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What equipment should I buy to support my baby's development?

Set foot in a baby shop for the first time and your head will spin with the amount of STUFF available to buy for your baby. Okay so your baby needs somewhere to sleep and bath but do they also need equipment just to help them develop??

The good news is you don't need much! A lot of the equipment marketed for helping babies to sit, stand and walk is not helpful and some research shows can actually interfere with your babies development. Here are our thoughts on what you do and don't need. 

Carrying equipment 

Not required for supporting your baby's development BUT slings and carriers can work wonders for parent life (they have saved both our lives that's for sure!)! We have used these A LOT and would highly recommend them for making your life easier however there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the perfect carrier so make sure you get it right. 

1. The effect on your baby's hip development. It is important to make sure your carrier is supporting your baby's hips properly to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia. Follow the link below for a photo, make sure your baby's legs are well supported with hips and knees bent and legs spread around your torso. Your baby's knees should be slightly higher than buttocks so their legs make a shape like the letter M. 

The International Hip Dysplasia Institute gives the following advice in their education statement:

  • "periodic short-term use of a baby carrier unlikely to have any effect on hip development."

  • Some carriers so position babies in an unhealthy (legs stretched downwards) position. "Any device that restrains a baby’s legs in an unhealthy position should be considered a potential risk for abnormal hip development.

  • "It is also important to assess the size of the baby and match the device and carrier to the size of the child so that the hips can be in a healthy position during transport. "

For lots more information on what the safe position for hips is, how to replicate it, and which products are endorsed visit International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

2. Your baby's safety. According to the ACCC baby slings can be dangerous if worn incorrectly or if the wrong type of sling is used. Baby's should be firmly supported along the back, with chin off chest and worn high on the chest close enough to kiss. These articles by the ACCC and Red Nose will give you all the details about how to safely wear your baby in a sling and which products are safe. 

3. Your safety. Of course carrying your baby in a sling or carrier can put extra pressure on your back, shoulders and hips but have you considered the extra work on your pelvic floor as well? Exercising while wearing your baby or even just going about your day can cause increased pressure on what can be a pretty exhausted pelvic floor already! We love FitRight Physio for lots of information about how to safely return to exercise and activity including baby wearing. Baby Wearers WA also has lots of fantastic information about how to find a comfortable carrier. They hold regular meets with LOADS more carriers than the big brands stocked in big baby shops to trial to find the perfect fit for you!

Sitting equipment 

Baby sitting equipment, like a bumbo or ingenuity floor seat etc, doesn’t necessarily help your baby learn to sit by themselves because they aren’t actually working on their sitting balance in these bits of equipment, they are just being propped upright. 

That doesn’t mean that chairs like highchairs and bumbos should not be used, only that you should be aware that you are using them for other reasons (like supporting for eating) not teaching sitting… and I’d suggest sticking with the WHO guidelines when you are deciding how much to use them (less than an hour at a time). 

When using equipment to support your baby in sitting take a close look at their position in it and try and make sure they are not wonky, that the head isn’t tilted one way and that they look safe, symmetrical and relaxed.   

Want to know more about baby sitting, how your baby's balance develops and when? Read our blog Should I sit my baby before they can sit alone?

Standing and walking equipment 

Around 5-6 months you can hold your baby standing and they will push and hold their weight. They will also often “bounce” and “dance”  and generally love life. Supporting your baby like this in your arms is not a problem as you won’t keep your baby in this position for long. In baby equipment however it is very possible they will stay happily standing and bouncing for 30 minutes or more. Unfortunately this won't help your baby learn to stand, in fact it may have the opposite effect. 

When suspended in standing equipment, babies are supported between their legs, like sitting on a saddle. They straddle the equipment and are supported at their hips and pelvis. This means they are using different muscles than when they stand alone.  

What can we do instead to support standing development? 

When your baby stands holding furniture, does a bear position or kneels they are building strength in the muscles around their hips and pelvis. These are important muscles for standing. 

  

Want to know more about how to support your baby on their journey to crawling, cruising and walking through play? We would love to have you join us in the Walky Talky Baby online membership!

Trolleys, small pretend prams, and walkers that your baby stands behind and pushes are great. These help your baby learn to walk as your baby is not suspended in the equipment. When pushing a trolley your baby is balancing on their feet and using their core and leg muscles to hold themselves upright. 

 

Look for a walker...
❤️ That is heavy and sturdy at the bottom so it won't tip
❤️ That is tall enough so that your baby doesn't have to lean forward
❤️ That moves slowly so it doesn't run away from your baby...

💡 TIP: try loading up your walker with beanbags or using it on a different surface like grass or bricks if it is still slipping away from your baby too fast!

Our Top 3 most recommended pieces of equipment....

The World Health Organisation recommends Babies under 1 should” Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better”. 

Including lots of free mat play each day is my number 1 tip for supporting your baby’s development. So we think the best thing to spend your money on is the equipment that makes free mat play easy and fun... spend some time getting really organised so it is as easy as possible to “hit the mat”!

1. A good quality play mat for home. Unrestricted baby-led mat play is extremely beneficial for your baby’s development and should definitely make up the bulk of playtime every day. Having a durable, soft but not too squishy, easy to clean play mat makes floor play convenient and accessible... which means it is more likely to happen! There are many expensive and lovely options online.

We have a Munchkin and Bear and a Grace & Maggie between us. We both like our mats and don't receive any benefit for endorsing them. We also love the playmats from The Young Folk Collective - they have bold colours which your baby will love to look at but are also stylish and will look great in your living room!

Lower budget options are available from places like Bunnings and Kmart. Your mat doesn't have to look incredible it just has to be comfortable, safe, easy to clean and be somewhere you and your baby are happy to hang out!

2. A play pen or baby gates. Creating a safe, accessible space for free mat at your house play might involve using a playpen to prevent the toddler/ dog etc from running over the top of them. We highly recommend (unless you are planning on baby proofing your entire house) that you set up a small, safe "yes space" right in the middle of the action.

Choose somewhere you can easily plonk your baby down for a few minutes at a time while you do jobs, have a cup of tea, play with the sibling etc.  Chose a spot where your baby can still see you but you know they are safe to play alone. Everything in the space should be a yes so you aren't having to keep half an eye while yelling "no don't touch the..." "no don't eat the...." etc 

Use baby gates or a play pen to define this space once your baby is capable of independently moving out of it or if you have a toddler, pet etc that can run into it and make it unsafe! 😂 This is a much better way of supporting your baby's development than using a piece of equipment like a bouncer or exosaucer to restrain them and keep them safe. 

3. A quilt or play mat for mat time on the go. Again it doesn't have to be pretty but having an easy to carry, easy to clean mat with you when you are out and about will make it much easier to make sure your baby gets those SUPER important opportunities for being active in a VARIETY or ways MULTIPLE times a day.

In our experience it takes a while for most babies to settle into a really predictable eat, play, sleep routine. Rather than planning all your outings around making sure you are home to play, get organised so you can make the most of those precious and often short windows of content, alert ready to play time whenever they come!

 Now we would love to hear from you! Are you trying to ditch the equipment and allow your baby free play? What is the biggest challenge on this pathway? 

❤️ DM us on instagram walkytalky_baby  

❤️  Comment in our FREE facebook group Walky Talky Baby Group 

 

If you'd like more from us ....remember what we have for you:

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❤️ SUPER Blog 10 Tips for Revitalising your playtime!

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