Baby Gadgets That Can Hinder Your Baby’s Development

Posted by Cherrie MacLeod on

Car seat.
Bouncy chair.
Baby swing.
Jolly Jumper.

Without a doubt there are numerous equipment options available for parents to choose from, and thanks to modern marketing and creative advertising, new parents often feel like they need to purchase EVERY. SINGLE. GADGET in order to help their babies reach those developmental milestones quicker.

While some of these baby apparatuses are great for baby to be in for short periods of time and often a necessity, like a car seat - to keep your baby safe while in a vehicle, or a stroller - to go out for walks or grocery shop. Extended use of certain baby gadgets may actually delay your baby’s development and lead to “container baby syndrome”. 

Here are a few reasons why the use of certain infant containers may affect your baby’s development:

1. Restricted movement

Have you ever spent time sitting back in a reclining chair? It’s comfy and all, but after sitting there for awhile you start to feel a little stiff and your neck/shoulders may start to feel sore.

That’s much the same for our babies strapped into a gadget like an infant recliner, bouncy chair or baby swing where they are very restricted in their range of movement. Not only does the gadget usually do all the moving for your baby, putting them in a very passive position, propping them up into a semi-reclined position also makes it much harder for your baby to move their head and neck, often leading to plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome.

2. Positions they’re not yet ready for

Helping baby learn to sit and walk are major milestones new parents look forward to, and the common misconception is that if you put baby in a seated position or prop them  up to stand it will help them learn the skill faster. Which is why baby containers like the Bumbo, the Jolly Jumper and the exersaucer are so popular.

If you’ve ever stopped to look at your baby in those gadgets, you’ll notice they’re often put in weight bearing situations before they are ready.
For example, if you put your baby in a Bumbo before they’ve developed their core and back muscles to support being in a seated position, you’ll notice they’re either slumped forward or leaning against the back with their head hanging backwards. Not a very comfy position to be in.

As for the Jolly Jumper, many parents love it because their babies are nicely entertained and super happy bouncing around in it. However, it comes at the cost of improper alignment and muscle imbalances.

Imagine being dangled from a harness between your legs when your leg muscles are very weak and you don’t yet have full control of your limbs. Babies are often depending on their plantar (feet) reflex to bounce, which not only stimulates muscles that are already working too hard (ie. the hip flexors), but some doctors have reported that prolonged use can cause foot deformities.

3. Limiting fundamental experiences

Aside from being very restrictive, popular baby containers also put baby in upright positions long before they are ready to be in that position.

There is a reason why babies develop along a trajectory of  fundamental movements from being on their backs to rolling to pushing up and crawling then pulling up to cruising and then walking. This sequence of movements creates the building block for babies to develop their vestibular system and to coordinate all the necessary muscles.

When we place babies into an upright position prematurely and they’re used to seeing the world, they’ll come to expect it to happen ALL THE TIME (which makes tummy time a heck of a lot less fun when they are stuck staring at the 3 inches of floor in front of them), and they’ll expect parents to jump in all the time to help them get back to being upright.

More importantly, they’ll come to learn that it’s there for them without them having to work for it, which actually takes away an early opportunity for your baby to learn a life skill like work ethic, where they need to practice and work hard at achieving a goal.

While it may not seem like a big deal to put your baby in a fun gadget where they get to see the world, what’s actually happening is we’re taking away the power for them to figure it out on their own, which often leads to babies feeling passive, helpless and less confident in their abilities.

So even though your baby may seem to like all these fancy contraptions, parenting requires us to look beyond the moment of instant gratification and to establish healthy habits that will best serve our children in the long run as we encourage natural gross motor development.

Baby gadgets aside, the best way for babies to develop and reach motor milestones is by having plenty of open floor time for them to practice moving and coordinating their body without any restrictions.

When babies are free to explore their motor abilities without any artificial help or being restricted by baby apparatuses, they become much more confident movers and will reach those developmental milestones naturally when their building blocks are ready to support them.those developmental milestones when the building blocks are in place to support them.

Cherrie MacLeod is a positive parenting coach, financial educator, mama and founder of Parenting Littles. She completed her M.Ed at the University of British Columbia, and has been helping parents navigate the journey of parenthood for the past 15 years specializing in baby, toddler and preschooler development.

She is passionate about helping modern families reduce the overwhelm and stresses that come along with growing a family, and her work focuses on empowering parents with tools to raise children who are confident, kind, resilient and equipped with fundamental life skills that will help them thrive. 

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