When something is wrong with a baby, mom wants to find out what it is as soon as possible. The problem is that symptoms overlap, leaving a parent to think one problem is causing her child's issues when it's actually something else.
This happens quite a lot when it comes to understanding the effect of container baby syndrome, also known as CBS. Container babies are becoming more common, and Move Forward defines container babies as those who spend too much time in baby containers. Car seats, bouncy seats, strollers, and baby rockers are just a few examples of baby containers that parents depend on each day.
While these containers aren't inherently evil, the overuse of them can cause problems for babies. Issues with a child's movement, appearance, or behavior have all been linked back to container baby syndrome, and these problems are not always easy or possible to correct.
A child who is having problems that could be connected to being in a container too long needs to be assessed and treated, but how will mom know what's causing the problems? Any parent who lets their child stay in a baby container for too many hours a day may see these problems in their children. The same is true of children left with caregivers who simply move them from one baby container to another.
Recognizing the signs of container baby syndrome early is key. Parents can make adjustments to how much they let a child stay in a container and then seek help for the problems that may have already appeared due to overuse of containers in the past.
15 Bonding Issues
Not every parent bonds with their baby instantly. Sure, they love the baby, but they may not feel that all consuming connection that leaves them wanting to care for another human being 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There are many reasons for not connecting, and mom should rule out postpartum anxiety or depression. However, another issue can be mom depending too much on containers and depriving herself the hormone boost she gets when close to the baby.
Oxytocin, also knows as the cuddle hormone, is released when we are close to our babies. It helps us fall in love with them and make it through the days when it feels like we are on call with no breaks. Putting a baby in a container for a long period of time instead of having skin-to-skin or cuddle time is a bad idea because it deprives mom and the baby of attachment and bonding time.
Of course, if the baby's cries are causing stress mom feels she can't handle, it might be a good idea to put the baby in a safe container and take a break or call for help. However, it's perfectly acceptable to hold or wear a baby in a carrier most of the time. It helps them avoid container baby syndrome and helps the new family bond.
14 Flat Head
One prominent symptom of container baby syndrome is a flat head on the back or side. It may look like the head has been pressed down where an actual round curve should be, and it is usually noticeable early on.
This condition is called plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome, and it's important to know what causes it. It can occur because a baby is in a container too much with their tiny head pressed up against a surface too often. However, it's not always safe to assume that's the cause. Some premature babies have issues with plagiocephaly simply because of being born early and keeping their head in one position once out of the womb. Birth defects can also cause plagiocephaly.
When related to container baby syndrome, being in a swing or bouncer that keeps a baby in one position can be the problem. If a child always sleeps with his head turned to one side, that can also cause plagiocephaly.
Seeking treatment early is important, and avoiding this condition is sometimes possible by limiting the time a child is in a container. Though some people believe sleep training babies is the key to everything, simply holding them while they nap or carrying them in a wrap or carrier while moving around can keep them out of containers.
13 Too Many Pounds
Babies are meant to move. Of course, they don't go far in those early days, but they do need to be allowed to stay as active as an infant can. Containers with straps that hold babies down limit their movement. The safety straps are necessary so a child doesn't roll out, but they keep a baby from exploring and burning off some energy.
Tiny Steps points out that babies need to eat plenty, but they also need to move. One without the other is a problem, and that's why obesity may be a sign of container baby syndrome.
Parents never want to put an infant on a diet to avoid obesity. They should instead encourage tummy time and plenty of time outside of containers where babies can kick, punch the air, and simply move freely. Even holding a baby gives her a chance to be more mobile than simply strapping her in a container.
Exploring helps babies learn it's okay to be curious, and it helps keep their physical activity up. Because childhood obesity can have profound effects on a child's future health, it's best to avoid the containers when possible and let children start down a healthy path early on.
12 Verbal Milestone Delays
Delayed cognitive development basically means a child is behind in speech or even certain thinking skills. Why? How does being in a container too much affect the baby in this way?
The answer is multi-faceted. First of all, babies in containers are less likely to hear their parents speaking or pick up on the sounds that are being made. A child who stays in a bouncer or swing isn't usually close to a parent, so he misses out on those early verbal signs. Reading to children, talking to children, and singing to children can help them develop speaking skills, but that takes place when the parent is near and engaged with the child.
There's another issue that may be causing container babies to talk later: screens. Some parents resort to using phones or screens to keep a child entertained while in a container, and this has known negative effects on speech skills. Time Magazine reported the results of a study that showed the more a child used a screen in the early months and years of life, the more likely they were to be speech delayed. Since containers often equal screens, it's no wonder those suffering from container baby syndrome have verbal speech delays.
11 Physical Milestone Delays
Kids who don't have a chance to practice enough tummy time or other movements may have trouble developing the skills they need to sit up, crawl, or walk. Move Forward reports that even when a container baby is placed on the stomach for tummy time, he may not be able to lift his head or arms properly due to being stuck in a container so much. Those physical milestones mom and dad wait for throughout the first year could be pushed back, and in some cases physical therapy may be necessary to correct the problem.
Though it may seem like infants are just flailing around when being held, on the floor, or being worn, they are actually developing muscles and learning movements that will help them become mobile in the future. Every child is going to sit up or walk at a different time, but if a child is extremely delayed and is also often in a container a large amount of time, then the problem may be the restraint in the container.
Of course, mom and dad need to put a child in a car seat when riding in a car, and it's fair to put a child in a carrier when mom needs a shower or a quick break. However, it's best to let babies move freely, without being strapped into any kind of apparatus, as much as possible. Babies sleep a ton in the early days, even though it doesn't feel like it, so keeping them out of containers when they are awake is a great way to encourage movement that will eventually lead to mobility.
10 Lack Of Coordination
Crawling, walking, even rolling over require a certain amount of coordination, and developing that coordination takes practice. Every kid is going to have accidents where they fall or fail when they first attempt a new physical feat, but those who have been able to work on their coordination skills will be better equipped to get up and try again.
Being in a container too much affects a child's coordination. If we don't practice a skill that requires coordination enough, we don't get better at it, and babies aren't practicing movement if they are strapped in a car seat, bouncer, or bumbo chair most of the time. This leads to the physical delays that plague children who suffer from container baby syndrome, keeping them from moving and developing the way they should.
Physical therapy can sometimes help with coordination, as can parents who focus on getting their kids out of containers and out in the world.
The world for a baby may only go as far as playtime in the floor for a while, but that's a step in building coordination and muscle strength. This can help children later on as they attempt even more advanced skills that require good coordination.
9 Crying Or Neediness
Babies cry, that's just a fact. It's not easy on parents, but it's the only way a baby knows how to have his needs met. Parents may worry that all of the crying is because the child has colic or some other ailment. However, being left in a container too often can lead to a child crying because they want comfort and to be close to a parent.
Though we often don't view physical proximity as a must, babies do. Live Science even reported on a study that showed picking up an upset baby and carrying him around leads to a calmer child. This, in turn, helps mom calm down because the tiny person who was just yelling at her finally stopped.
Some parents find it hard to carry or pick up their babies often due to pressure from society to let them cry it out. We've been taught that holding or carrying a baby risks spoiling them, even though spoiling a baby is pretty much impossible because they need physical touch. The first three months outside of the womb are even sometimes called the fourth trimester because a child is still trying to adjust to the outside world.
Bottom line: don't leave the baby in a container all the time. If he or she is crying, hold them and make an effort to keep them out of a container more that they are in one.
8 Social Skill Delays
Babies are social little beings, even if it may not look like it early on. Babies can't communicate through spoken word right off the bat, but they can make eye contact, coo, and figure out how conversation works by listening to their parents interact with them. Babies left in containers too often miss these crucial interactions that can shape their social skills in the future.
When a child spends more time in a container than with an adult, they don't hear words and don't learn about the natural pauses and facial expressions that take place during social interactions. Screens do not replace people, so even if a child has a screen while in a container, he's not developing the same skills and may actually be falling behind in certain areas due to exposure to the screen. Plus, seeing an interaction on a screen is not the same as being a part of one in real life.
Unfortunately, parents often don't recognize that kids are having issues with social skills until late in their lives, and it's not easy to correct. Start out interacting with kids instead of leaving them in containers and avoid this long-term negative consequence that is connected to too much life lived in a baby container.
7 Brain Hemisphere Issues
Kids like to color, right? They want to draw and create. They want to make things from whatever they can find because that's how they're built, born creators with the imagination to carry through with their ideas.
What if a kid doesn't want to create? What if they seem averse to art, like the part of their brain responsible for that isn't functioning well? Blame containers.
Our brains are separated into hemispheres, and the right hemisphere blooms fast in the first 36 months of life. It pays off to spend time talking to a baby who can't verbally respond, making eye contact with the infant in your arms, and keeping close that little person whose mind is growing in ways you can't see. The right hemisphere controls art and creative thinking, and not enough proper stimulation while it's developing can prove costly.
A child who is in a container too long won't receive the right type of stimulation and may end up losing out on the development that should have taken place because of it.
Adding a screen to the mix doesn't help; that's not the kind of contact a child needs to grow the right hemisphere. Kids need people, not just containers and screens.
Babies sometimes sustain injuries that seem like a mystery, but many can be linked to containers. Containers weren't made for children to be in all the time, and many have explicit warnings about not letting a baby sleep in a container. Children who do risk injury or death, and the more a child is in a container, the more those risks are present.
While it's great to have containers for when a parent really does need a quick break, they aren't babysitters. Even car seats, which are obviously necessary for safety purposes, should not be used for sleep. Any container that allows a child's head to tip forward can also allow the air passage to be blocked, causing serious problems.
It's not a good idea to get comfortable with a child being left in a container for a long period of time because it can numb us to the real risks. Recalls occur frequently for baby containers, and many of them happen due to an injury or death associated with the container.
Assess how much time a child spends in a container and make sure it's not too much. Using containers as directed and in small amounts is fine, but too much can be a problem.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is prevalent, with most parents aware of the existence of this condition even if their child doesn't have it. While researchers have worked furiously to try to figure out the cause of ADHD, there's still disagreement over what causes it. However, one link has come up that is pretty clear: kids who suffer from container baby syndrome are more likely to suffer from ADHD.
The whys behind this aren't well defined. It could be that the effects on brain development cause an issue that makes ADHD more likely for container babies. It could be that the physical touch, such as skin-on-skin time, that would take place if a child wasn't in a container doesn't. The container holds the baby a large portion of the time instead of a person, and this might have effects that lead to ADHD.
Whatever the case, researchers seem comfortable declaring a link between the two. Since ADHD can be difficult to manage and often requires medications that leave parents concerned about side effects, it's best to start early to work at prevention when possible. A great start is limiting a child's time in containers. It can have a positive effect for years to come.
4 Muscle Weakness
Just like adults, babies need to work their muscles in order to build strength. Tummy time and time playing in the floor help a child move in a way that allows them to build muscle strength. Being stuck in a container too much leads to muscle weakness, and this may lead to a child needing physical therapy or other interventions in the future.
It takes strong muscles to sit up, roll over, and walk. A child who is strapped into a container can't practice these skills, and he can't build the strength to even practice. That's why physical milestone delays are not uncommon in babies with container baby syndrome.
Without proper muscle strength, a child simply won't have the ability to become mobile.
Since this is something that most children desperately want, it can be hard on the child and the parents when those skills fail to materialize.
Babies don't need to hit the gym to lift weights, but they do need exercise in the form of learning how to use and strengthen their muscles to move. It means mom and dad will need to have the baby proofing taken care of before they take off, but it's worth it. Leaving them in a container too much isn't fair to anyone involved, and it can keep a child from being able to keep up with their friends physically in the future.
3 Neck Problems
Officially called torticollis, this neck condition occurs when a baby can't turn his or her head to one side. The child may even have muscle tightness that is so severe that his neck stays in a rigid position because he can't move it.
Torticollis is just an issue that a child can be born with or it can be a sign of a deeper problem that can affect more of a child's body and organs.
How does this relate to container baby syndrome? Parents of children with torticollis will need to be especially vigilant about watching for the signs of plagiocephaly. If a child can only sleep with her head turned to one side or is not able to turn at all, then a flat head situation can easily occur.
Because of this, it's important that children with torticollis not only get the help they need but also aren't left in containers since they often lack the ability to turn the head, leading to one side receiving all the pressure when pressed up against a hard surface.
Torticollis is said to not be painful for a child, even though it looks like it is. Be aware that it can lead to plagiocephaly, and help the baby early by keeping baby container use to a minimum.
2 Tummy Time Stress
Babies don't always love tummy time, but one thing can make it even harder to get them on board with it: container baby syndrome. Babies who spend too much time in a container don't develop the muscles or skills necessary to make progress during tummy time, and it's no fun to just smash your face into the floor over and over again on any given day.
Tummy time helps babies develop muscles and keeps them from being head floppers for the rest of their lives by developing neck muscles. Unfortunately, too much time in a container does the opposite. It deprives a child of strong muscles and the ability to practice holding his head up on his own. When he is finally placed in the floor to try tummy time, it's with the odds against him. He's been reclining, fully supported in a container for so long that tummy time seems like an impossible feat.
Give a child time out of the containers to build some strength and watch tummy time become much easier. Just don't wait too long. Muscle weakness and neck issues can develop quickly if a child is left in a container early on. Stop the problem before it starts.
1 Can't Be Out Of The Container
Kids want mom and dad to hold them, and that's okay. When they develop the skills to crawl and walk, they will still want to be held but will also want to move on their own. What babies can easily grow almost addicted to is their containers.
A child who will only sleep in a swing or who is left in a car seat to sleep gets used to that set up. The bouncer becomes a night nanny that keeps a child content and resting. The problem with this is that being in a container too much obviously has multiple serious side effects for a child. What does a parent do? Break the habit.
While some kids will show resistance to leaving their containers, they love being near their parents more and will be just fine being held, carried, or played with on the ground.
Babies won't get addicted to being held in a bad way because physically connecting with a child is essential and doesn't offer the side effects of container addiction.
It's best not to get a child used to chilling in their bouncer while watching something on the iPad, but if the bad habits have already started, break them early. It won't get any easier as time goes on.