Exersaucers . . . modern-day miracle or menace?
Thank goodness they have replaced the terrifying walkers that were flying down stairs, allowing babies to reach stove tops and running over everyone’s toes. Some stores still sell walkers, but please look the other way and pretend you don’t even see them. They have been completely banned from Canada, and I really wish we would take a lesson from our northern neighbors and ban them here as well.
Exersaucers come with advantages, but also many of the disadvantages that walkers possess. It is helpful that exersaucers are stationary, eliminating many hazards associated with walkers, but some hazards still exist. Exersaucers can actually limit baby’s development if they are used too often or too soon. Babies should get as much free movement throughout the day as possible.
When babies are contained, they are not developing important skills that will support their milestones.
Don’t use an exersaucer until your baby is naturally pulling themselves up to stand. The tiny bones, muscles, and ligaments of their feet and legs are not ready to bear weight until they are standing on their own. This is also detrimental on their joints, sometimes causing “knock knees,” “bow-legs,” or inverted ankles. Wait until babies are pulling up to stand in their crib or on furniture before putting them in an exersaucer.
Don’t use an exersaucer if the baby’s feet don’t reach the base or the floor underneath it. Babies should not dangle from the sling as this could be detrimental to their hips, and babies should not bear weight through their toes because they cannot get their feet flat on the floor. While babies will naturally go up onto their toes while cruising around furniture, weight-bearing through their toes for long periods of time can put undue pressure on the ligaments and muscles of the feet and cause problems down the road. If baby’s feet don’t quite reach the floor on the lowest setting, place a large book under their feet so they can put their feet down flat.
Don’t leave babies unattended in exersaucers. Babies can wiggle themselves out of any contraption in the blink of an eye.
Don’t leave babies in exersaucers for longer than twenty minutes at a time. Babies should not be stationary for too long. During alert playtime, babies should be getting as much free movement as possible, not limited to one position.
Do use exersaucers to help with core stability and balance. Once the baby is developmentally ready, exersaucers can help build core strength and balance skills.
Do play with your baby while in the exersaucer. Get down on her eye level, read to her, talk to her, and play with her while she is in the exersaucer. The extra stimulation is beneficial for her development.
Exersaucers can be helpful when used appropriately!