Next time you are at the grocery store or at the mall, look around and observe all the families with their children. It is wonderful that the babies are included in the outings. However, you may also notice that every infant is either in a carrier or stroller. Studies have shown that premature infants and infants in neonatal units get well quicker if they have touch. Touch has a calming and healing effect for newborns. No one is holding his or her baby.
You might even notice that some babies have to let their head fall over to one side to be supported in the infant carriers (no matter if they have a head support roll or not). This is leading to awkward head positions, which can make it difficult to turn head the opposite direction. Newborns do not have the ability to control the weight of their head. It takes months for them to be able to develop strength to have head control.
Infant carriers are a wonderful safety device for riding in the car. However, they are not meant to be baby sitters. If your baby were crying, wouldn’t it be nice to pick them up and comfort them, rather than just rock the infant carrier seat? Babies are often placed into the carriers to sleep, as well, and this is not a good position for them for the reasons of lack of head control. In a car seat they must let their head turn to one side and lean their head over to one shoulder, as they do not have the strength to hold their head up. If they are to sleep, place them onto their bed or on a flat surface.
Both you and your baby will benefit from you carrying them. The carrier is too heavy and awkward for you to carry, and your baby will benefit from your touch as well as your support for their head.
The swings that are available for infants are very nice to use AFTER they develop head and neck control.
Staying for long periods in these inclined positions can cause your baby to develop unwanted head positions. This can cause them to side bend their head to one side and rotate to the opposite side to find a supported position for their head. This can become not only a comfort position for their head/neck, but they might even develop a muscular tightness that makes it difficult to turn their head to the opposite direction. It could also cause the head to develop with flat spots.
Your baby will grow up so fast. Take time to enjoy the day-to-day time you can spend with your child. Life is so fast paced that often we do not stop and just enjoy quiet time with our children. This time is your time to bond and learn about each other. The more that you relax your baby, the more he or she will relax.
When you hold your baby, you are giving support to their neck. Being in different positions while you hold your baby will allow them to develop head control. Put them on the floor or in their bed/playpen to have opportunities to look at the world from different perspectives. It is also important for them to lie on their stomach for supervised play. The healing and comforting power of touch will give your child knowledge that he/she is loved.
Jann Barnett, PT