How Much Is Too Much? Tips for Safe and Healthy Use of Baby Gear

Could you be overusing baby gear.

This is part 3 of a three part series of posts. Be sure to read Part 1 : Basics of Baby Holding Devices and Part 2: How Baby Holding Devices Affect Your Child's Development.

So we've established what "Baby Holding Devices" are and discussed how their over-use negatively affects infant development. So now the dreaded question - how much time is too much time? Unfortunately there isn't a gold standard answer. But here's my professional recommendation (and if your first thought is - "YOU'RE CRAZY!" - keep reading).

Give your new baby a safe and healthy start. Tips from an OT and mom. CanDo Kiddo


Aim for no more than 2 hours per day in equipment

Aim to keep your baby in equipment that supports him in a semi-reclined position for 2 hours or less per day. Obviously you'll ALWAYS use a car seat when your little one rides in a car - even if that's a 6 hour road trip. But factor transportation time into your 2 hour total for normal days. This means if you travel 15 minutes each way  to the grocery, and your little one stays in the car seat carrier for the 30 minutes you're shopping - that's an hour of equipment use for the day.

This 2 hour recommendation is an average. If your little one spends more than that one day, just make a mental note to reduce his time in equipment the next day. 

You may quickly realize that letting your baby sleep in baby gear consumes those 2 hours VERY quickly. What you may not realize is that routinely sleeping in baby gear, such as a Rock 'n Play, can be dangerous for your baby's health. 

No more than 15 minutes at a time in Baby Holding Devices.

Infant equipment can be a lifesaver if you have a really cranky baby or need your hands free. Remember that there is nothing inherently terrible about baby gear - only its over-use is problematic. I recommend using equipment for 15 minutes or less at a time.

Even if you take baby out of equipment only to realize that he's still really fussy and the swing / bouncy seat / car seat carrier is the only thing that soothes him, you'll be putting him back in a slightly different position and with an awareness of how much time he's spent in equipment.You can use an alarm on your phone, a watch or your oven timer to remind you when 15 minutes is up. 

Learn tips on safely positioning your baby in baby gear.

Are you suggesting I wake a sleeping baby?!! 

Yes - but before you send me hate-mail, hear me out. Sleeping in baby holding devices isn't safe. The  American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for safe sleep (Sudden Infant Death reduction) advise transitioning a sleeping baby to his back on a firm sleep surface as soon as possible for EVERY SLEEP. So when you return home from running errands and your kiddo is snoozing in the car seat, yes, the safest thing is to move him to a safer sleep surface. 

There may be extreme and rare medical circumstances in which other risks outweigh the risk of SIDS and sleeping in equipment may be recommended by your child's physician. 

Still thinking, "Lady, you're crazy" ? 

I am! Crazy about stopping the growing epidemic of preventable infant and early childhood problems that I see and treat as an Occupational Therapist. But here's the other thing - I'm a new mom, too. In order to practice what I preach, I'm surviving new parenthood WITHOUT BABY HOLDING DEVICES*. Not because that's the right way or the way that you should do it, but because I wanted to prove that it's possible. And I knew I'd have to get creative to make it work. I hoped that what I discovered in my equipment-free experiment might just help a fellow parent reduce their baby's time in equipment.

*Clarification: we do have a convertible car seat that remains in the car and a stroller with a seat that reclines completely flat for infant use

I don't think living baby equipment free is ALWAYS possible. Babies who are multiples or with older siblings in the home, particularly difficulty or colicky babies, babies with medical conditions, babies in childcare are all kiddos who will likely need to spend some time in Baby Holding Devices and that's okay. I merely advocate for moderate and intentional use.

I know from my evaluation interviews with parents of babies with Flat Head Syndrome and Torticollis that most parents don't realize how much time their babies spend in the same position in various pieces of gear until they really stop and total it up - car seat time, nighttime in the Rock 'n Play, awake time in an infant swing. 

Ways to reduce your baby's time in Baby Holding Devices:

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From my crazy parenting adventures without baby gear, here are some tips for cutting down on your baby's time in equipment:

-Leave the car seat in the car by carrying or wearing your baby once you arrive at your destination. And once your baby can sit up, let them sit in the shopping cart. Just think of how much room you'll have in your shopping cart when your infant car seat isn't in it!

-Choose a stroller that allows baby to lay flat instead of using a car seat carrier as the seat.

-Keep Tummy Time fun and interesting. Here are some Tummy TIme play ideas to get you started. You can find more in my book

-Put a blanket and toys on the floor in key areas of the house where you routinely need to be hands free (kitchen, master bathroom, laundry room). Learn more about rotating baby through stations during awake playtime.

-Use a stroller that reclines flat instead of a car seat carrier and travel stroller system. We love our Baby Jogger City Mini {affiliate}.

-Wear your baby and make sure you promote equal head-turning when wearing.

-Use Baby Holding Devices as a last resort instead of your go-to for play, sleep and/or soothing.

-and my #1 recommendation for reducing your baby's time in Baby Holding Devices: don't have as much equipment in your home. You can always go out and buy a swing or bouncy seat if you have a fussy baby or feel like you desperately need it.  But necessity truly is the mother of invention and without as much baby gear in the house, you'll likely discover other, more developmentally beneficial ways to hold, occupy and soothe your little one. 

Learn about baby items you don't need from a pediatric Physical Therapist.

Learn about what another pediatric Physical Therapist calls the "container shuffle".

To sum up : remember the Rule of 2 and 15, have as little equipment in your home as possible, and use it only when you really need to. By reducing your newborn's time in Baby Holding Devices, you support your infant's wellness and development. 

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