Some of the most commonly used devices for infants — car seats, swings, bouncy seats, strollers, carriers or any device that inhibits a young child’s chance to roll, move, wiggle and kick — pose a risk for motor skill delay, plagiocephaly and/or torticollis, conditions that collectively, make up container baby syndrome, a clinical therapist told Healio Primary Care.
by Janel Miller, Healio Pediatrics June 18, 2019
|“Conversely, evidence indicates that ‘tummy time’ — placing infants on their stomach several times a day for short durations, working up to longer stints on their tummy — may stave off the syndrome,” Lori Grisez PT DPT of the clinical therapies department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, also said.
Motor skill delay, plagiocephaly and/or torticollis varying degrees of prevalence, suggesting the link between the three conditions may not be well-known in the medical community.
Therefore, Healio Primary Care talked to experts and reviewed the literature of the associated conditions to help primary care physicians better understand container baby syndrome.
|“Since children with container baby syndrome are not using their muscles the way they’re supposed to, they’re not having an opportunity to practice all of these skills and use those muscles then they can have delays with their motor development. Sometimes, this means the children are delayed in learning how to roll over, sit up and eventually learn to stand,” Grisez said.
The AAP report titled Promoting Healthy Development provides an overview of what age normally developing children should acquire a variety of motor skills and information on commonly used developmental screening tools, such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), the Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDStest) and the Survey of Well-being of Young Children (SWYC).
Grisez said plagiocephaly, another component of container baby syndrome, is often identified by flat spots on the back of a young child’s head. A study in Pediatrics suggested its impact may be more than cosmetic.
Brent R. Collett PhD, of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at the Seattle Research Institute wrote in Pediatrics that 187 school-aged children with moderate to severe positional plagiocephaly and/or brachycephaly deformation had lower cognitive and academic scores vs. 149 children that made up the control cohort.
“The findings do not necessarily imply that these associations are causal; rather, positional plagiocephaly and/or brachycephaly may serve as a marker of developmental risk,” Collett et al, cautioned as they discussed their findings.
The tell-tale sign of torticollis, the final element of container baby syndrome, is a twisted head and neck and a chin turned the opposite direction, according to the Journal of Child Neurology.
Motor skill delays are the most common component of container baby syndrome, Grisez said.
|The start of the NIH Back to Sleep® Campaign in 1994, which encouraged babies be placed to sleep wholly on their backs to lower the occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, seems to have coincided with increased awareness of torticollis and plagiocephaly.
While the Back to Sleep campaign is regarded as being largely successful, related recommendations on developing infants’ motor skills were overshadowed, resulting in an increase in reported cases of container baby syndrome, torticollis and plagiocephaly.
“The Back to Sleep campaign… was well adopted, with U.S. sources indicating that the percentage of infants placed on their back to sleep rose from 27% in 1994 to 74% in 2009, while the incidence of SIDS appeared to decrease,” Kristy Wittmeier PT PhD and Kathy Mulder PT, of the department of Pediatrics and Child Health, at the University of Manitoba wrote in Paediatrics & Child Health.
They added that a medical center received about 50 referrals each year for torticollis and/or plagiocephaly. But since once the sleep-related initiative began, referrals steadily increased, reaching 200 referrals annually in 2011 and leveling off at 307 in 2014.
Other researchers, such as Joyce Miller BSc DC PhD, of the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, Bournemouth, UK and Sharon Vallone DC, owner of a business geared towards kids play and wellness in South Windsor, Connecticut, said Back to Sleep had the opposite impact on increasing the syndrome’s visibility.
“The AAP recognized that infants were missing out on important health motor [development] by 1996 and recommended to parents that they vary their infant’s head position in their sleep and give them some tummy time when awake, beginning at birth. Unfortunately, this advice was largely ignored,” they wrote in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics.
“Despite that early warning about the need for tummy time, it has never really become common advice for health care professionals to disseminate. Parents have had to learn on their own of its many benefits and they sometimes have a fear of placing their baby on his/her front based on the 1992 information linking any position except supine with [sudden infant death syndrome],” Miller and Valone continued.
|Treatment options limited|
|The causal evidence of effects of physical activity on certain delays noted in a BioMed Research International study is one of many resources available for treating motor skill delays.
However, treatment options for those diagnosed with the syndrome’s other elements is limited.
Mukherki’s report indicated that braces and active physiotherapy regimens prevented torticollis-related relapse and maintained a “normal range” of neck movement.
Other than waiting for normal skull growth to cure plagiocephaly, the condition’s most common treatment appears to be specially-designed helmets that fit closely to an infant’s head but also provide room for the skull to grow at the flattened area, Kate Rowland MD MS, of the department of family medicine at The University of Chicago and Nil Das MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center wrote in The Journal of Family Practice.
However, helmet therapy sometimes led to adverse events such as irritation, bad helmet odor, helmet-related pain and parents feeling hindered from snuggling with their child.
“Helmets for infants: No help and some harm,” Rowland and Das summarized.
|Grisez reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the individual studies cited for those authors’ relevant financial disclosures.|
Source Healio Pediatrics
|Tummy Time Tools, Colleen Coulter PT DPT PhD PCS, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Dulcey Lima CO OTR/L, Orthomerica Products Inc. CHOA. 2014.|
|Visit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for more information.|
|Download Tummy Time Tools in more languages|
|Promoting healthy development, PDF, in Bright Futures. American Academy of Pediatrics AAP.
Establishing tummy time routines to enhance your child’s development, Developed in 2013 and revised in 2018 by Christa Pumerantz OTR/L and Anne Zachry PhD OTR. American Occupational Therapy Association AOTA.
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Key Moments in Safe to Sleep® History 1994–2003, NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
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How to do tummy time with your baby: 8 fun activities to try in Today’s Parent
Child Development: Lack Of Time On Tummy Shown To Hinder Achievement in Science Daily
Study explores infant body position and learning in Science Daily
Importance of Tummy Time for Babies’ Development in Healthy Families BC