Modern Conveniences: A Help or a Hindrance?
Feature Fact Friday!
Congratulations, you made it to another Friday. And I bet you used several "modern conveniences" to get you through the week. Yes, in some ways life is easier now than it was 50 years ago. Need a recipe for chicken and green beans? Just look it up on the internet. Forgot something at the store? Just text your spouse the list. In need of a tall, nonfat, vanilla latte? With several coffeehouses having a drive-thru, no need to even get out of your car. No time to vacuum? Just program your vacuuming robot. We have definitely become a technologically savvy society, but the trade-off is little patience and decreased problem-solving skills, among others. This is also true of infants.
As a new parent, you want to give your child the best of everything and it would also be nice to find some of those products that are promising to make your life with your new baby a little bit easier. You've done the research; read the popular blogs - like the one you're reading now :-), looked up ratings for baby items in Consumer Reports, and asked friends and family for their recommendations.
Did you ever think of how these new baby products would impact your child later in life? Let's start with the many "containers" we keep our babies in. Our babies go from the crib to the swing to the baby carrier to the high chair and then the cycle repeats. Although your baby is being kept safe in these containers, they are limiting their learning. Your baby will only see and hear from the confinement of their carrier. They will not learn balance from the way they shift when you hold them in your arms, nor will they learn how to lift up their head lying on the floor as they look up to see your face.
The infant carrier is most convenient and safe, as you can buckle your child prior to walking out your door and quickly snap the carrier into place in the car. Parents, please don't leave your baby or allow them to nap in an infant carrier for extended periods of time. Your baby can explore their environment and their body much better on the floor without any constraints. This also holds true for those squishy little seats that have become so popular. Putting an infant in a sitting position, before they are developmentally ready can cause a decrease in muscle strength and coordination, in addition to speech, sight, hearing and thinking deficits. Babies learn best by exploring and figuring out how to sit on their own.
There's no doubt about it, newborns sleep better when swaddled. However, please be aware that a baby's hips should be able to flex naturally within any swaddling system. And while we are on the subject of sleeping, there are some cribs/bassinets on the market that promise a better night's sleep for the parents, by monitoring the baby's movements and cries. When the baby cries, the bassinet will detect it and will then implement some white noise and vibration to lull the baby back to sleep. The parent doesn't even need to wake up. So it seems as if this "convenient" crib is allowing parents to have more sleep while teaching the baby to depend on a machine rather than a person. This is also decreasing human contact. Babies need to learn that they can depend on their parents and that parents and other caretakers are not just ordinary objects, but beings that can do things for them. Sleep deprivation is no fun, but sometimes it's the struggle that makes the little things so exciting and worth celebrating (e.g. the baby just slept for 5 hours)! Yes, parenthood is hard - that's how you know you're doing it right :-)
"Container Baby Syndrome" is becoming more and more prevalent. It is perfectly acceptable to put your baby in a "container" to keep them safe while you are taking a shower, making dinner, etc., but please don't leave them in there for extended periods of time. Babies are inherently social and are absorbing language and social skills in their first weeks of life. Keeping them in containers can lead to decreased interaction with your baby, as well as decreased movement. This has a negative effect on their motor skills, language, and social development that can follow them throughout childhood.
In addition to the "containers" there are also some other accessories that promise convenience for the parent. A hands-free bottle holder and bungee cords for pacifiers. These gadgets may need to be used at certain times, but hopefully not always. Feeding your baby is so much more than just nutrition. This is a time for bonding and working on social language skills, such as eye contact and familiarizing your child with your voice and intonation. This also helps baby understand that she can depend on you. As far as the pacifier cords, they are good for attaching to baby's clothing while you are out and about, so they do not fall on the floor of the grocery store bathroom. But while at home, allow your baby to problem solve when the pacifier falls out. Let them feel around their crib in the middle of the night, or cry for you to help them locate their binky. Allow your baby to problem-solve now and they will continue to hone in on those skills in the early years and will eventually be a successful kindergarten student.
Parents, keep in mind that there is a place for modern conveniences, but too much of them can hinder your child's overall development. Your baby's first year goes by in the blink of an eye, so fill that year with meaningful playtime and engagement.
For ideas on how to interact with your baby outside of a "container," check out the activity cards in the OFY backpack. Toys with a purpose...it's all in the bag!