Buy This: Bean Bag! For positioning infants who are NOT rolling yet! Here’s why:
Our babies are born with the innate desire to be upright, mostly driven by vision. However, for the first several months they do not have the postural control to hold themselves up against gravity. All the work they do on the floor, being carried, transitioned from position to position, getting diapered and clothed provide opportunities for their bodies to respond and react and, eventually, to anticipate and initiate. These daily activities provide the foundation for postural control and eventually independent sitting, standing, and walking.
Despite not having control, sometimes babies want to be upright out of DESIRE to see more or NECESSITY to digest the latest meal without spitting it all back up. And though we love to cuddle with our babies, we can’t always be there to hold them in supported positions. We have to do laundry, make meals, SLEEP, take showers, make phone calls, answer emails, etc. We then have three options: put them on the floor on tummy or back, wear them, or put them in some sort of container. Though the floor is a position of choice and one that we advocate to try first, it does not resolve the issues stated above.
The market has attempted to answer this call with myriad products: swings, infant seats, bouncers, walkers, standers, jumpers! All are designed to position your infant in a place that he can’t get to by himself, often relying on postural control that is not there yet. We’ve all seen the infant in their seats, sliding down to the base, falling down to the side, held up only by small straps that protect them from falling out, but doing NOTHING to help align the baby and protect his body and joints while in the seat.
Enter Bean Bag: thought of as a suitable chair for toddlers, preschoolers and up, but rarely considered for an infant, especially a young, 0-4 month baby who is not yet rolling. Just make sure baby is awake and being watched closely.
-Bean bags are portable: they can be carried in a single hand and squeezed through narrow places. They don’t have metal legs or corners that slam into your leg or twist your wrist as they are transported place to place. They can be placed in front of a large mirror, right next to your chair by your computer, in front of the bath tub as you bath your other children, or in a “circle time” reading group with siblings before bed.
-Bean bags are moldable: you can manipulate them to precisely fit your baby in order to support whatever position you want. You can change the angle your baby sits in, tilt the baby slightly left or right to keep pressure off the back of the head or to help aid digestion (RIGHT side). You can even mold them to hold a book!
-Large bean bags are secure for a baby who is not yet rolling: Once baby is positioned and supported, you can push up the sides, top and bottom to create a barrier.
– Bean bags with a blanket (especially ones with waterproof backing) laid over the top are EASY to clean after the inevitable leaky diaper or spit up. No wrestling to get covers off frames that then leaves your seat useless until the laundry is done. Just throw first one in hamper and place another blanket down!
-Finally, bean bags are far less expensive than most infant seats and other containers and are functional pieces of “furniture” for your entire family! They grow with your child
Bean bags are an ideal answer when your pre-rolling infant needs to be in a more upright position compared to the floor. However, bean bags are not a surface that encourages a lot of body movement. Because the head and body are supported well, this is a good place to work on eye gaze and visual tracking as well as reaching with arms/hands. Note of caution: Once baby is rolling and trying to sit up, they can fall off of bean bag unless they are secured down with a strap and buckle. Watch for a future post about sitting options for infants who are moving more but not yet sitting independently.
In the meantime, we would love some feedback or stories about how you use bean bags in your family!
“Not That: An Infant Chair to Avoid.”
Most infant chairs out there are okay to use in small doses with your pre-sitting baby, especially if you use towel rolls or a Snuggin’ Go to help align your baby. Remember, though, straps in chairs are for safety only, they do not help align your baby properly. Most infant chairs are okay because they provide full support of the back and head in a reclined position.
However, there is one chair that we do not recommend: the Bumbo. This chair is designed to have your baby sit upright before she has the capacity to do so, and there is minimal if any capacity to modify it enough to provide good alignment because it does not support the entire back or head. A baby often sits with a rounded back, and leans on the sides, relying on the chair to hold her up. Undo stress and strain are placed on joints and muscles are unable to accommodate because they are not developed enough.
Parents often believe this chair is okay because it simulates the position of upright sitting parents often facilitate by placing their hands on baby’s trunk. However, the crucial difference is that your hands are directly on your baby, providing dynamic support that responds to your baby’s needs to stay in the middle. The Bumbo is a static plastic chair that does not move, respond or accommodate. It allows your baby to lean into a surface to remain upright, which in addition to placing stress on joints teaches them through practice how to be upright without turning on core muscles. We want our babies to spend this precious, short amount of pre-sitting time developing foundations for movement, not compensation strategies that can affect development of more advanced motor skills.
So, we therefore recommend that you save your money with this product. For other strategies to help teach your baby to sit independently, see our recent blog, Independent Sitting: How to Get There.