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There are many devices that put a baby in a semi curled position, due to the postural challenges to the back and neck. These include; car capsules, car seats, bouncinettes and rockers.
Parents need to be aware that prolonged time in a semi curled position, while tragically causing a small number of deaths, can also be hampering the short and long term healthy brain function of their babies.
Not only should babies not be left to sleep in these devices, but also parents need to know that extended periods of awake time in these baby products can affect brain development.
Several research studies confirm that this curled position leads to decreased oxygen levels. This can tragically result in death from positional asphyxiation and can also hamper healthy brain function in living babies.
In a study published in the United States Journal of Pediatrics, a research team found that babies in the semi-curled position in car capsules had recorded reduced oxygen levels in the blood.
“There is now compelling evidence that hypoxia (oxygen deficiency to the brain) is associated with behavioural problems and adverse effects on development and school performance,” reports Dr McIntosh, who was responsible for the study.
The prolonged flexed position not only decreases oxygen intake but also prevents the baby stretching out fully into the extended position and this too makes a big difference to how well the brain will function.
Babies in these devices are stuck in a reflex position.
Extension of the muscles is important to develop healthy muscle tone and enables the inhibition of a reflex – the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR), which helps babies learn to move forward on their tummies. Both muscle tone development and movement opportunities that encourage the inhibition of infant primitive reflexes, lay vital building blocks for successful learning as the baby grows.
If babies do not have the movement experiences necessary to integrate the TLR and other infant reflexes, they will remain present and will affect later academic and sporting ability. This is why at GymbaROO we believe it is crucial that parents be informed about primitive reflexes and how to provide their babies with the movement experiences necessary to integrate these reflexes. These are explained in our online video here: Baby Reflexes.
Here is an excerpt from our Baby Reflexes video, explaining the TLR.
While modern conveniences provide parents with lots of ‘containers’ into which babies can be placed, these very containers, which are seemingly designed to simplify our lives and protect our children can, if not used properly, pose dire health risks and can also prevent our babies from getting the very experiences that promote healthy development.
What parents can do
- Car seats/capsules are an essential part of car travel, as every child must be restrained safely and securely. However, when leaving the car, transfer your baby out of the capsule and into another form of carrier – such as a pram or your arms. Car seat/capsule use should be restricted to the minimum time required for travel. If going on long trips, take regular breaks, (it is recommended every 30 minutes), and remove your baby from the capsule. Read more: Never let babies sleep in car seats / capsules, out of the car.
- Fit your car seat with a simple foam insert with a slot for the back of the head. These allow the head to remain upright rather than slumping forward, which can obstruct breathing when the chin is on the chest and pushed back. This insert reduces the breathing risks for babies but it does not eliminate the seats’ risks. Read more.
- Never leave your baby unsupervised in any device and always make sure you can see his/her face.
- Never leave your baby in any ‘baby devices’ for an extended period of time. Short periods only.
- Avoid any ‘baby seats’ that are marketed to keep non-sitting babies in a sitting position. Read /watch more here.
- From an early age babies need to be given plenty of space and freedom to move so they can take advantage of the natural reflexes with which they are born, such as the TLR. These reflexes not only help the baby to survive the critical first months of life outside the womb, but also help get baby moving, so important for future learning and healthy brain development.
- To help your baby integrate the TLR, provide lots of short periods of tummy time often, in the early months. Watch our free online video on Tummy Time here.
Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)) is the Research and Education General Manager for GymbaROO and KindyROO. Dr Williams is one of Australia’s leading experts on baby and child development. More on Dr Williams here
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