Baby bouncers can certainly be fun for a little one, but have you ever hesitated to use one due to safety concerns? Have you wondered if a little extra convenience is worth a potential risk?
I found myself with the same questions. After all, an infant is still building strength in their core and neck muscles, and their disproportionately large heads could place them at an increased risk for injury.
I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting my child in any danger, so I decided to do some research. Here’s what I found out.
Types of Baby Bouncers
Baby bouncers are available in variations on three main designs:
- The bouncer chair
- The sit-in bouncer/activity center
- The door bouncer
All three models allow your child to lay or play in a more upright position. These products also give your baby the opportunity to look around the room, kick their legs, put weight on their feet, jump around or play with some built-in toys.
Here is a closer look at the details of each type of baby bouncer, some possible areas for concern and steps you can take to help keep your little one safe while they play.
How They Work
These bouncers are designed for very young infants, and your baby can use one even if they haven’t mastered the skills of sitting up and holding their head up. Bouncy chairs allow your baby to lie in a reclined position so they can better see their environment, and a safety strap prevents your child from sliding or rolling out.
These toys can either have a battery-operated vibration feature, or they can simply be a padded seat suspended on a sturdy wire structure that will bounce with baby’s movements or a parent’s gentle help.
The biggest danger associated with infant bouncy seats is airway compromise. Very young infants usually lack the muscle strength to move their heads if they settle deeply into a comfortable seat. This could lead to breathing problems if your baby’s chin tucks too closely to their chest.
Some babies will find a favorite position to lay in, either due to comfort or because they enjoy looking at a fixed object in the room. Since the bones in a young baby’s head are still soft and moldable, lying in the same position repeatedly for long periods of time can cause your child to develop a flat spot, also known as positional plagiocephaly.
If the bouncer is set up on a bed, table, countertop or couch, your baby could be in danger of a fall or suffocation hazard.
While using a bouncer seat does carry some risks, those dangers can be greatly reduced by following some practical guidelines.
- Always supervise your baby when they are using the chair
- Never allow your baby to sleep in the bouncy chair
- Only use the bouncer chair on the floor, and never place it on a raised surface
- Limit time in the bouncer chair to about 20 or 30 minutes at a time
- Ensure your baby’s chin is not tucked too close to their chest and that their face is free of obstructions at all times
- Avoid letting your baby put weight on the same area of their head every time they use the bouncer chair. Try laying them with their head turned slightly to one side, and alternate sides every use. Additionally, try placing an interesting object for your baby to look at on alternating sides of the chair
- Once your baby can sit up, the bouncy seat is no longer a safe option for them and shouldn’t be used
Sit-In Bouncers / Activity Centers
How They Work
These types of bouncers (also known as jumpers) are usually a favorite for babies: They get to stand in a semi-supported upright position, manipulate toys on the tray, bounce or jump by themselves and look around the room.
Sit-in bouncers consist of a seat attached to a plastic structure and several springs that provide suspension. Sit-in bouncers that have built-in toys are usually referred to as activity centers.
A swiveling seat is a common feature that allows your baby to turn themselves in any direction. This feature lets them access all the toys and make sure they don’t miss a second of the action.
Most sit-in bouncers are designed to be used for children as young as four months old. Babies at this age typically have not developed strong core muscles and using a sit-in bouncer may cause them to adopt an unnatural body position to remain upright. Babies could also learn to place weight on the wrong parts of their feet.
Even though your baby has enough stimulation to keep them happy and smiling while in the activity center, too much time in the bouncer could lead to a delay in rolling, crawling or walking.
Don’t let the potential for problems discourage you from letting your baby use a sit-in bouncer or activity center. Implementing the following ideas can help you safely make the most of your bouncer.
- Limit use to 20 minutes at a time once or twice a day
- Be alert to baby’s foot position and make sure the bouncer is adjusted properly for your child’s height
- Supervise playtime and be alert for signs of exhaustion or over-stimulation
- Provide lots of floor play and encourage tummy time
- Talk to your baby while they are in the bouncer and play with the toys together from time to time
How They Work
These types of baby bouncers / jumpers attach to a doorway frame using clamps, and your baby sits in a seat that is suspended on stretchy cords. When placed into the bouncer, the baby’s feet should be able to just touch the floor, and the baby should be able to jump and bounce.
A door bouncer could be a good choice if you don’t have the extra space for a larger sit-in bouncer/activity canter.
Babies using this type of bouncer are usually having a blast, but they run the risk of jumping too energetically and hitting the sides of the doorway.
Any toy or piece of equipment that has long cords or ropes could be a strangulation hazard.
The majority of injuries associated with doorway bouncers are the result of the clamps either breaking or becoming detached from the door frame. This could cause the entire jumper and your baby to fall.
Of all the bouncer options, doorway models are often thought to carry the greatest risks and require a fair amount of caution. However, they can still be a good choice as long as they are set up and used appropriately.
- Before each use, carefully inspect the fastening clamps, the door frame and the cords
- Closely supervise your baby at all times, and remove them from the bouncer if they are showing signs of being over-stimulated
- Place the bouncer in the widest door opening possible
- Limit time spent in the bouncer to around 20 minutes at a time
Could A Bouncer be Harmful to Your Baby’s Development?
During the first year, some of your baby’s biggest tasks are developing their motor and social skills. Since these are vitally important skills for your baby to have, it’s worth looking into whether a bouncer could help or hinder their development.
When you think about it, the amount of movements your baby will start to become adept at in their early months is truly astonishing! There are two types of motor skills, fine and gross. Each type requires your baby to strengthen and coordinate different muscles.
- Fine Motor Skills. These are small, intricate movements that require good hand/eye coordination. Grasping, pushing a button, picking up a small object and turning a toy over are some motions that require fine motor skills. The variety of toys offered by an activity center can provide a fantastic opportunity for your baby to practice some of their fine motor skills.
- Gross Motor Skills. These are the movements that require large groups of muscles to work together. Movements like rolling over, crawling and walking are examples of gross motor skills.
While a bouncer that lets your baby stand or jump can provide great exercise, using these products frequently for extended periods of time can actually have a detrimental effect on gross motor skill development.
Open space gives your baby the chance to move and explore for themselves. Babies need freedom and unstructured time to find out what their bodies are capable of and discover how to refine their coordination.
The floor is one of the best spaces for your baby to work on their gross motor skills. Too much time in a bouncer translates to less time on the floor and less moving around.
The best way for a baby to learn how to relate to others is to regularly interact with other people. If your baby is spending too much time playing alone in their bouncer, they may miss out on picking up some important social cues.
Make it a point to spend plenty of time reading to your baby, talking to them, singing to them and simply including them in your daily tasks. Prioritizing face-to-face time every day is likely to be more than enough to compensate for some time spent in the bouncer.
When they are used in a wise and thoughtful manner, baby bouncers can be a great addition to your child’s playtime. As with almost anything, moderation is definitely key.
To help make your baby bouncer as safe as possible, remember to:
- Set the bouncer up in a safe place
- Limit time in the bouncer
- Always supervise bouncer play
- Provide lots of floor time
- Prioritize direct interaction with your baby
If you feel that you would like to get one for your baby check out our baby jumper review.
What about you? Do you love baby bouncers and use them regularly, or do you still have a few more questions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!