It’s a word that many of us heard during our school days when teachers and parents alike would implore us to “Stand up straight!” and “Sit Up Straight!” We might even have been seen balancing books on our head to make sure that our carriage was ramrod-rigid.
Posture isn’t emphasized nearly as much as it once was but it shouldn’t be completely ignored.
When it comes to babies, it can be critical. It could become a life-and-death matter when using baby swings, rockers, slings, bouncers or similar devices.
There are 4 fundamental issues to consider:
1) Clear Airways
A baby can suffocate if the airway becomes blocked because of the position of the neck or body.
For example, a baby’s airway is so soft that it can become constricted simply because the head is positioned too far forward, to the back or to the side.
Babies from newborn up to about one year of age are particularly vulnerable to this happening because they have yet to develop full control of their necks and heads.
This is precisely what can happen to a baby who is in a swing. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to ascertain that the baby isn’t hunched with his chin resting on the chest while in a swing or related product – or anywhere else for that matter.
One way to think about it: if you can see the baby’s face, he or she is probably OK.
2) Spinal Development
What happens to a baby during its first year will have permanent effects on how the spine develops and matures.
Doctors and chiropractors alike say that placing a baby in a sitting position (such as in a swing) before he can sit up independently can interfere with the natural development of the spine, muscles and head. Even generally accepted “correct” posture in a swing places all the weight of a baby’s head smack dab on the spine.
If the spine and nearby muscles are not strong enough to support all that weight, deterioration of the spine can occur and there can even be problems with nearby organs.
In addition, babies need plenty of time to simply lie on their stomachs and be permitted to naturally and independently move their arms and legs. Being in a swing restricts and discourages this activity.
If you feel that you must use the swing, make sure there is plenty of room for arm and leg stretching.
All swings come with some type of harness (or fixed restraint system) to comfortably and safely confine the infant. There are two common designs, the
There are two common designs, the three-point and the five-point harness.
Either one is acceptable but when it comes to posture, child-development experts stress that five-point models which fit over the shoulder are preferable. This is because it not only makes it harder for the baby to try to climb out but also provides considerably more support for the upper body keeping the baby’s posture upright and proper. This makes it less likely that the tot will lean too far forward and develop airway issues.
It should go without saying but leaving a baby in a swing or other item for extended periods of time is a dangerous practice.
Most experts say an hour of swing time per day should be plenty, perhaps augmented with brief additional stints to calm a fussy baby.
Problems arise when the baby has pitched forward or somehow become entangled in part of the mechanism, pads or fabric and there is no one around to notice this. At the same time, it’s unwise to add any accessories to those which come with the swing. In other words, don’t introduce any pillows or blankets.
Of course, we would like to be able to hold our babies all the time and we hope that there will never be any issues with getting to sleep.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and sometimes we must use swings and similar devices to soothing and entertainment. This is fine as long their use is sensible and the safety tips mentioned above are understood and followed.