Babies Don't Need Containers (And How to Avoid a Flat Head)
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Babies Don’t Need Containers (And How to Avoid a Flat Head)

Babies don't need containers! Learn alternatives to keeping your baby in a container and help to avoid flat head syndrome.

Updated July 16, 2024 Opinion

by Aimee Ketchum

Pediatric Occupational Therapist
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A day in the life of a baby . . .

Baby gets into the car seat and goes into the car, then the car seat goes into the shopping cart, back to the car, to the travel system stroller for a walk through the park, back into the car, and then home to the bouncer seat.

Babies are spending more time than ever in “containers” and losing critical skills because of it. There is even a term for it. Babies requiring therapy because of flat head syndrome, also known as plagiocephaly, are often referred to as “container babies” or “bucket babies.” If our habits are changing the shape of babies’ skulls, what is happening to their brain inside?

We Need to Liberate These Babies!

Babies need time to move, explore their world, and be in different positions throughout the day.

Of course, we need to keep putting our babies to sleep on their backs, but what about playtime? During awake, alert playtime, babies should spend a minimum of twenty minutes per day on their tummies from the day they are born, and by six months, they should be on their tummies for at least two hours a day.

Tummy time is when babies develop neck and trunk strength, begin to roll and crawl, improve their vision and motor skills, and avoid developing a flat head. It is vital to early development, yet many babies never get much tummy time. I know, when a baby is sleeping, it is just so much easier to keep them in their car seat instead of waking them up, and we need two hands to make dinner. I understand the need for these items to get through the day.

So What Is a Busy Mother to Do?

How can we keep our babies safe and ensure they reach their milestones?

Consider using slings, wraps, or baby carriers instead of car seats to carry babies in public. Our hands are free, we are not hurting our backs, and babies are safe and close to our bodies but still have free movement. As soon as babies have some trunk support, we can use those handy germ-free cloth inserts in shopping carts and place the baby right in the cart. That way, babies can practice trunk stability and head control while we shop, avoiding the development of a flat head.

We can prioritize tummy time during playtime and replace the bouncy seat in the kitchen corner with a pack-and-play. Put your baby on her tummy with a few toys around her while you make dinner.

Building Awareness Is Half the Battle Because When We Know Better, We Do Better

Help spread the word, leave the car seats in the car as much as possible, and allow tummy time several times throughout the day. Your baby will thank you later!

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A woman with wavy brown hair, wearing a light blue shirt and brown pants, is sitting on the floor with her legs crossed, holding a smiling baby who is wearing a small pink bow and a diaper. They are both looking at the camera against a white background.
Aimee Ketchum Pediatric Occupational Therapist
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Dr. Aimee Ketchum is an Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and Assistant Professor of early child development at Cedar Crest College Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program. She continues practicing her skills as a… Read more

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