Martye Blaylock, MSPT

Any person who has a child, or niece or nephew, or has even babysat for a small child or infant knows how easy it is to use a jumper or exerciser for a baby. We need to get some things done. We need time to pick up, cook, clean, and at least take a 2 minute shower. We put the baby in and off they go……jumping and laughing. They are happy, and we have a few minutes to breathe.

I don’t want to imply that there isn’t a time or place for these devices. I think we just need to be more thoughtful of the amount of time we put babies and infants in these, and think about the negative effects they may have on our children’s development.

I want you to really watch your baby when they are in this jumper or exerciser. Go ahead, put them in for a few minutes and watch. Or go to the good ole YouTube and search for babies in jumpers. What does their body look like? What are they doing with their feet? What are their arms doing?

Does their body look pretty relaxed?

It doesn’t seem like they are even using their belly or back muscles, does it?

Are they jumping on their tiptoes or on their full feet or heels? Are their knees bending or are they straight and locked out?

Are their arms just relaxed and flopping around? Are they holding on with their hands?

child in evenflo johnny jump up which weakens their core and back and causes baby to need pt
Evenflo Johnny Jump Up

This is what I see most times when I see a baby in one of these devices:

  • They are not using their back or belly muscles.
  • Their trunk muscles are not activated or they are leaning forward or backward against the device.
  • They are usually jumping on their tiptoes with their knees locked out.
  • Their arms are usually flailing around or holding on tightly to the device.

I would recommend that babies only spend a total of 15 minutes 2x per day in any of these devices.

And you think…..ok… what…….

Let’s think about a child’s development. Let’s think about what a child needs to develop crawling and walking with appropriate patterns. A child needs to be developing good body/trunk control, leg strength, ankle stability, strength/ movement against gravity. A child develops all of these by being in different positions…on their tummy, on their back, sitting, standing at a support, and beginning to stand and walk independently.

Normal development happens when a child is standing at a support with flat feet and bounces by bending knees…they are developing trunk strength, leg strength, and balance. It happens when a child is standing at a support and turning to the left and right to get toys and walking down the support……they are developing leg strength, ankle stability, rotation of the body.

I start to wonder……could allowing an infant to be in these devices for increased time lead to: intolerance of tummy time, developmental delay, toe walking…?

The American Physical Therapy Association says:

Babies who have little or no active “tummy time” play may be prone to developmental delay. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that all infants sleep on their backs to reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). As a precaution, many parents have avoided placing infants on their tummies altogether.

However, research has shown that avoiding tummy time can slow the rate of accomplishment of motor-skill (movement) milestones. Evidence also indicates that infants who are kept in baby equipment (infant chairs, carriers, sling seats at activity centers) for long periods of time are at a higher risk of motor delays than infants who have sufficient opportunities for active movement.

playgro tummy time mat to help babies meet their motor skill development milestones
Playgro Tummy Time Mat

The “Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play” approach from the AAP recommends that babies sleep on their backs and use tummy time for babies who are awake and being supervised. Your baby needs tummy time to develop strong muscles. During tummy time, parents are encouraged to let a child be on the floor to play in many different positions. This allows the child to learn how to move, and stimulates the brain and muscles so that rolling, reaching, crawling, and eventually walking can be achieved.

Experiencing lots of different positions allows children to experiment with their bodies and build new movements. And exploring new movements helps them learn to think differently, and may even stimulate speech and social skills.

If your child is showing a developmental delay, weak core strength, or struggling with tummy time, contact us for a physical therapy evaluation to help them get back on track.

Here’s to happy, healthy babies and families!

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