Parenting is non-stop and it is normal to resort to baby aids to help keep baby entertained and safe, while you have a well-deserved break or do those much needed chores, even for a few minutes during the day.
While these aids do exactly that, you might be interested to know that when it comes to a baby’s neurological and structural development, these toys might actually cause more harm than good.
This article will discuss why these toys can have a negative impact on the development of your baby’s nervous system, and suggest better alternatives to safely and positively nurture their growing bodies.
A huge part of the development of a baby’s nervous system is based on movement.
The order in which they progress through their motor skills is very important.
Each skill serves as a precursor to the next- from rolling to crawling to sitting then standing and walking.
A baby will reach a skill as their neurological development allows. So, by placing your baby in an upright position- like in a jolly jumper, walker or bumbo- before they are ready, you are encouraging their nervous system to skip developmental steps.
This can have huge implications. For example, the basis for learning how to crawl and walk is through the development of balance and trunk control.
When you place a baby in an upright position that controls these variables, it takes away the opportunity for them to develop these skills naturally.
This has the potential to lead to poor co-ordination and muscle imbalances, and studies have shown it can delay independent walking.
Many of the jolly jumper type toys are advertised as ‘baby exercise jumpers’- encouraging you to strengthen your baby’s muscles so that they can stand.
However, it is important to understand that the development of movement patterns go beyond simply strengthening muscles and joints to take the load in gravity.
Movement patterns are neurologically driven and as we’ve discussed, it is a priority for the nervous system to take lead as your baby grows.
The nervous system is after all, what determines how everything in your body functions.
A nervous system that is given the opportunity and encouraged to progress as it should, gives your baby’s health and wellbeing a solid starting point to thrive.
Tummy time plays a huge part in developing a baby’s nervous system. It can be the best part of a baby’s day, or as some have experienced, a time that babies enjoy the least.
Tummy time does not necessarily have to involve lying on the floor on their tummies- there are many alternatives, a few being:
lying them on an exercise ball, and with your support, rolling them forwards and backwards, and side to side.
holding them in your arms so that they are on their bellies and rocking them forwards and backwards- this is particularly helpful for colicky babies
placing them in a pram that flattens out and rocking and moving them about
placing baby on your shins, facing you while you are lying on your back with your knees bent.
Doing these daily are fantastic for stimulating their vestibular system- a part of their brain/nervous system which is responsible for balance and coordination.
The aim is for babies to spend 50% of their awake time doing tummy time.
For the babies who do not enjoy tummy time on the floor- this can sometimes be an indication that their nervous system is irritated. Our article on kids and babies at Spinal Symmetry can give you more information on this. link to article
Hands free alternatives for tummy time include:
propping them up on their tummies with a rolled towel underneath them so they can see what’s happening in their world- this is a great alternative to a bumbo
placing them in front of a mirror which so they can entertain themselves in their reflection
Another great hands free solution is using a baby carrier. The choice in baby carrier is important, as many do not support a growing skeletal system.
We will be discussing which baby carriers and positions which are best for hip and pelvic development in a future newsletter. Please feel free to ask our practitioners for advice in the meantime.
So to answer the question in the title- baby aids such as jolly jumpers, walkers and bumbos don’t necessarily contribute in a positive way to your baby’s wellbeing. They have the potential to have adverse implications to their nervous system which can affect their growth and development.