If you know a little about the structure of your back, you may well know that an adult spine forms a double S shape. This is an ingenious move by nature, as it enables the spine to absorb shocks and vibrations. Babies, however, don’t start out with this shape; this only develops once the child starts learning to walk and even then there is some way to go. From birth until the child takes their first steps, the function and shape of the spine, pelvis and legs are specially geared towards being carried.
New parents love nothing more than having their offspring in their arms. But that, of course, isn’t possible 24 hours a day. Parents need to eat and shower, for example. And that’s why baby bouncers have become a staple piece of baby kit. It’s important to look out for specific features in a baby bouncer to make sure that your new arrival really feels comfortable and safe in their swing, rocker or bouncer seat.
Ergonomics play a key role in this respect. It takes approximately a year for a baby’s spine to develop into a double S-shape. This is a development that is firmly anchored in our genes and always unfolds in the same way, from babies lying on their tummies and supporting themselves with both elbows, to standing and then walking. It therefore makes sense that this progressive posture process should be supported at all times, including when using a baby bouncer, in a way that is appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development. The main consideration here is that because of its slight spinal curvature, a newborn baby’s back is not made for lying on a flat surface. For this reason, ergonomic baby bouncers support a natural posture: the iliac crests straighten up, the tailbone comes forward and excessive curvature of the lumbar and cervical spine subsides – the thoracic spine is no longer overly rounded. When it comes to the position of the legs, experts speak of something called the spread-squat position, which is a combination of flexion (bending), abduction (spreading) and external rotation (knees pointing outwards).
Special attention needs to be paid to the baby’s head position. During the first three months, babies can only turn their head to the side up to an angle of 45 degrees. This is down to the atlanto-axial joint, which is the joint between the first (atlas) and second (axis) cervical vertebrae. The disadvantage of many baby bouncers is that they don’t provide enough space for the protruding back of the head. As a result, the little ones press their chin to their chest, which also leads to a tilted position of the head and makes turning impossible. In the worst case scenario, this can restrict breathing. Good baby bouncers focus on this area in particular and allow the head enough room to turn.
A baby bouncer should also be designed to allow the child to self-regulate. Why is this important? Infants need the help of their parents to learn how to self-regulate and calm themselves, especially in their first year. Too much external stimuli can quickly lead to overwhelm and have exactly the opposite effect. In such cases, an ever stronger stimulus is then needed to help the baby calm down again. This is why electric rockers are not advisable. It is better to allow the child to rock the baby bouncer by moving their own arms and legs, so that they can control the external stimulus themselves.
And of course, safety and ergonomics for parents should also be factored in for a product that is used daily; the baby bouncer should be easy and reliable to use. Simple and quick to use buckles ensure that your baby is well secured and that you can swiftly pick them up again at any time. A wide and easily accessible foot control allows for quick and easy adjustment of the seat inclination and protects your back at the same time. Also make sure that the baby bouncer is easy and safe to set up, freely accessible from all sides and that it cannot collapse unexpectedly. Ideally, this is prevented by a double safety mechanism. Another piece of advice is that you should always have your baby in sight and be able to respond to their needs.
Generally speaking, constant sitting and lying down, even in perfect baby bouncers, can counteract the child’s development. Therefore, it is always advisable to have a diverse mix of different options to optimally support your baby’s development. Carrying, with or without a sling, lying (on their backs) in bed to sleep, breastfeeding and feeding in your arms, playing on the floor (in tummy position and daily if possible) and time spent on the changing table are all important and do a lot of good. Just let your child and your instincts decide what is right for them.
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