What is container baby syndrome?

Today parents are offered so many positioning devices, all claiming to be “best” for your baby. You have the choice to place your baby in a swing, a bassinet, a bouncy seat, a stroller, a car seat, a Bumbo ® seat, a Johnny jump up, a high chair and the list goes on.  Well-intentioned parents have inadvertently delayed their child’s development by creating Container Baby Syndrome.

“Container baby syndrome” is the name used to describe a range of conditions caused by a baby or infant spending too much time in such containers. These conditions can cause movement, cognitive, and social interaction problems, and may even cause deformity.  A container can be of the positioning or safety devices mentioned above.

As we have discussed in other sections, “Why is early development important?” and “Why is Tummy Time Important?”, the human body and brain develops through increased exposure to sensory exploration and time to move and strengthen muscles. Using containers for prolonged periods of time prevents proper posture and alignment which leads to decreased muscle use and sensory exposure.  When an infant has decreased use of their muscles, their development in skills such as sitting, standing, and walking can be delayed. Other potential issues from increased container use are delays in gross motor milestones, development of flat spots on the child’s head, and torticollis (tightening of neck musculature).

Is it ever ok to put an infant in a container?

“Containers” are not inherently bad, and serve a purpose in your babies’ life.  However, these devices are meant to be used sparingly (a few minutes every day) usually for safety reasons, such as when a caregiver is not able to give full attention to their child or when driving.
Children’s Therapy Network suggests these 5 devices only. By limiting your devices to only these five you will save money and reduce the temptation of placing your baby in too many containers for too much time.  

Car Seat (appropriate for size and weight of your child).

Baby Carrier or Stroller (CTN recommends wearing your baby, but understand that
          strollers may be necessary at times)

High Chair (For feeding times only)

Crib or Bassinet (For sleeping only, and on their backs while sleeping) 

Safety Gates (By creating a safe environment, you can still place your baby on the
          floor to explore)

For proper development, it is recommended when a child is awake, they should be participating in tummy time as much as they will tolerate. During sleep hours, leaving a child alone in their crib and on their back is recommended (prevent them from sleeping in their car seat). It is also recommended that babies eat together with the family, and high chairs assist in proper head and spinal alignment needed for good digestion.