I can’t tell you how many times a week I have parents (mainly moms ) ask me about different baby seats and if they are ok for their babies to be sitting in. So to help clear up some of the muddy water and some of the confusion, lets talk about the different seats and when your baby should be sitting in them.
The entire issue with seats is more the timing of when they are put into the seats, more than the seats themselves. Babies go through a very specific, very important neurological development process that involves the building of the curves of the spine and the structural support of the muscles and ligaments around their spine and pelvis. In that development process, babies start out on their stomach. Tummy time is really important to stimulate the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for the strength of the muscles dealing with postural support and is also the relay station for all sensory information coming in from the body and all motor information going to the body from the brain. Tummy time forces the baby to lift their head, which fires their extensor muscles and helps to develop this entire postural pathway. The next phase they go through is rocking back and forth on all fours to get their balance before learning to crawl. Typically during this phase most of the babies are sitting up and can usually begin sitting up with slight assistance because of the strengthening of their muscles along the spine and pelvis. Then they are standing and off to walking and running crazy around the house. Now that is super over-symplified but it is a general look at the overall development pathway. If any of those steps are skipped or done out of order, the development of their spinal curves and postural muscles will be altered and will not develop like it is designed to. Sitting babies in baby seats before they are old enough to sit up on their own puts unnecessary stress on their lower spine and hip joints and can cause ligament laxity and stretching of the hip joints. Let’s look at a couple of baby seats and see what we think about the set-up of each one.
1. The Bumbo seat: This seat has become really popular in the past 2-3 years. The nice thing about the seat is the tapered leg-holes that hold the babies into the seat to be able to hold them up in a sitting position. They also come with a tray that you can put on the seat to allow you to feed your baby while they sit in it. This is a simple seat that is really soft and stable. The issues with this seat?? The first issue that has come up since it’s creation is injuries to babies because parents are dumb and they sit their kids in the seat on the kitchen counter!! So the babies fall off the counter in the seat and it has caused injury, who knew?! The other issue with this seat is that the leg holes are really far apart so for a baby who has either a small pelvis, or isn’t sitting up on their own yet, this is too much stress on their pelvis too early. Biggest things with this seat are A) Don’t be ridiculous and put your baby on a high counter in the seat and B) Wait until they are sitting and crawling on their own without assistance before use.
2. Jumperoo/Doorway jumpers: This is a seat designed to entertain your baby for hours! Not only can they jump to their hearts content, many of these seats have steering wheels and other entertainment centers on them for the kids so they can spin, twist, and make noise all they want. The other bonus on this seat is that it bounces on it’s own frame. The kids that like to jump can jump all over the place if they want to. The down side to this seat is that looking at the biomechanics of a baby’s spine, if the child isn’t walking already they shouldn’t be in it because their spine isn’t strong enough to handle the bouncing. The up and down action of this seat is hard on their lower lumbar spine and the disc between the vertebrae. Babies who are barely crawling for sure shouldn’t be in this seat because they haven’t built their spinal curves enough and strengthened their spine enough to withstand the upward bouncing activity. The doorway jumpers have a lot more spring to their bounce so would be harder on their spine than the jumperoo.
3. Exersauser/Baby Walkers: These are full of even more fun for babies than the jumpers!! Full of mirrors, noises, squeeky toys, wheels, you name it!! Parents love these things because there is no reason baby would want to ever get out of one of these because there is so much stimulation and things to look at. They are usually set on a graduate program so that when baby is old enough to start walking, you remove the base and it has wheels on it and will roll with baby to assist their walking pathways. Here’s my complaint, again, it is really hard on their pelvis, because just like this picture here, the babies put into these seats are way too young to be sitting up. the position of the seat on these also puts pressure against the baby’s pubic bone and can cause misalignment and joint pressure.
The reason these seats are so popular is that they are a convenient way for the parents to strap their baby down and keep them in one place so that they can get things done around the house. I get that, I really do, but at the risk of damaging their pelvis, put a blanket on the floor and throw some toys down around them! Neurological development is really really important and the order in which a baby learns to lay, sit, crawl, and walk is equally as important. By bypassing this order of development, you are setting your child up for other developmental issues later in life.
I even see problems with childhood development in adults in the office. One woman I see in the office was having a really hard time with her lower back and no matter what we did, it wouldn’t stabilize and I was having to continually see her over and over again to try and correct the rotation in her pelvis. When I asked her to do a cross-crawl pattern exercise (mind you, she is 40 years old!) she couldn’t do it!! So her exercises from me were to get on the floor and crawl around the house (which I had to teach her to do) and after a few weeks of this she hasn’t had nearly as many lower back problems since because the body corrected the weakness in her muscles that all started because her parents allowed her to skip the crawling phase as a baby.
I know you’re all busy, trust me, we get that and sympathize with you. I know you have to get things done around the house. But your baby’s structure is way too important to just put them in a chair just to “give you a hand”.
Something to think about.