Car Seats, Swings and Bouncers, Oh My!

Becoming a new mom or dad is an exciting time and there are so many options of car seats, strollers, bouncers, and swings that it is hard to choose what is right for you and your child. Baby containers were designed to keep babies safe, allow parents to easily transport their baby, and to give babies playtime in a position they may not be able to independently get into. On average, infants spend almost 6 hours per day in these things! That’s too much. Excessive time in these devices actually limits free movement and places babies at higher risk for a variety of issues, such as plagiocephaly (flattening of the back of the head), decreased strength, and delayed motor milestones. Equipment can hinder the development of skills and place inappropriate stress on developing bones and joints which can place the child at risk for other injuries.


Experts recommend no more than 3 hours a day. This includes car seats, swings, bouncers, walkers, bumbo seat, etc. We consider these four things when making these recommendations: safety, joint integrity in the position, impact on gross motor development, and the baby’s ability to move freely. When a child is already at risk for developmental delays due to prematurity, down syndrome, or other medical concerns, overuse of equipment can result in even greater impact and delays for the baby.


Time in a container can quickly add up throughout the day which limits a baby’s time to play, explore, and move their bodies. Overuse of containers decreases opportunities for a baby to kick, turn their head side-to-side, wiggle and move as a baby is supposed to do in order to develop the strength and coordination to learn new skills such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking. While many of these products are advertised as ways to work on these skills, they can actually delay them. By standing in an activity center or sitting in a floor seat, containers prevent children from sitting or standing in correct alignment which impacts their ability to activate important muscles. Equipment can hinder the development of skills and place inappropriate stress on developing bones and joints.


We get it! Baby carriers and equipment make life easier! But there is a time and a place for them. We would like to encourage you to be aware of how much time a day your baby is spending in equipment and try to limit it to what is absolutely necessary. Limit container use to only when the baby is being transported somewhere or absolutely needs to be secured in a safe place. Create a safe floor space on a flat surface that provides your baby with unrestricted room to move. Wearing your baby is also a great alternative. Even though overall movement is limited in this position, infant carriers and slings leave a baby’s head and neck free to move and take pressure off the back of the skull.


If you have concerns that your child may be developing flat spots on the back of the head, delayed reaching, rolling, and other developmental milestones please contact your primary care provider. They may recommend therapy.


Meet the Author:

Nicole Grates, PT, DPT