Unless you're in the early childhood education or medical professions, it can be really hard to know what's best and safest for your babies when it comes to toys, activities, and gear. It often takes us a lot of research to figure out what to buy, how to use it, and what to avoid. It's especially difficult when family and friends use or encourage certain baby gear. You may have heard that Exersaucers and baby jumpers are items of concern, but really, are jumpers bad for babies? Here's a closer look at what you have to consider.
According to Chicago physical therapist Dr. Sajani Parikh, DPT, jumpers are totally safe. "Jumpers are a great place to a put a child for entertainment, or, you know, if you need to use the bathroom," she tells Romper. "With that said, it's recommended that things like jumpers and Exersaucers are only used 10 to 15 minutes a day at the most." The reason behind the strict moderation has to do with the positioning of the child. Because of the way babies are seated, largely leaning forward and on their tippy toes, there is added stress to the ankle joint and the gastrocnemius muscle group (muscles along the back of the leg, running from the ankle to knee).
"This could contribute to future toe-walking," Parikh explains. And, because the child has to lean forward to stabilize her body, the use of the glute muscles are decreased. Essentially, overuse of jumpers and Exersaucers can delay or reverse the natural process of development.
Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago mentioned another factor that contributes to health care professionals not recommending jumper use — the more time your baby is spending in a jumper or Exersaucer, the less time they are spending on the floor actually developing their core muscles and motor development skills. Plenty of free play and tummy time is needed for babies to develop strong trunk control and alignment.
Studies have shown that increased activity center use actually results in decreased motor development and control. This is because babies in jumpers or Exersaucers don't get to experience appropriate weight bearing and weight shifting needed for walking or crawling independently.
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute also noted the possible increase in hip dysplasia in babies mis- or over-using various baby devices (baby carriers, jumpers, Exersaucers, walkers, and molded seating items). These items put hips in an unhealthy position, especially when used for an extended period of time. In fact, any device that restrains baby's hips and legs in an unnatural position can risk abnormal hip development. While time limits are crucial for items like jumpers and Exersaucers, vigilance in using baby carriers properly and safely is also extremely important.
We all know how hard it is to get anything done with a baby around, so having a jumper or Exersaucer around might be handy for bathroom breaks, a quick chore, or just a chance for a 10-minute rest. But, beyond that, safe, open floor play is best for your little one. And, if you need your little one contained and safe for a longer period of time, consider a portable crib (I love the Joovy Room2 for its larger footprint) or playard (this Summer Infant Playard is awesome for both indoor and outdoor use), or a small gated and baby-proofed room. Of course, your baby should be supervised at all times. But having the option of keeping them corralled, safe, and close to you while you get dinner ready or enjoy a drink on the patio is pretty important, too.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.