As a pediatric physical therapist I saw this phenomenon evolving, but only recently has it been given a formal label,” Container Syndrome”.
Parents often place their children in swings, infant seats, rockers, bouncy seat, strollers, and jumpers (an anathema for any PT).
Sometimes, it’s to protect the child from older children or pets.
At times, it’s to give parents an opportunity to be hands free from the baby and to tend to other children, take care of household duties or even self-care.
Retail companies have sold these products that play music, flash lights, vibrate, glide and rock the baby, under the pretence that babies are entertained, happy and stimulated.
However, unbeknownst to many parents, there is also such a thing as overuse of these devices and it is actually detrimental to a child’s development to be placed in one device after another, hence the term ‘Container Syndrome”.
Babies that are placed in these ‘containers’, in lieu of being put on the floor to play or held, may develop flat head syndrome, torticollis, plagiocephaly, developmental delay, have poor head control and even worse.
There is a baby rocker product that was recalled in the US because of several infant deaths.
Although the rate of SIDS has decreased by 50% as a result of the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign, the incidence of Container Syndrome has been identified in 1 out of 7 babies (Move Forward PT, APTA). All of the above mentioned products have been marketed by retail companies, some with adequate safety testing.
Yet, any pediatric specialist will tell you that floor play and tummy time allows opportunities for active learning to occur, it allows your children to explore their environment, experiment with a variety of movement patterns, develop head control, and gain muscle strength.
Prevent container syndrome by
Limit the amount of time your child is in their carseat, swing, bouncer, rocker
Increase the amount of time that they are upright (being held, in a stander, or the upsee)
If you do have to protect your child from older children or pets, let them play in a play pen or Playpak (with adult supervision) and keep changing their position.
Put your child on the floor and place toys around them that will encourage them to look, reach, kick or roll in different directions. This is will benefit them in the long run.