The best spaces for baby development (not the car seat!)

Tera Robinson from yumstheraplay.com shares her tips for finding the best spaces for baby development.

  • Car seats: A baby’s car seat is essential and one of the most important baby gear items you will purchase before your newborn arrives. The absolute best and safest place for a baby inside of a moving car is buckled into an appropriate car seat! However, outside of a moving car, a car seat is NOT the best place for a baby.
  • Car seats have been designed to be very convenient for parents to move and carry their baby for almost every activity except changing a diaper. But just like the convenience of feeding my older children fast food from the drive-thru each day, convenient options for parents are NOT always the best choice for your children.
  • Why not a car seat or other semi-reclined baby gear? A baby’s first year of development is primarily about learning through her sensory system, integrating the sensations she receives from the world and producing important motor movements with the information she has gathered from her sensory world.
  • Car seats, especially with a car seat cover (as cute as they are), significantly limit a baby’s ability to interact with his sensory world outside of the car seat. Positioning and buckling a baby into a semi-reclined position restricts movement. If a baby spends too much time in semi-reclined positions, it can cause other developmental concerns, including flattening of a baby’s soft skull (plagiocephaly is the medical term) and muscle imbalances of the neck (torticollis is the medical term).
  • As an occupational therapist treating babies with developmental concerns, including torticollis, plagiocephaly, motor and sensory delays, I recommend that babies be in car seats, bouncy chairs, swings or other semi-reclined positioning baby gear no more than 20 minutes at a time and no longer than 2 hours a day, unless the baby is required to be buckled safely in a car seat for a long car ride. I find that these are good recommendations for all babies to foster their best overall development.
  • Where are the best spaces for baby's development? BEING HELD IN YOUR ARMS or ON THE FLOOR or another flat surface! So simple, so inexpensive, but so important for your baby! Flat surfaces are best for your baby’s motor development. Lay your baby down on a blanket on the floor. Lay your baby on her flat crib mattress or in the flat surface of a playard (also called pack ‘n play or playpen). Lay your baby in a stroller that lays down flat. Allow your baby to lie on her back, on her side and yes, her tummy for essential tummy time to foster good motor development.
  • What baby gear will foster my baby's best development? (I'll bring a baby wrap/carrier and a stroller with a bassinet attachment to show. I have several examples of baby gear in my article.)
  • Baby Wraps/Carriers: Use a baby wrap or baby carrier that allows your arms to be free, but still gives the sensory experiences of being held in your arms. Baby carriers are great options while at home, going for a walk, going to the store and eating out at a restaurant.
  • Strollers without using the "snap 'n go" car seat feature: Strollers that can lay down to a flat recline surface or a bassinet attachment with a flat surface are best for your baby until he has stable head and trunk control and can sit up in a buckled stroller seat.
  • Playards with a flat surface: Flat surfaces for sleeping and playing are always best for the development of your baby. (Some playards come with “napping” attachments that are in a semi-reclined position. Don’t use these.) Bassinet attachments with a raised flat surface are great for newborns who can't reach over the edge. Older babies that can sit or stand should play and sleep on the bottom flat surface of a playard.