Container Baby Syndrome: Why equipment-free exercise is best for your baby


What is “Container Baby Syndrome?”

Container Baby Syndrome is a “collection of movement, behavioral, and other problems caused by a baby or infant spending too much time in a container-any commonly used piece of baby equipment that resembles a container.” While this may sound intimidating, Container Baby Syndrome is highly preventable and there are many ways parents and caregivers can help children develop while avoiding this!


What is considered a container/equipment?

  • Carseat
  • Stroller
  • Bouncy swings/seats
  • Jumpers
  • Exersaucers


Why it is beneficial to limit container use for infants:

While these containers can help keep children safe during transportation or when caregivers are cooking or doing necessary self care or household tasks, spending too much time in these containers (or others that are similar) can negatively impact your child’s health and development. Children should not be spending more than a few minutes total throughout the day in containers, and time can add up quickly, especially if they are having fun.

Containers can confine infants and limit their ability to kick, turn/lift their heads, wiggle, roll, and move. Containers may appear to aid children in standing and jumping, but they actually put infants in a position that limits their ability to activate their muscles. With limited opportunities to move, infants can experience delays in reaching their motor milestones, such as rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking. We want our little ones to be free to move, learn, and explore their environment!

Spending too much time in a container can result in a decreased amount of tummy time. Tummy time is crucial to a baby’s development and is your baby’s way to exercise (babies need exercise just like adults do!). It helps strengthen the neck, trunk, and shoulders while helping to keep a rounded head shape. Tummy time is an integral stepping stone to achieve further developmental milestones.


What to look out for with Container Baby Syndrome:

  • Flat spot on the baby’s head
  • Preference to turn and keep head in one direction or position 
  • Tightness in the baby’s neck muscles
  • Facial asymmetry 
  • Limited movement
  • Delays in reaching developmental milestones


How to avoid Container Baby Syndrome and what to do instead?

  • Limit time in containers to 10-15 minutes, 1-2 times per day, at most
  • Follow safe sleep practices
    • On their back for all sleeping
    • On a firm surface, such as a mattress in a safety approved crib
    • No blankets, pillows, bumper pads, or toys should be in the sleep area
    • Have baby share your room, not your bed
  • Providing as much awake play time on the child’s tummy during the day as possible (at least 60 minutes of tummy time throughout the day)
  • Providing opportunities for your child to play in a variety of positions (Including caregiver supported or independent sitting, sidelying, on their tummy, and on their back)
  • Check with your pediatrician or a physical therapist if you have questions or concerns about Container Baby Syndrome or delayed motor development.

*Container Baby Syndrome is highly preventable!


What can a physical therapist do to help?

If you have concerns about Container Baby Syndrome or your child’s overall development, speak to your child’s pediatrician and seek out a physical therapy evaluation if needed as soon as possible to start treatment early. A physical therapist can help identify and treat delays in the child’s development during a full evaluation. This would include impairments in strength, movement, and head shape. A physical therapist can provide caregiver education about ways to aid the child’s development. A physical therapist will also help with positioning, tummy time, and important developmental activities that will improve strength and movement.


Sarah D’Astice, PT, DPT