700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Container Baby Syndrome: How Equipment Can Hinder a Child's Development

Oct 23, 2018
image of a baby girl in a bouncy seat

As a parent or caretaker of an infant, you are undoubtedly aware of the numerous equipment options available for babies. Swings, bouncy seats and car seats are just a few of the products available and advertised to help babies and families. Extended time throughout the day in any or multiple of these items may lead to issues currently referred to as “Container Baby Syndrome.”

An infant container is any device that limits movement of a baby and includes

  • Infant carriers such as slings and packs
  • Nursing pillows or cushions
  • Floor seats, car seats and high chairs
  • Jumpers or walkers
  • Infant swings

Time in a container can quickly add up throughout the day if a child rides in a car seat, falls asleep in a swing, sits in a high chair then stands in a baby walker or other such equipment. Switching from one container to the next reduces the amount of time and ability 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 needed strength and coordination to learn new skills such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking.

While many of these products make parents feel the baby is working on these skills by standing in an activity center or sitting in a floor seat, containers actually prevent children from sitting or standing in correct alignment and result in an inability to activate important muscles. Equipment can hinder the development of skills and place inappropriate stress on developing bones and joints - placing the child at risk for other injuries.

These issues mean that children who use containers may actually take longer to develop skills such as sitting, standing and walking. 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.

Container Baby Syndrome may be identified in a child when issues arise including:

  • Delays achieving expected motor milestones such as rolling, sitting or standing
  • Flat spots on the head due to lack of movement known as plagiocephaly
  • Tightness in the neck from keeping the head turned or tilted to one side known as torticollis

Additionally, some of these equipment options may be unsafe for children resulting in falls or other injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a ban on the manufacture and sale of infant walkers in the United States due to concerns for children’s safety while using this equipment.

To allow a baby to develop appropriately and safely, children should follow safe sleep practices sleeping alone, on their backs, in a crib, in a non-smoking home, but then enjoy as much awake, play time on their tummy during the day as possible.

Use of equipment is critical with a car seat when traveling in the car and helpful for a few minutes total during the day to allow a parent to perform tasks that are unsafe with baby, such as cooking at a hot stove. Speaking with a pediatrician regarding any concerns for Container Baby Syndrome will ensure your child develops safely and appropriately. Physical therapists may also be able to help with these concerns and improve problems from Container Baby Syndrome through stretches, activities for strengthening, and assisting with achieving motor milestones.

For more information on Nationwide Children's Hospital’s Clinical Therapy services, click here.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Lori Grisez PT, DPT
Clinical Therapies

Lori Grisez, PT, DPT, is a board-certified pediatric clinical specialist and developmental therapist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. As a clinical leader, Lori divides her time between patient care and leadership of staff at the main campus location. Lori provides specialty care for patients through serial casting, equipment evaluations, vestibular therapy in the developmental population and in the Myelomeningocele Clinic.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.