by Dan Rindler, GCFP
Diapers, Toys and Helmets! Parents are being marketed to like never before with new products coming out all the time for babies. Unfortunately many of the products created for infants these days have more to do with convenience for parents, and may not actually support optimal infant development. This is part II of a series of baby items I suggest are best avoided and a few recommendations too. Part I can be found in the blog below. I originally wrote this list for my good friend when his wife was expecting. I hope you’ll find it helpful!
These are general guidelines, and every baby is different. Please take this in the spirit intended: as a list of suggestions. Watch your baby closely and make up your own mind about what is best!
Items to Cross Off the Registry and a Few Recommendations Too:
Oversized Cloth Diaper Systems. Some cloth diapers with an outer and inner layer are so bulky that they restrict babies’ hip joints. If you decide to go with cloth diapers, pre-folds are best for allowing movement, though maybe not the most convenient for out of the house. You can get “snappi” brand clips to put them on easily. G-diapers and “Happy-Heinies” are brands that seem pretty good for the layered type partly because they come in several sizes. (No I never thought I’d be researching something called “happy heinies” for my work!) I’m no diaper expert, I’m sure there are other excellent brands. The idea is to look for whether your baby can bring their knees towards their chest with similar ease to when they are naked.
Padded Helmets for Toddlers As hard as it can be to see them get the many little bumps of early standing and walking, your baby needs the little bumps of every day life to learn balance. A helmet isn’t necessary, and alters their balance. (This isn’t referring to the helmets prescribed for infants with flat-head syndrome
Bouncy Seats That are Almost Vertical. Look for a bouncy seat that puts baby in a reclined position to support the naural “c-curve” of their spine. The same goes for swings.
“Sleep Seats or Positioners” These have become popular in the last few years. Some babies may sleep better in them but it’s because their movement is being inhibited. Parents who use cribs know that their babies move a surprising amount around the crib. Often they find new coordinations of movement that they don’t exhibit in any other context. Babies who sleep in a device that fixes their position lose out on that opportunity. These devices are often recommended for babies with reflux, but in many cases a better solution that allows the baby to move is preferable.
Only Terry Cloth or Plush Toys. Nothing wrong with these but I find many parents have few solid, hard toys. Wooden toys give babies the sensory feedback they crave as they learn where their bodies are in space and how they move. They’re more satisfying to mouth as well. Keep in mind that for the first few months your baby will hardly be interested in any toys and instead will be interested in their body, their environment and especially your face. In later months, it isn’t necessary to have tons of toys, you can keep it simple.
A seemingly infinite number of toys that are based on classics but now cost 5 times as much because they light up and play music and vibrate. Pushing a button to make something electronic happen is not a lesson we need to work hard to expose them to, they will be surrounded by electronics soon enough. Why not begin, at least mostly, with toys where your baby can actually see and feel the effect that he or she has on it. These also don’t overwhelm/over stimulate them so much that they tune out of their own sensations.
I recommend toys such as: a rattle with a nice handle to grip, a ball to roll, old fashioned alphabet blocks to manipulate, a cylindrical rolling toy to crawl after, and a bead maze – those beads on bent wires – these are toys that keeps them busy through many stages. No need to go overboard with toys for babies- younger babies don’t need them at all, and when they do become interested, only a few are needed. Also, wooden kitchen spoons and a few pots and pot-lids make excellent toys for crawling babies. Toys that show cause and effect are part of the idea here – not something that entertains for 10 minutes after pressing a button.
And finally, my recommendation of THE ULTIMATE DEVICE for supporting your baby’s motor development is…….the floor! So many parents tell me they can’t find the time in the day to give their baby tummy-time. I believe this is largely due to the many unnecessary contraptions that we are inventing to put our babies in. Time spent in chairs, jumpers and more mean that your baby will be missing out on vital time spent on the floor learning about his or her body and how it works. I encourage all parents to use these devices sparingly and they are often surprised to hear what we have in our house for our baby: a crib to sleep in, a “bouncy seat” that is at an angle that is close to lying flat to contain him while we make dinner, and a dedicated spot on the living room rug. That’s all! If you adopt a similar simple set-up to ours, there’s no need to remember “tummy-time” – when your baby isn’t being held, she will be on her back, sides, and tummy throughout the day, and learning so much about herself and her world in the process.