Most people who have had kids have experienced the equipment that they just had to have: the bouncy chair, or the 3-in1 stroller-carrier-car seat combo, or the Baby Bjorn, or the swing, the list could go on and on! I’ve been asked a lot about some of this equipment and if it is good or bad for a baby’s development. Unfortunately the answer isn’t cut and dry. The biggest thing I tell parents is moderation!
Lets look at the 3-in-1 package to start. I remember babysitting and thinking this was the greatest invention ever. I mean it didn’t require as many clunky pieces of equipment and if the baby was sleeping it was easy to bring them inside because it just took a little click! The downside is that it creates a lot less opportunities that your babies are being held and/or touched and increases the time they are on their backs (which is already increased due to ‘back to sleep’). Basically, its not a bad thing, I love the convenience of it however make sure that you aren’t just carrying your baby in the carrier (in whatever format) all the time. Your touch is so much better to them than plastic!
Same with the bouncy seats. Once again, I love these things and they have been my savior many times when I used to babysit. The downside to this is that your child is losing floor time and exploration time. They are missing out on opportunities to explore their environment and also to get on their tummy which is key in their gross motor development. In the bouncy their natural inclination would be to use their abs and the muscles on the front of their bodies when they really need to be working on their back and tush muscles, as well as stretching out the muscles in the front (they were just cooped up for 9 months in the womb and now they need to stretch)!
Baby carriers I really like because they baby can be turned in to simulate tummy time and they are experiencing movement in various planes as the person who is holding them moves. In addition they are feeling the effects of gravity and learning to integrate it. However, I still feel that they need floor time to develop their back, neck and tush muscles as well as learn to push up and progress their gross motor development. My personal favorite is the ergobaby but there are tons out there!
The Bumbo chair is another one that has been big in recent years. Once again I feel that it can be good for moderated periods of time but mostly the newer version because it puts the hips in a slightly better position. The important thing is for your child to learn how to get into sitting from lying down and this is how they develop the muscles that will help them to maintain a sitting position. If they are always placed in sitting they lose that strengthening component as well as the motor planning practice that goes along with it.
I hope you can generalize out to other pieces of equipment and you realize that I am not saying never on these things. Believe me, I love some of them. What I am saying that use them in moderation and make sure your child is getting enough floor time and tummy time as well as cuddle time (out of a plastic carrier). Please feel free to ask if you have any pieces of equipment that you are curious about.
We are frequently asked about Baby Walkers and Jumpers and have another blog post about this. Enjoy.