The “Container Baby” Lifestyle

“Container Baby” is a relatively new term used in pediatrics to describe a baby that spends a majority of her time in some sort of enclosed space. These ‘containers’ can include car seats, bouncy swings, vibrating chairs, bumbo seats or other devices that ‘contain’ a baby’s movement. They can be used for any number of reasons, whether it be for safety or to give mom a few free minutes to cook dinner or fold laundry.

How “Containing” Your Baby Can Delay Motor Development:

Some babies spend many of their waking hours in a containing device and don’t get enough floor time to play. Floor time, where a baby is either placed on his tummy or back to play, is extremely important to help with strengthening his neck, back, tummy, arm and leg muscles. Floor time allows a child to explore her environment and provides essential sensory input, including tactile and visual information, that helps with development.

Plagiocephaly or Flatness of the Head:

Another direct cause of the “container baby” lifestyle is the increasing occurrence of plagiocephaly, or flatness of the head. Babies who are contained in the same position are at risk for developing flatness to one part of their head, which can lead to cosmetic deformities, facial asymmetry and torticollis, or the tightening of one side of the neck. Plagiocephaly often begins in-utero, but it can easily be prevented by making sure that your child is spending enough play time on his tummy. Aim for three hours of tummy time per day by the time your child is two months old.

Alternatives to Car-Seats, Swings and Other “Containers” for your Baby:

Devices like front and back carriers are a great way to help your child with their head control and serve as nice alternatives to carrying her in the car-seat if she is not going to be in the car. Car seats are heavy and awkward, and they don’t provide you with the opportunity to snuggle and bond with your baby. Once your baby is old enough to hold his head up, front and back carriers are a great way for him to help develop his neck and back muscles since he will be interested in looking around his environment.

All parents need time during the day to get some housework done and to spend time in places other than on the floor playing with the baby. A playpen is a great way to give yourself some time to make dinner or do the dishes while your child is occupied but not strapped down in a container. Your baby will love that she can be active in her environment, and it will give her great opportunities to develop the muscles that she will need to reach her gross motor milestones.

For advice and helpful tips on how to help your child enjoy tummy time, please refer to my blog, “Tummy Time and Infants”.

5 replies
  1. Healthy Family
    Healthy Family says:

    As a mama to 4, I just want to add that for some, front and back carriers can cause the parent physical problems. I can’t carry my babies around in carriers anymore. I did with my third because he needed it, but it was very hard on my back. A nice alternative is an exersaucer. I have one that has survived three kids and is on the fourth now. It is loud, but gives babies a chance to sit, stand, spin themselves around, and helps them to work on upper body dexterity with all the attached toys. I totally agree that babies need exercise, especially from 3 months on. What’s your feeling on those door frame jumping seats? I have always been afraid to get one.

  2. Tortlelaunchpad
    Tortlelaunchpad says:

    Tummy time is certainly necessary for infant development, particularly for preventing plagiocephaly or “flat head syndrome.” There are many other ways to decrease the risk as well. When approaching and feeding baby, parents can alternate the direction from which they come, encouraging them to turn their head in a different direction each time. Another technique is to place interesting and stimulating toys in new locations around baby’s room so they will have to turn their head in different directions depending on where the toys are. Finally, massaging baby’s neck muscles when they are relaxed can help them stretch both sides of the neck equally. Parents can also visit for more information and to join the mission to end plagiocephaly!

  3. cherrick Gordon
    cherrick Gordon says:

    Another point to keep in mind is that Plagiocephaly affects “preemie” much more often. If your baby is a preemie and you need to make lots of trips to and from the hospital after you bring your baby home, try to remember to take your baby out of the car seat or stroller immediately after each trip. In addition, try feeding baby from both side of your body so that she has to turn her head to both sides. This will help to prevent her from developing torticollis ( tight neck muscles) which also corrolates with Plagiocephalhy. For more information on why preemies are more susceptible to plagiocephaly click this link


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] With this information in front of me, as a clinician I can advocate the use of slings with very young babies who need that skin-to-skin contact, and with decreasing frequency of use as they get older.  I do not advocate the use of swings, jumpers and (outside of the car) car carriers as places to put babies.  Click here to read about the container baby “lifestyle”. […]

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