Container Baby Syndrome

Container Baby Syndrome

What is Container Baby Syndrome?

Container Baby Syndrome (CBS), simply put, is an umbrella term for any physical problems caused by a child spending too much time in a ‘baby container’, which includes car seats, rock and plays, bouncers, strollers, and so forth. This is not exclusively limited to items where the child rests his or her head against it.

Most therapists believe Container Baby Syndrome is largely in part due to the Back to Sleep campaign that rolled out in the early ‘90’s. The idea is that children who sleep on their backs are less likely to experience sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  While SIDS has decreased by 50% since the campaign began, “reports of CBS rose to 1 in 7 children by 2008; some researchers say incidents of CBS increased 600% in just the years 1992 to 2008.” Likely because parents have become afraid to place their baby on its back even while he/she is awake, so the reliance on baby equipment has skyrocketed.

What constitutes Container Baby Syndrome?

Baby carriers are 100% necessary to keep children safe during travel and certainly make moving them much easier for parents, but they are not meant to be used outside of these circumstances. Many parents report when they remove their child from the familiar support, the child will cry and become upset. Usually, this is because the child has to work harder to support himself once removed.

Because the carriers are meant to be safe, there is generally minimal room for the baby to move, so the child stays in a fixed position the entire time they are in it. This lack of movement leads to under developed muscles and physical stamina, among other things.

If allowed to stay in, say, a rock and play, for an extended period of time, a plethora of physical issues can arise, including, but not limited to:

  • Head and facial deformities (Flat Head Syndrome)
  • Torticollis
  • Delayed gross motor skill development such as sitting, crawling and walking
  • Decreased strength and coordination
  • Obesity
  • Sensory processing difficulties
  • Visual tracking issues

How can I prevent CBS?

Limit the amount of time your child is spending in baby carriers to only what is necessary. The rest of the time allow the baby to experience a variety of positions throughout the day. Working against gravity is how children strengthen their muscles, increase their environmental awareness and begin interacting with the world. Also, check in with your daycare facility as they may be allowing children to stay in an item for too long for their own convenience.

I think my baby has CBS, now what?

If you are at all concerned with your child’s development, set up an appointment with your pediatrician. Be sure to discuss your concerns and trust your intuition. If the doctor also feels this is a concern, he/she will likely refer you to either an occupational therapist or a physical therapist for an evaluation.


As a therapist I can verify that the rates of children coming in wearing head-shaping gear, with torticollis and/or with developmental delays is high. These parents believe they are doing what is best for their baby and are confused as to why the child isn’t meeting milestones. If you are a therapist, use this opportunity to educate.

About the author

Jennie Shafer

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