HAVE YOU HEARD OF CONTAINER BABY SYNDROME (CBS)?

For parents of babies and toddlers, strollers and car seats are two of those necessary items on their equipment “must have” list. Most of the parents cannot imagine a family trip to the zoo or airport without a stroller. However, experts say that excessive use of such tools can impede physical development when children (usually between the ages of two and three) begin to walk proficiently. 

A “container baby” is a newborn child or infant that is placed in a container such as a car seat or stroller during excessive hours of the day. Container Baby Syndrome is the name used to describe a variety of conditions that result from infants and toddlers spending too much time in containers. 

Simply stated, this syndrome appears when a baby spends most of their day within some sort of device that limits their freedom to move and explore their environment on their own.

EXPERT OPINION CONTAINER BABY SYNDROME

Recent research has shown that using strollers and car seats frequently makes children lazy. It negatively affects their health and activity levels. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that stroller use is permitted for infants and toddlers. It should be discontinued by the age of three. Pediatricians also warn against  overuse of strollers and car seats.

Dr. Naomi Neufeld, medical director of the Kid Shape Foundation, a nonprofit weight management program for children, says that busy parents don’t always have time to go out with their kids. Neufeld adds that parents should embrace the idea that childhood is when you rule your environment. So if you don’t allow your kids to venture out of the stroller and explore, you can encourage a sedentary lifestyle.

Mercer Island parent educator, Barbara Swenson, is concerned that children are increasingly becoming “passive observers” rather than participating in life. She encourages parents to walk with their children stroller-free. It allows them to explore along the way. Swenson states that we need to let the kids walk and  smell the flowers.

WHY DOES CONTAINER BABY SYNDROM MATTER?

If your baby is simply transported from one container to another during the day, they are at risk of developing certain conditions. Here are some of the Container Baby Syndrome health risks:

1- Delays in reaching expected motor milestones, such as rolling, sitting, or standing. 

This interferes with a child’s ability to coordinate large muscle groups, such as  the arms and legs. Infants with gross motor retardation may have difficulty turning or crawling. Older children with this delay may appear clumsy or have difficulty going up and down stairs.

Motor development is important at an early age because it is linked to other areas of development. For example, if a child can crawl or walk (gross motor skills), it is easier to explore the physical environment that affects cognitive development. Furthermore it is key as it pertains to physical growth and strengthening a child’s bones and muscles.

2- Flat Head Syndrome (Positional Plagiocephaly) due to lack of movement.

This syndrome usually happens when a baby sleeps with the head turned to the same side during first months of life. It causes a flat spot, either on one side or the back of the head.  Lately, it has been noticed that plagiocephaly happens not only while sleeping, but also in child seats, carriers, strollers, swings and inflatable seats.

Before and after photos of a baby with flat head syndrome

Common symptoms of positional plagiocephaly may include:

  • Flattening on one side of the back of the head
  • Ear pushed forward on the same side of the head
  • Head tilted to one side
  • Bulging forehead on the same side of the head
  • Facial abnormalities including uneven cheekbones, eye sockets, or lower jaw.

3- Torticollis, also known as wryneck, is tightness in the neck from keeping the head turned or tilted to one side.

If it is left untreated it can cause issues while the child ages including : chronic headaches, vision deficits, decreased shoulder mobility, head shape deformity, scoliosis, and jaw malalignment.

Furthermore, if torticollis is left untreated it can create long-term health issues for the infant, such as:

  • Developmental delays. Different key movement milestones may be delayed, for example: rolling over, sitting up independently, crawling, standing, and walking.
  • Difficulty eating which includes challenges or inability to breastfeed, challenges in bottle feeding, and difficulty in mastering eating and swallowing early foods such as infant cereal or pureed baby food.
  • Vision problems such as: tracking equally with both eyes may be impacted; one eye may become more dominant due to the head tilt, causing weakening of the muscles of the other eye.
  • Due to vision problems and the weight of the head not being correctly centered & balanced by the SCM muscles, children can develop balance issues that put them at risk of falls.
Baby torticollis caused by container syndrome

HOW DO YOU PREVENT CONTAINER BABY SYNDROME?

  1. We understand that life is busy with a newborn!  It is normal to feel like you don’t have enough time during the day to cook, clean, shower, and take care of your cute newborn baby! And yes, there is a place for containers to help parents get things done around the house throughout the day. Therefore, our recommendation is to start by finding tools that will not restrict all of the free movement of your baby’s neck, trunk, arms, and legs.

Check out Metro stroller as we think it will help both, you and your child. 

This stroller is very spacious and it also has an adjustable dual position seat that helps preventing container baby syndrome. It is important for young babies to have eye contact with their parents as well. Furthermore, it comes with an universal car seat adapter that allows for use from birth with compatible infant car seats. Metro stroller can help you during most of your daily activities without harming your kid’s development.

We also recommend you to use baby carriers as they can be a safe way to carry a baby, if you follow safety guidelines.  Baby carriers are supportive and soft wraps designed to distribute your baby’s weight evenly, reducing pressure on your back. Find one that has two carrying positions including parent-facing front carry and side carry. But, please, you need to make sure to use them only when your baby is older than four months to avoid pose suffocation hazard.

Metro Red Stroller for babies

2. Try to limit container use to 15-20 min, 2 times throughout your baby’s day. Limit the time the baby spends in a car seat to only the amount of time the baby is being transported and hold the baby periodically throughout the day. Create a safe space for your child to play with on the floor where he/she can be able to explore and play freely.  Floor time includes playing on the back, tummy, side, or sitting with adult supervision. Also, we recommend you to take more time to engage in physical touch with your baby. For sure, it will put a smile on you and your baby’s face! Tummy time when your baby is awake and ready to play is another great way to prevent CBS.

In order for children to develop properly and safely, children must follow safe sleep rules. Sleep alone, on their backs, in cribs, in non-smoking homes. Then the child needs to enjoy as much awake, play time on their tummy during the day as possible.

Other activities that can help develop a child’s motor skills include:

  • Putting a toy on the couch for your child to stretch toward when a he/she starts to stand.
  • Encouraging walking with a stroller your little one can push.
  • Visiting playgrounds, where your child can climb, swing and slide.

3. Lastly, if your child shows signs of CBS, please see a pediatric physical therapist to be able to start a supportive treatment plan. Remember, the goal is not to never use the container, but to use it appropriately and thoughtfully in moderation, to help you throughout the day!

baby with container syndrome at pediatrics

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