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Why you should never put your baby in a walker, swing, or jump up

Research has found these devices prevent the core torso strength necessary for walking to develop

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I am in a year long Anusara yoga immersion and teacher training.  At our last gathering, one of my teachers shared information that made a lot of sense about young children in relation to physical development.

We’ve been studying alignment and talking about posture.  My other teacher is a bodyworker, and I went to a few Roolf sessions to work on some of my body’s misalignment.  Alignment is on my mind a lot.

When we put our children in unnatural positions as babies, we are creating misalignment.

Think of the natural progress children make in their physical abilities.  All parents have watched this unfold with wonder.

First, babies begin to life and move around their heads while lying on the bellies.  Next, they begin to push up with their arms stretching their backs aiding lumbar development.  As the back strengthens, babies are able to sit up and then crawl. Eventually, they learn to pull themselves up, and finally bear weight upon their legs (and hips) and walk as toddlers.

What happens when we mess with this natural succession of physical development by placing children in paraphernalia that is truly not developmentally appropriate?

Seven Counties Services explains:

Scientists have observed that motor skills generally develop from the center of the body outward and from head to tail. These developments don’t just occur by instinct. The more chances babies have to practice these skills, the more they will be able to grow and strengthen. This means babies need time and space to explore and manipulate objects in their environment and use their muscles, having “tummy time.” Caregivers can place babies on their belly on the floor so they have an opportunity to use those muscles. By around age 2 months, infants’ backs continue to strengthen, and they are able to raise their head and chest up off the ground and rest their body on their elbows when they’re lying on their stomachs. Around this time, they will also kick and bend their legs while lying on their stomachs; this helps prepare babies for crawling later. By around 3 months, babies continue to mature as they can hold themselves up for longer periods, up to several minutes, and begin to hold their bodies in symmetry. That means that the tonic neck reflex disappears, and they are able to hold each arm in the same position on both sides of their body while on their backs.

Babies continue to strengthen their muscles and improve control of their body parts as they grow. Around age 4 months, they can maintain control of their head and hold it steady while they’re sitting up with help or lying on their belly. They begin to roll their body from their belly to their back on their own. About a month later, they will then be able to roll from their back to their belly. Also around age 5 months, babies will wiggle all their limbs while they lie on their belly; this strengthens their crawling muscles. As with all physical development, skills build one on top of another. Around age 6 months, most infants can sit up by themselves for brief periods and can begin to put some weight on their legs as they’re held upright with some support.

As babies enter the second half of their first year, they become more mobile and can move themselves around their environment on their own. Caregivers need to be prepared to be more active as they follow the babies and to baby proof (Babyproofing)their home so that dangerous situations and substances can be avoided. Babies are eager to explore their newly expanded environment. Babies may begin to crawl around age 7 months. At around 8 months, babies can sit up by themselves for extended periods and can pull themselves to their feet while they hold onto something for leverage and support, such as a table or the edge of a couch. By the next month, age 9 months, babies can not only sit independently for a long time, but also reach and play with toys while maintaining their balance. At this time, babies can pull themselves up into a stand without support. This is a critical time for exercising these muscle groups. The use of baby walkers, or devices that hold babies upright while they move their legs to move around, can delay this process. Research has found that the use of these devices prevents babies from developing the core torso strength necessary for walking (before developing leg strength), which can then lead to difficulty walking or running in the future. For this reason, walkers and other similar devices should not be used.

I want to repeat that last part:

Research has found that the use of these devices prevents babies from developing the core torso strength necessary for walking (before developing leg strength), which can then lead to difficulty walking or running in the future. For this reason, walkers and other similar devices should not be used.

Yes, baby pilates serves a purpose!

I would add that it is not just problems with walking and running but in the whole development of their spine.

You’ve probably heard that many front style baby-wearing carriers may cause hip dysplasia, but have you ever thought of the position your baby’s back is in when placed in a swing or baby bouncy chair?  That curve is unnatural.  Imagine if you sat in such a concave position.  It’s a pretty big slouch. What muscles are we encouraging to develop?

What about when babies are placed in upright positions in walkers or jump ups before they have naturally developed the strength to bear weight on their legs and hips?

I never used a walker or bouncy chair with my children. We did use a car seat (that can’t really be helped) and a stroller, as well as a swing. When I think of the rounded shape this leaves children’s spines and necks, I cringe.  This is exactly the posture we don’t want them to develop, yet we leave them in this position at a critical time of development.

Many parents and grandparents advocate for swings, walkers, jump ups, etc. because they think it makes baby content. They think it speeds up development to help them stand supported and be mobile, like in a walker, or be able to view the world upright. This is a very adult perspective.  The view from the floor can be very interesting!

The best place for your baby to develop naturally is the floor. Floor time will allow your child to follow the rhythm of life that for countless generations allowed the human body to develop properly.

If you need to use a a walker, bouncie chair, swing, or jump up, please  strictly limit time your child is in such devices.  Better yet, avoid them altogether. Enough time will be spent in a car seat to do enough damage.

We don’t need all this baby stuff.  It is not helping our children develop  into physical, graceful, strong bodies.  Babies practice yoga naturally. Let them follow the rhythm of life.

Comments

  1. Heather says:

    The research referenced in this article is only talking about being held in a standing position and walking before they’re able to support their own weight (ie, walkers). The commentary about swings, bouncers, etc seems to be the author’s own opinion.

    That opinion seems to be saying — and correct me if I’m wrong — that the rounded, ‘slouchy’ back that is encouraged by these items is detrimental to proper muscle and back development.

    However, the opposite is actually true. The rounded outward curve of a baby’s back is what is natural for them. As the muscles grow and develop, it slowly becomes the inward curve of the upright spine. Forward-facing carries are in fact problematic, as you mention, not merely because of hip dysplasia, but even when the hips are properly supported, it still forced the back into the inward curve which is unnatural for infants.

    Proper carriers for babies support the outward curve and don’t force it to a straight or inward curve. This is one of the problems with the Bumbo chair, for instance. It forces the back into the unnatural, ‘adult’ spine position. Young babies should be in a cradle position.

    Also, it’s erroneous to say that the best place for a baby to develop is on the floor. Yes, floor time is great and has many benefits. But that is not where the ‘rhythm’ of development occurred for ‘countless generations’. In the wild, in a natural human habitat, the ‘floor’ would be a very dangerous place for a baby with no self-mobility! Indeed there are still cultures where infants do not even touch the ground until they’re ready to walk. There is nothing wrong with being upright — when properly supported by the parent’s arms or a proper sling carrier. This does not artficially deform a baby’s’ back, but indeed supports the development of those same muscles as ‘floor time’ does, and gives them social experience and additional views of the world.

    Artificially being held in a standing position — or a seated position like the bumbo — I agree is harmful and needs to be very limited. But I believe you’ve made an unsupported leap in logic to extend that to all upright positions (ie, being held or worn in a swing), and also bringing in swings and bouncy chairs which are not about the upright position at all. Time in *any* device should be limited because babies require massive amounts of physical contact and connection for proper development — which also should limit their ‘floor time’, as a matter of fact — but among those, the bouncy chair is the least detrimental. The outward curve for a baby’s back is what is normal and should be supported.

    I do have some articles supporting these statements — I shall return with some links shortly.

  2. Heather says:

    This one is excellent, directly addressing the ‘horizontal is superior to vertical because of spine stress’ misunderstanding (ie, there is some truth to it but it’s often misapplied), as well as the benefits of upright carrying to vestibular development, social experience, alertness, and the importance of physical contact in physiological regulation. Many references are footnoted for further information.

    http://www.boba.com/research/strollers-baby-carriers-and-infant-stress/

    Regarding “tummy time” – you can easily find hundreds of articles explaining the importance of tummy time in order to combat the flat head syndrome caused by the “back to sleep” campaigns and the increasing use of car seats as carriers/strollers. However, while the issue of getting infants off their backs all the time is legitimate, nearly all of these articles posit tummy time as the *only* alternative, ignoring even the possibility of upright carrying — it’s not even discussed in order to dismiss it, it’s just not even mentioned at all!

    In fact, the so-called importance of tummy time is entirely a modern invention, caused by our increased dependence on putting babies in containers, and the increase in crib sleeping which indeed is safer on the back (when co-sleeping or sharing sleep, which is historically and evolutionarily the ‘normal’ and biological expectation), various positions are safe since the proximity to the mother regulates the baby’s respiratory and cardiac activity!)

    While it is indeed important to get these babies off their backs all the time, it is erroneous to say that tummy time is the *only* solution, or indeed that it is the historical norm.

    In her book ‘Babywearing’, Maria Blois (M.D.) states:
    “all the evidence points to…carried babies develop[ing] better than stationary babies. BWing activates baby’s vestibular system (used for balance) and encourages him to use his head and neck muscles to compensate for your movements. Because of this, the time that you wear your baby can actually count as ‘tummy time’. BWing is not a passive activity. Your baby is an active partner…. You can trust your baby to ask for exactly the ‘down time’ he needs to develop properly.”

    http://www.babywearinginternational.org/images/revised%20Nov-Dec2011newsletter.pdf
    http://www.janetlansbury.com/2011/08/the-case-against-tummy-time-guest-post-by-irene-gutteridge/
    http://onyababy.com/blog/2012/02/babywearing-tummy-time/
    http://blog.ergobaby.com/2013/03/five-reasons-to-wear-your-baby/

  3. Heather says:

    Aw, thanks! :) Maybe someday I’ll have time to write some more… but certainly not right now! :p

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