Get Babies off Their Backs

11/26/2008 ORLANDO, Fla. Stephanie Hildebrandt has her hands full with twins Justin and Jacob.

"The hardest part about having two is trying to maneuver both of them," Hilderbrandt told Ivanhoe.

She relies heavily on her baby carriers, bouncy seats and swings.

"I definitely rely on them," she said. "I think I rely on them more than anyone else would."

But what many parents like Stephanie don't know is these devices could be putting their babies at risk for something researchers are calling container-syndrome.

"Any of these devices that are developed to provide basically convenience for the parents also puts considerable amount of pressure on the back of the head," Carl Barr, M.D., a child neurologist in the Florida Hospital's Florida Child Neurology department in Orlando, Fla. explained to Ivanhoe.

And since doctors also advise parents to put babies on their backs to sleep, the result can be a flattened skull like Jacob's and in more severe cases, developmental delay.

"If you can't hold your head up, you're not going to be able to crawl very well," Dr. Barr noted.

When a baby is strapped in the "container", his neck is immobilized, preventing him from using all the muscles needed to grow normally. This can delay crawling, walking, sitting, and even speaking.

"In the past, we didn't have all these devices and kids spent a lot more time on the floor playing with toys," Dr. Carr said.

To prevent problems, put babies on their tummies as much as possible, but at least two hours a day once babies turn six months. Carry them instead of putting them in the "containers" and limit the time they spend in the devices to three hours a day or less.

Stephanie tries to do that. But with these two boys, it's a challenge!

"I can't wait until they start to crawl and walk," Hilderbrandt proclaimed. Then, the fun will really begin!

Treatments for babies with flat skulls and stiff necks may include a helmet that's worn for 23 hours a day to re-shape the skull, physical therapy or in some severe cases, surgery. A 2006 study found that 22 percent of babies who slept on their backs had some delays in motor skills, such as sitting up, rolling over and climbing stairs; but experts say back-sleeping has reduced the incidence of sudden infant death (SIDs) by more than 50 percent, so the best way to prevent these delays is to keep babies off their backs while they're awake.

Florida Hospital Physician Referral Line
Orlando, FL
(407) 303-1700


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