The baby bouncer, a controversial piece of equipment, is both praised for its use in improving children's development and criticized for the potential harm it may cause. It is every parent's responsibility to do research and, most importantly, use your best judgment when choosing equipment like baby bouncers to provide your baby with the safest, most beneficial and fun opportunities possible.
Baby bouncers are padded seats that are low to the ground and have a safety strap to secure your baby as she sits in the bouncer. They have an ergonomic design and support and protect the spine, neck and head of your baby. Toddler bouncers are the next level up, designed to let your child stand and bounce with a support harness. These bouncers help strengthen, stretch and build a baby's legs in preparation for crawling and walking. It gives her a sense of balance without the risk of falling. An added bonus is that the movement and exercise can be stimulating for your baby's mind and can provide her with plenty of entertainment.
A study published in "Child: Care, Health and Development" examined the motor development of 43 infants allowed to use play-assist equipment. The study suggested that infants who had the highest equipment use tended to score lower on infant motor development, which was measured by the Alberta Infant Motor Scale, whereas the infants with lower equipment use scored higher on motor development. Because no other tests had been done to produce the same results, authors A.L. Abbott and D.J. Bartlett summarized that parents should be informed and encouraged to allow their children only moderate use of equipment within the home.
Limit Time Use
Bouncers for young babies are designed to secure him in a half-lying, half-sitting position. The American Association of Pediatrics warns that babies who spend excessive amounts of time in a bouncer may be prone to developing flattened head syndrome, or positional plagiocephaly, which is a persistent flat spot on the back or side of the head. Bouncers or jumpers designed for toddlers can become physically tiring if they are left in the bouncer for extended amounts of time. This can disrupt your child's nap routine or sleep schedule. The AAP does not have a recommended amount of time that your child should remain in his bouncer, but use your best judgment. Never leave your child in his bouncer for longer than 20- to 30-minute increments. Never let your child sleep in his bouncer.
Consumer Reports reminds parents to check the manufacturer's recommendations. If a bouncer is not designed for toddlers, stop using the bouncer as soon as your baby can sit up without assistance. In addition, do not leave your child unattended. Follow safety and operation guidelines, and place bouncers on solid, even surfaces on the floor. Use bouncers that are in proper repair, not damaged or old or that have been factory-recalled.
- Chelsea and Westminster Hospital; Promoting Your Baby's Physical Development; January 2011
- Consumer Reports; Bouncer-Seat Safety; April 2007
- "Child: Care, Health and Development"; Infant Motor Development; A.L. Abbott, D.J. Bartlett; May 2001
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Safe Sleep; August 2009
- Healthy Children; Movement: 8 to 12 Months; May 12, 2011