where the child basically is entertained by lying on their back and looking up also puts considerable amount of pressure on the back of the head and then causes a flattening there," Carl Barr, D.O., a child neurologist in Orlando, Fla., explained to Ivanhoe. He added, "If you're not put in a position where you have to maintain your head because it's resting on some other device, then you don't develop the strength in those muscles."

- Get Container Babies Off Their Backs!

I have had people stop me in the grocery store to admire my babies heads... people have specifically noted that they don't have flat spots or bald spots.  There is a reason for that... it is because my babies don't spend most of their awake time on their backs in bouncy seats, or lying in a crib watching a mobile.  They spend it either playing on their tummies on the floor, or on my back or chest in a carrier... close to mama, soaking in cuddle time and watching whatever I'm doing with wide eyes.  Watching Mama wash dishes is pretty exciting when you're a baby! ;)


Edited to add...

The Back to Sleep campaign, while it has reduced SIDS rates, has likely contributed to some babies having some flatness or baldness. Now, I held my first child for most of his naps, and wore my daughter for most of hers when they were small, and my 11 month old prefers to sleep on her stomach, so I'm sure there is a possibility that one or both of them would've had a little baldness or flatness had I put them down on their backs for their naps and at night. Also, generally my babies have slept on their sides a lot at night due to cosleeping and breastfeeding. So obviously, there are a lot of factors that can affect whether a baby has flatness or baldness.

BUT.

"[C]ontainers are causing an increase in cases of misshapen skulls, contorted neck muscles and delayed motor skills, like crawling and walking."

That is a very serious issue and was the main point of my post... which is that for our babies *health*, "containers" aren't best for babies.

9 comments:

Danielle said...

We've gotten comments about our little one and his lack of flat/bald spot. Kind of scary how that has become a normal, defining feature of infancy.

www.borninjapan.net

Sarah @ OneStarryNight said...

FANTASTIC post. I've seen so many babies with flat heads or parents that leave them on baby playmats/cribs ALL day long... it's disturbing!

natalie said...

Danielle - I agree... it really boggles my mind that this is normative and expected.

Sarah - thanks, and thanks so much for sharing my post. It is very disturbing. I can't imagine missing out on the snuggle time babywearing gives and letting a playmat entertain my baby all day long...

Kristen said...

GREAT post.

acjj606 said...

Actually, babies started getting the flat spots after the "Back to sleep" campaigns. My baby is bald in the back of her head, but she certainly gets carried around, and loved on most of her waking hours. I think it's a little unfair to single out people because their baby has a bald spot.

natalie said...

acjj606 - thanks for your comment. I agree that the Back to Sleep campaign has likely contributed to some babies having some flatness or baldness. I held my first child for most of his naps, and wore my daughter for most of hers when they were small, and my 11 month old prefers to sleep on her stomach, so I'm sure there is a possibility that one or both of them would've had a little baldness or flatness had I put them down on their backs for their naps and at night. Also, generally my babies have slept on their sides a lot at night due to cosleeping and breastfeeding. So obviously, there are a lot of factors that can affect whether a baby has flatness or baldness.

BUT, as the article says, "containers are causing an increase in cases of misshapen skulls, contorted neck muscles and delayed motor skills, like crawling and walking." That is a very serious issue and was the main point of my post... which is that for our babies *health*, "containers" aren't best for babies.

Michelle said...

While I think you're absolutely right to clarify that some flatness/hair rubbing is due to the fact that babies are now more likely to sleep on their backs, this is all the more reason in my mind to reduce the amount of time they spend on their backs otherwise.
It's not just about aesthetics: babies in containers aren't doing the one thing they need to do to develop as people - be with *other* people.
A little tip for those really worried about hair rubbing: a customer of mine advised me that she used always lay her daughter down on a playsilk or silk baby blankie and she never had any hair rub off :).

Brandislee said...

Both of my kids slept in their crib, on their back for all naps and night (well, most nights:) and even then they both have lovely shaped heads and never had bald spots, so I don't think your holding/wearing during naps would be the deciding factor. Like you, my babies spent all their non sleeping time on the floor (with a good balance of tummy and back time) or in a wrap or sling. No saucers or bouncies here!

But you may also add that the delay in motor skills is likely a combination of factors including both container syndrome and the back to sleep movement.

natalie said...

Michelle - Exactly! This isn't just a cosmetic issue at all... and that wasn't what I intended to convey to people.

Brandislee - thanks for sharing from your experience! I agree that any type of delay will be due to a combination of factors... which will probably vary from child to child.