What Does the Term “Container Baby” Mean?

Have you heard the term “container baby” recently and wondered what that meant? This term comes from babies who spend most of their day or a considerable amount of time per day in equipment such as swings, bouncers, car seat, etc.  With our technology-centered and fast paced world, equipment seems like a good, entertaining option to put your baby in so you can finish cleaning the house, cook, or take care of your other children.  Equipment can be acceptable for short amounts of time; however, it can hinder their development when they are in it for extended periods during the day.

What are the Effects of Spending A lot of Time in a Container?

When a baby spends most of their day or a considerable amount of time per day in equipment it may lead to:

  • Decreased muscle tone because a baby does not have to use their own muscles to support themselves and therefore leads to decreased muscle strength and developmental delays.
  • Torticollis, which is the shortening/tightness of the muscles on one side of the neck. If a baby is always positioned in the same way in equipment, they may always look to one side of their body and develop torticollis.
  • Plagiocephaly, which is flatness on the back or side of the head. When a baby is left in equipment for extended periods of time it creates a lot of pressure on the back and/or side of their head and may change the bony alignment of their head.
  • Delay in developmental milestones since they do not have the opportunity to practice and build the strength needed to perform skills such as rolling, sitting without support, crawling, walking, etc.

What Can I Do Instead?

It is important to recognize that not all equipment is bad and when used for short periods of time it may not have negative effects on your baby.  There are times during the day that you may need to finish a project or chores, during that time consider using:

  • Equipment that will entertain your baby and has decreased negative effects:
    • Tummy Time Mat – Relieves pressure off the back of their head and strengthens their neck and upper body.
    • Pack N’ Play – Encourages different positions, such as on their tummy, back, side, and sitting, in a safe space. It also relieves pressure off the back of their head and helps to build overall body strength.
  • A swing or bouncer seat only for 30 minutes or less a day.
  • Transportation equipment:
    • Infant carrier wrap or sling – There are many benefits to using these rather than a car seat when you need to transport your baby outside of the car, such as going into a store, a doctor appointment, etc. The benefits include:
      • Relieving pressure off the back and side of their head;
      • The baby can experience loving touch;
      • Requires the baby to use their trunk and neck muscles.
    • Car Seat – **Must use if traveling in a car** – If a car seat is being used for activities other than traveling in the car, such as in the grocery store, while on a walk, etc. or is being used inside the house as a place to sleep or to be entertained, this may lead to decreased muscle tone, torticollis and flattening on the back and/side of their head.

By limiting time in equipment, a baby can have more active movement, it improves overall body strength, it provides them an opportunity to explore their environment, it fosters the development of age appropriate milestones and they can experience loving touch.

-Kelly Raines, PT, DPT

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