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20 Things To Know About Container Baby Syndrome: What It Is And How To Prevent It

With all the latest and greatest scientifically-designed baby equipment out there, many parents assume that the most recent baby gear is often better and safer. However, pediatricians and occupational therapists are warning parents that they're seeing an unsettling trend. More and younger babies and toddlers are showing up at doctor's offices with head issues. Concerned parents assure the doctor that they've purchased the safest gear for baby, but are often stunned to learn that the gear is to blame for the issues.

Container Baby Syndrome is a new phenomenon that doctors are seeing in ever-increasing numbers, and they warn that the busier parents become, Container Baby Syndrome will become more and more common. Babies are often carried around not in arms, but in a car seat carrier that moves from the car to arm, to stroller and even to the floor or high chair. If the baby is taken out, it's only to be put in a bouncy seat or swing.

Babies are spending less and less time on the floor—both on their backs or tummies—and parents are often too busy to hold and play with the baby. It may sound like a silly concept, and many parents become defensive, but the more aware new parents are of the problem and the simple ways to avoid it, the less it will occur. Here are 20 Facts About Container Baby Syndrome: What It Is And How To Prevent It.

20 Boxed In Baby

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It's not like babies in yesteryear once roamed freer than the buffalo on the prairie, but without us noticing, they have become boxed in as we develop more and more ways to contain them. Container Baby Syndrome (CBS) is a generalized term that describes a whole host of developmental delays that can result from the baby spending too much time in confining containers. A container in this sense is any of the ones that artificially hold babies, such as jumpers, walkers, strollers and grab-and-go car seats. It's hard to think of any of these causing issues and yet the stats are very real behind this one.

19 Not A True Syndrome?

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A syndrome is a collection of symptoms that occur together as a result of a particular condition, as per Merriam-Webster. Not all doctors and experts are in agreement about whether CBS constitutes a true syndrome because it's a relatively newly-recognized issue.

Physical therapists argue that it most definitely is a true syndrome, as they have noted significant developmental delays that they directly attribute to the baby being constantly confined, according to Lifespan Therapies.

As a result of an evergrowing market for baby containers --be it a rocking chair, an activity center or any of the aforementioned baby seats-- babies aren't being held as much and generally spend less time on their tummies.

18 Strolling Right Along

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Many strollers today are designed to fit a baby carrier that attaches to a base and becomes a car seat, detaches to carry baby securely, and can also attach to a base to become a stroller. The entire time, the baby is snuggled into a container that allows for little to no movement. Extended stays in such a confined space can contribute to Container Baby Syndrome, explains Move Forward PT. Strollers are a convenient way to move baby around on walks or while shopping, but they keep baby on her back for extended periods of time, which can inhibit muscle tone and development, and contribute to a misshapen head.

17 The Right Headspace

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All the containers that are designed for baby, including car seats and sleep positioners, are held to high safety standards and are designed to restrict head movement. While safe head support is a good idea when newborns are transported, not allowing for the exercise of moving the head side to side or holding it up can have long-term effects, according to Nationwide Children's. Holding the head still for prolonged periods can cause a misshapen head or torticollis, which is a tightness in the neck that can pull the head to one side or cause stiffness that inhibits turning the head from side to side.

16 Assume The Positioning Device

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In the early 1990s, the Back To Sleep campaign was put in place to educate parents about safe sleeping techniques designed to minimize SIDS-related accidents. Some experts worry that an over-extension of that campaign, combined with heavy marketing to parents, has contributed to Container Baby Syndrome. Sleep positioners, developed to hold the baby on her back or side during a nap or nighttime sleep, are still a very popular purchase for new parents who are worried about baby rolling over during the night. These positioners have not been shown to prevent SIDS, but are considered containers, as per Move Forward PT.

15 Neck And Neck

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Torticollis—or wryneck—can occur in babies who are consistently transferred from one container to another. Acquired torticollis develops when the long muscle that runs from behind the ear to the collarbone becomes shortened on one side, as per WebMD. Torticollis can affect baby's ability to feed and can cause developmental delays in sitting and walking and in balance.

This version of wryneck is absolutely preventable, and the prevention is also usually the cure—allow the baby free time to stretch and play.

Position toys so that baby turns her head both ways, and play games that encourage baby to look in all directions. Tummy time is very important.

14 Swing Away

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Both regular baby swings and bouncy swings are well-loved by parents as soothing devices and a safe place to put the baby down in while the parent does chores or prepares dinner, but therapists and pediatricians are cautioning parents about how long baby sits in the swing, according to North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

Doctors recommend that parents limit baby swing time, and instead opt for safe baby-wearing or using a playpen to hold the baby when parents need their hands free.

This encourages free movement. Baby-wearing in a sling that positions baby's hips correctly can be very soothing for baby and is a great way for parents, especially fathers, to develop a close bond.

13 A Social Situation

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Although CBS is considered a relatively new phenomenon, both pediatricians and psychologists are increasingly concerned about the social implications. Babies are spending more and more time in an assortment of containers, and less time in their parents' arms or on the floor playing. Playing and interacting with the baby isn't just important for head movement and muscle development, but is also vitally important in baby's social development, as per Penfield's Building Blocks.

Babies have better emotional health when they directly interact with the people around them, and play helps build cognitive growth, according to BabyCenter. Play also strengthens the bond between the baby and her parents.

12 The Family That Plays Together

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Taking baby out of the container and interacting with her is the best way to prevent Container Baby Syndrome. Anyone in the family can play with the baby, not just the parents. By playing with the baby, the family is helping her to strengthen her body, but also teaching her about how to interact with others. According to raisingchildren.net.au,

Babies don't need lots of brightly colored toys—the best and most convenient “toy” is whoever is interacting with her.

Even what feels like a one-sided conversation can count as play, as it engages baby and causes her to be alert and to exert herself to watch whoever is speaking.

11 Bumbo Jumbo

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One container that parents don't realize is even a container is the Bumbo seat. Parents don't think of it as constrictive because baby's head is unrestricted. The Bumbo seat is designed to hold infants who are not yet able to sit up unassisted, and the deep seat means that the legs are lifted up rather than down—an unnatural position for baby, as per Mama OT.

Babies who spend prolonged amounts of time in a Bumbo seat can develop a pelvic problem and may not be as strong as a baby who wasn't placed in such a seat. Sitting in the Bumbo prevents them from using their arms and legs to push and pull, so those muscles can also become underdeveloped.

10 Wear Him Out

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Although baby-wearing devices are containers in the sense that they hold baby, they are not typically associated with the same developmental issues as baby seats, swings, and positioners. Pediatricians warn parents to look for carriers or slings that are age appropriate for the infant and that position the hips correctly. Both slings and carriers can help prevent CBS.

Slings give the newborn necessary neck support but hold baby differently than a swing or car seat would. Carriers worn on the front or back allow older infants to look around. While baby shouldn't spend every moment in a carrier, it's a safer and healthier alternative.

9 Talking About The Pillow

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Nursing pillows can also contribute to a lot of the symptoms of Container Baby Syndrome. Although nursing pillows don't restrict baby's arms or legs, they prop baby up into an unnatural position, as per My Kid Blooms. When the baby is propped up, she's less able to practice rolling, shifting herself around and pushing and pulling with her legs. Many parents use nursing pillows to prop baby up when she's on the floor because she seems too frustrated with tummy time. Experts want parents to know that while tummy time does take effort, staying engaged with the baby and continuing to try tummy time will eventually help her strengthen her muscles properly.

8 Think About Tummy Time

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While the Back To Sleep campaign has saved lives, doctors have noted a marked increase in cases of plagiocephaly, according to the New York Times.

Many parents interpreted Back To Sleep as a mantra for how the baby should be placed at all times, which may in part explain why so many new parents favor baby containers.

Younger babies often begin to fuss when placed on their tummies, so many parents don't continue to try tummy time, but pediatricians explain that the more parents do it, the better the baby gets. Baby will strengthen her core, as well as her arms, her shoulders, her neck, and even her legs as she pushes herself.

7 Walker, Baby Ranger

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After a long absence from the market, baby walkers are back for sale. Many parents see baby walkers as a way to contain an energetic baby that can sit or even stand but isn't steady enough to walk unassisted. Walkers also can prevent baby from falling or from reaching out and touching something they shouldn't. Experts warn that walkers don't take the place of crawling when it comes to good motor development, as per Baby Begin. Floor crawling might require supervision, but it also helps baby develop core strength and depth perception. Walkers also hold the baby upright and don't encourage her to bend her knees to walk.

6 Cuddle Up For Good Health

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It's very difficult for parents these days to resist the siren call of baby stores and registries. There's just so much stuff to buy that promises to make new parenthood easier and better. Containers also feel safe and secure. What parents don't realize is how much less they are physically holding their babies than previous generations. Hugs and touching the baby can have a deep impact not only on baby's physical health and preventing CBS, but also on her cognitive development, long-term mental health, and even on her DNA, according to IFL Science. It's hard to take the time, but it's worth it, and the effects can last a lifetime.

5 A Prop Proposition

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Even props can contribute to Container Baby Syndrome, especially when used in conjunction with containers like swings and car seats. Props often place baby in a position he wouldn't normally be able to be in on his own, because he hadn't yet reached that ability yet developmentally, as per Occupational Therapy Answers. Props may cause strain in the joints, and can also cause or exacerbate torticollis. Occupational therapists want parents to consider the overall amount of time the baby is spending in all containers and props. Parents often think of a single container and don't consider how much baby is really contained when the time is added up.

4 The Time We Baby-Proofed

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One major reason that parents cite for using containers for baby is safety. Often they are afraid that something will happen to the baby if she is placed on the floor. Before there was a container for everything baby-related, parents often just had to baby-proof the home.

Baby-proofing isn't as difficult as some parents think—there are comprehensive checklists available online, as per The Bump. Experts often advise parents to get down onto the floor and look at their home from this angle to determine what could potentially endanger the baby. They also advise parents to revisit their baby-proofing when the baby is six months old. A safer home means less confinement for baby.

3 Bring 'Em Out, Bring 'Em Out

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It's so tempting to leave baby in the car seat carrier or swing when he's finally gone to sleep, but experts and occupational therapists want parents to get them out anyway. Pediatricians understand how hard it can be to get a newborn soothed to sleep, but containers can lead to a misshapen head, according to New Mommy Media. Occupational therapists are encouraging parents to try a pack and go type playpen.

Baby could be put in the playpen for a nap—as long as there are no toys or blankets in there. A playpen is a safe compromise that protects baby from rolling off of something or scooting towards something that could be unsafe.

2 Swaddle Her Safely

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Swaddling is heavily encouraged for newborns to promote a sense of comfort and security, but if improperly done can be a contributing factor to Container Baby Syndrome. A newborn's hips must be positioned a certain way when swaddling or he is at risk for hip dysplasia, as per International Hip Dysplasia Institute. Baby's joints and sockets are soft and pliable, and when a newborn's legs are stretched out and straightened, it can have a lasting effect on the hip socket. The baby should be swaddled in such a way that the hips and knees can bend open. Baby's legs may be loosely crossed.

1 Free To Sleep

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Sleep sacks are a popular way to ensure baby's temperature stays regulated during nighttime sleep in a crib without worrying about unsafe blankets, but poorly designed sleep sacks could inhibit appropriate movement for baby, according to Pediatric Physical Therapy. The sleep sack can swaddle the upper portion of newborns, but as the baby grows, swaddling is no longer necessary and can even prevent normal movement of the upper body and arms. A too-small sleep sack on a growing baby can restrict both the arms and the legs.

The sleep sack should allow free movement, and not be so constrictive the baby cannot move and adjust.

References: Merriam-Webster, Lifespan Therapies, Move Forward PT, Nationwide Children's, WebMD, North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

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