Are Baby Floor Seats Safe?
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
During the time we were pregnant, my parents in law asked us what type of floor seat that we would like to have as a gift for our unborn family member. Being the cautious bunch that we are, we were a bit wary about the safety of these things.
So, we started digging on the web and posed the question to our pediatrician to make sure we would be doing the right thing for our little angel. This is what we learned:
Baby floor seats are safe if your child is developed enough to sit up straight by itself for longer periods of time and you restrict the use of a baby floor seat to maximum 30 minutes a day. It’s also important to follow the user guidelines and keep an eye on your child while he or she is seated.
There are good reasons why it is important to restrict the time your child sits in a Baby Floor Seat and there are a lot of misconceptions about the so-called “benefits” of these types of seats. Below we will do a deep dive into all the details and look at Baby Floor Seats from a health and development perspective of your child.
What is a baby floor seat?
Since there are Baby Booster Seats that kind of have the same functionality as a Baby Floor Seat, we will first have a look at what is defined as a Baby Floor Seat:
A Baby Floor Seat is a small, transportable device, designed for an infant to maintain a seating position before it’s capable of sitting independently. In contrary to Baby Booster Seats, these floor seats are exclusively designed for use on the floor.
What are baby floor seats used for?
Baby Floor Seats are often promoted as a means of teaching your child how to sit. However, they don’t really help your child to learn the skill of sitting, nor do they speed up the learning process.
That said, the main reason why you, the parents, could use this type of seating, is to briefly (max 30min/day) place your child safely in one position while you can focus on other things like taking a shower.
Once your child is seated in a Baby Floor Seat, she or he won’t be able to wiggle away from its position and potentially get into all kinds of trouble, allowing you to keep an eye on them at all times.
It also allows the child to experience the world from an upright position. In case there are some toys implemented into the Baby Floor Seat, your child can keep itself entertained while you do your thing.
Are Baby floor seats necessary?
Now that we know that Baby Floor Seats don’t actually help to speed up the process of learning how to sit, you can ask yourself whether it is necessary to have one in the first place.
In short, the answer is: No, it is not necessary to have a Baby Floor Seat. However, it can be fun and helpful tool for to help you interact with your child on a different level and it can come in handy to help you schedule your busy parenting lives.
For example: If you have multiple kids, it can be convenient to briefly place an infant into a Baby Floor Seat while you are dressing your other children to get out of the house.
Are Baby floor seats good for your child?
So far we figured out that using a Baby Floor Seat for brief periods of time is safe to do. Now let’s have a look if Baby Floor Seats are actually good for your baby.
If you use them for your convenience like in the above example, then they are not per se bad. However, if you use them for the claims that many manufactures make, it is a different story. We’ll have a look at some of the most common claims of these so-called benefits and supplement them with the feedback from our pediatrician.
Claim: “A Baby Floor Seat will help your baby to learn how to sit.”
Pediatrician’s view: There is no floor seat that can help your baby to learn how to sit. The process of learning how to sit is something that happens naturally during the normal development of the child starting with the discovery of the world from a horizontal position on the floor.
When the child is trying to roll over from back to tummy, it will develop its core muscles. During tummy time and when the child tries to push themselves in an upright position, the back and neck muscles are being trained as well as the arm muscles.
During this physical activity there is also input reaching the muscles and the joints that help to stimulate the development of the brain. A child needs this time and experience to wire its brain to learn how to cope with gravity and its environment in an upright position and keep its balance.
When using a Baby Floor Seat to speed up this process, the child will not learn to keep a good balance and the wrong stimuli will reach the brain. This can delay the development of learning how to sit and even how to walk.
Therefore it is better to use a Baby Floor Seat after the child has learned how to sit independently.
Claim: “ A Baby Floor Seat puts your baby in a position which allows for better breath control”
Pediatrician’s view: Your child can breath just fine when laying down on its back or tummy. On the contrary, if your child is placed in a Baby Floor Seat too soon, the core and neck muscles are not developed enough to have a well-balanced posture. This in turn can hinder breath control as the torso is often slumped forward.
You can experience this yourself: Try taking a couple of deep breaths when in a slouched position and when in an upright position. You will instantly feel the difference it makes when breathing and now you know why it is important to wait until your child is ready to sit unsupported before using a floor seat.
Claim: “It is more comfortable for a baby to be in a Baby Floor Seat, instead of lying on its back all the time”
Pediatrician’s view: We should stop to compare our own experiences with the experiences a baby has. For babies, laying down on their back or tummy is the most comfortable position as it is the most natural one. Being forced to sit up straight while the head is too heavy and the core is too weak is anything but comfortable and by no means a healthy decision.
When lying down, the child can exercise as much as it wants. When placed in a Baby Floor Seat too soon, the child is forced to fight gravity for as long as a parent decides to leave the child in the seat.
Many parents believe that when their children are trying to move and crawl around they do so because they are uncomfortable while this is just curiosity. Once the child is ready to sit up, it will sit up when its tired of laying down.
Claim: “The upright position provides an improved visual field of the environment”
Pediatrician’s view: When sitting upright there is indeed a larger visual field of the environment. However, being forced into a Floor Seat, this is not beneficial for the child at this stage.
When the child is on its tummy it can stabilize a horizontal visual field as well and train its back and neck muscles at the same time, without the negative effects of being forced to sit in an upright position.
If you allow your child to develop at its own time, both you and your child will reap the benefits at a later stage.
As you can see, Baby Floor Seats provide little to no benefit for the development of your child. So, it is an overstatement to say they are good for your child. For occasional and brief use, it can be a convenient tool but if you want to use it for longer periods of time, it is important to wait until your child is 100% ready.
When can your child use a Baby Floor Seat?
Many brands provide an age number or a minimum weight as a threshold to start using a Baby Floor Seat. However, these are just overall indications and they are by no means to right indicators as it is the stage your child is in that determines whether it is OK to start using the seat.
All children develop at different speeds, so every child reaches the right level of maturity at a different age. As we mentioned before, there is no need to hurry this process, as it will work counterproductive in the long run and even impair the future development of your child.
So, how do you know when your child is ready?
Around the age of 6-9 months your child will start to push itself up into a sitting position. At first it will try to balance itself by keeping one or two hands on the floor while sitting. This is called "tripod sitting".
From this point on, it won’t take much longer before he or she will be able to sit completely unsupported for longer periods of time, this usually happens around the age of 9-12 months. This is a good sign that your child has developed enough muscle strength to keep a good sitting posture in a Baby Floor Seat.
What is a good Baby Floor Seat?
Ok, your child is now ready to sit in a Baby Floor Seat, but will just any Baby Floor Seat do the trick or does it make a big difference what you purchase?
The answer is: It depends a bit on why you want a Baby Floor Seat in the first place. If you plan to use it for very brief periods of time, like when you need to take a quick shower, or when you need to get your baby’s siblings dressed, then it is not so important to look at ergonomics as it is more about having a brief safe spot for your little sprout.
If you like to use it a bit more intensively, like for a feeding session or some playtime on the floor, then ergonomics are more important to look at. Now you need a Baby Floor Seat that offers a safe spot and provides the right support for your child.
For tackling both these tasks simultaneously, we feel there is only one Baby Floor Seat that does the job and that is the Upseat Baby Chair:
This Baby Chair is designed to keep the developing hips of your child in the most natural position and allow for a good posture alignment. In other words: The pelvis is slightly rotated forward and the muscles that facilitate an upright position are being activated.
To keep your child safe, it has a 3-point harness and an extra wide footprint. Your little one is going nowhere as long as he or she is seated in the Upseat.
What are alternatives to Baby Floor Seats?
Once we figured out that Baby Floor Seats are not really helping to learn how to sit, we wondered what kind of alternatives we could use to practice sitting or to have them in a safe spot while we do all the rest that comes with parenting.
Starting from 0-3 months: An activity mat, a Baby Bouncer or Baby Rocker
During the first few months your baby will make the most process on its back, discovering the world round them. Your child will gently move its head from side to side and lift its legs and arms off the ground. This will strengthen the neck and abdominal muscles and they will start to develop their first coordination.
You can also start to introduce tummy time for just 3 minute sessions in the very beginning and 15 minute sessions after a couple of weeks as your child is getting stronger.
From 3-7 months: An activity mat with some pillows, a Boppy or Hugaboo and for security a playpen.
From about 3-5 months your child will be able to start pushing itself up during tummy time. The neck and back muscles are getting a lot stronger and balancing will become less of a challenge. From 6 months on, many babies will start to try and sit up straight.
For this you can use an activity mat with pillows and help your child sit up straight. In case she or he tips over, the pillows will ensure a gentle landing.
A Boppy or a Hugaboo are also a great option to exercise sitting. Both these pillows surround your little sprout when he or she is seated on the ground or an activity mat. This way there is always a cushioning in place should your child lose its balance.
From 7-12 months: the floor, an activity mat or a playpen.
At this stage, your child can sit up straight with a lot of confidence and good posture. This is also the time when they love to go for a discovery tour in the house. To give them the freedom they like, a playpen can be a good solution to keep them safe without restricting them too much. If they feel like sitting, crawling or just laying down on the back or tummy, they can.
As you can see, a Baby Floor Seat is not a necessity and there are many other options to practice sitting or to keep your child in a safe spot while you are busy with other stuff.
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