Here’s why you should re­think get­ting that in­fant walker, sit­ting pil­low or bouncer, a re­hab spe­cial­ist tells EVE­LINE GAN.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Why you must avoid sit­ting pil­lows, bounc­ers and walk­ers.

At 18 months old, the tod­dler still couldn’t walk with­out sup­port. His fam­ily thought he was a “slow” learner, but ki­ne­si­ol­o­gist Poh Ying Bin knew bet­ter.

“Deep in my heart, I was scream­ing: The boy is not slow! It was be­cause he wasn’t given the chance to go through de­vel­op­men­tal steps,” says Ying Bin, a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion spe­cial­ist in pri­vate prac­tice who has a spe­cial in­ter­est in de­vel­op­men­tal ki­ne­si­ol­ogy (the devel­op­ment and move­ment of the body in child­hood).

The tot was al­ways ei­ther in a cot or a baby walker, and rarely ex­plored dif­fer­ent move­ments with­out sup­port. As a re­sult, he couldn’t build up his mo­tor con­trol skills and learn to walk up­right and un­aided.

In­ci­dents like this have spurred

Ying Bin to raise aware­ness on how im­proper use of baby gear can ad­versely af­fect ba­bies’ devel­op­ment.

In the first year of life, ba­bies learn to lift their heads, roll over, sit, crawl and stand be­fore they start to walk. By 18 months, most of them learn to walk with­out the need for sup­port, he ex­plains.

But in­tro­duc­ing baby gear such as sit­ting pil­lows, walk­ers or baby bounc­ers – be­fore your lit­tle one is ready – may do more harm than good for mo­tor con­trol and devel­op­ment, he says.

Although these tools may ap­pear to help them sit, stand or walk ear­lier, it doesn’t mean that their move­ment pat­terns and con­trol are op­ti­mal, he adds.

It’s im­por­tant that they ex­pe­ri­ence the process of con­stantly try­ing, fail­ing and re­fin­ing their move­ments.

When you in­tro­duce an “ar­ti­fi­cial aid”, such as a walker, your baby will rely on it with­out first learn­ing the nec­es­sary mo­tor con­trol. They also leave ba­bies in a pas­sive po­si­tion they are not ready for.

“Over time, this may cause their bones, joints and mus­cles to de­velop in a less-thanideal man­ner, af­fect­ing their pos­ture in the fu­ture,” he says, adding that many adults that he sees for back and joint con­di­tions have pos­ture is­sues that could have their roots in early child­hood.

Here, Ying Bin high­lights five baby gear prod­ucts that may af­fect your lit­tle one’s mo­tor skills and how you can help your child de­velop bet­ter.

That said, you don’t have to throw out the fancy equip­ment yet. Use it when Baby is ready and only after she has shown that she can do sim­i­lar move­ments with­out sup­port, he ad­vises.

Sit­ting pil­low or seat

At around seven to eight months, ba­bies who are learn­ing to sit up will at­tempt “oblique sits”. This in­volves rolling over to the side and prop­ping them­selves up with their hand.

If you place Baby in a pas­sive sit­ting po­si­tion when she is not strong enough to sit on her own, she may not get enough op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tempt this move­ment and skip this de­vel­op­men­tal stage, he ex­plains.

Be­sides the less-than-ideal spine po­si­tion­ing, your lit­tle one may also take a longer time to mas­ter other im­por­tant devel­op­ment mile­stones, such as crawl­ing and stand­ing.

TRY THIS IN­STEAD Of­fer plenty of floor time for your baby to get ac­quainted with lift­ing her head, flip­ping and rolling un­til she is ready to sit. If you are us­ing a stroller or car seat, po­si­tion your baby at a semi-re­clined 45-de­gree an­gle to avoid over­load­ing her hip joints, he adds.


Leav­ing your baby in a walker will en­cour­age poor hip, knee and an­kle move­ment, and mo­tor con­trol. Ex­perts warn that it may even cause ab­nor­mal walk­ing pat­terns, such as tip­toe walk­ing.

“If you look at how ba­bies ‘walk’ when they are in a walker, their legs are ac­tu­ally dan­gling and they are on their tippy toes. That’s not the ideal move­ment pat­tern for walk­ing,” Ying Bin says.

In fact, this is one baby item you should throw out, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Academy of Pae­di­atrics (AAP). Mo­bile in­fant walk­ers are such a safety haz­ard that the AAP has called for a ban on the man­u­fac­ture and sale of these de­vices in the United States.

Although a sta­tion­ary ac­tiv­ity cen­tre, such as an ex­er­saucer, be a safer al­ter­na­tive to mo­bile walk­ers, data on in­juries while us­ing these de­vices isn’t avail­able, the AAP says.

TRY THIS IN­STEAD At around nine to 10 months, your baby may be able to pull her­self up to stand with some sup­port and may even at­tempt to cruise (walk side­ways by hold­ing fur­ni­ture for sup­port).

Pro­vide sta­ble sup­port around the house to help Baby mas­ter the art of pulling her­self to a stand­ing po­si­tion, and cruis­ing.

“The things you need to help your baby stand and cruise are read­ily found in most homes, like a low cof­fee ta­ble, sofa or even a sturdy chest of draw­ers. Ac­tu­ally, healthy ba­bies don’t need much aid to help them de­velop walk­ing skills. All they need is a chance to ex­plore move­ment and re­fine it,” he says.

Bounc­ing de­vice

A bounc­ing gig­gling baby or tod­dler makes for a cute sight. But in­fant jumpers and other bounc­ing de­vices can po­ten­tially in­tro­duce more force/ stress on your child’s lower limbs than she is ready for.

“Up to three years old, most kids’ ner­vous sys­tems have not de­vel­oped the ca­pa­bil­ity for jump­ing,” Ying Bin says.

Some jumpers that sus­pend from a door­frame have also been re­called over­seas

be­cause of safety is­sues. Like other baby de­vices, jumpers can po­ten­tially lead to de­layed mo­tor skills when used ex­ces­sively. TRY THIS IN­STEAD In­stead of rush­ing your tod­dler to meet this mile­stone, of­fer plenty of play­time in open spa­ces and at the play­ground. This pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for your child to try out cer­tain move­ment pat­terns she would not be able to prac­tise in en­closed spa­ces. Plus, most kids pick up com­plex move­ments, such as jump­ing, by mim­ick­ing other kids.

Soft sur­faces

A soft sur­face changes the way your baby’s nat­u­ral move­ment de­vel­ops as she can­not learn and re­fine her mo­tor skills prop­erly.

“Imag­ine get­ting an adult to learn a sin­gle leg squat on an un­sta­ble plat­form when he hasn’t mas­tered the skill on the hard ground. Soft mat­tresses have a sim­i­lar ef­fect on ba­bies learn­ing to move; they cre­ate too many chal­lenges for your baby, who has to re­sort to com­pen­sat­ing in other ways to move,” he ex­plains.

TRY THIS IN­STEAD Am­ple floor time is best, but if you are re­ally wor­ried about Baby tak­ing a tum­ble, use a thin, non-slip play mat. Check that your lit­tle one’s feet are not sink­ing into the mat – that means the ma­te­rial is too soft for her.

Swad­dling cloth

Swad­dling may soothe a fussy and col­icky new­born, but how can she ex­plore her sur­round­ings if you keep her wrapped up for hours?

“When ba­bies aren’t given the chance to move, their bones, mus­cles and joint struc­tures can­not de­velop in a way that helps them to move well later in life,” Ying Bin ex­plains. TRY THIS IN­STEAD Swad­dle Baby only at bed­time or when she takes a nap, and avoid restrict­ing her move­ments when she’s awake and alert.

Although ba­bies should al­ways be placed on their back for sleep, the AAP says su­per­vised tummy time dur­ing her wak­ing hours is im­por­tant. It strength­ens mus­cles in the head, neck and up­per body – all of which are re­quired for healthy devel­op­ment and mo­tor con­trol.

Tummy time can start from the time your baby is a new­born, says AAP.

One way to do so is the place Baby – belly-down – on your stom­ach or chest while you are awake and in a re­clined po­si­tion on a chair, bed or floor with a pil­low to sup­port your head, the AAP sug­gests. This helps Baby get used to be­ing on her tummy.

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