Is Baby Tossing in the Air Scientifically Safe? A Look at the Pros and Cons

While there are proponents of baby tossing, safety concerns and the scientific perspective on this practice cannot be ignored.

Updated Dec 17, 2023
baby tossing

Baby tossing is a parenting practice that has been around for centuries, and remains a topic of contentious debates. Often referred to as baby yoga or baby flying, this playtime for parents and babies can be traced back to various cultures, primarily in Asia.

It involves gently tossing a baby into the air and catching them as they fall back. The tossing is often seen as a way to bring joy and build a strong bond with children. The image is vivid and captivating, as the little infant takes flight into the open air, only to be safely caught and returned to the arms that launched them.

The question is, how safe is this practice from a scientific perspective?

The Physics of Tossing Babies

When a baby is tossed into the air, the force of gravity plays a central role in the activity. As the baby is launched into the air, gravity acts to pull them back down to the ground.

(Gravity is the force that pulls everything towards the center of the Earth, including the baby)

It is essential to recognize that gravity is a constant force, and the force imparted on the baby is crucial for the success of the toss. This force is applied when the caregiver gently propels the baby upward, initiating the playful motion.

It is important to note that the force during baby tossing should be gentle and controlled to ensure the safety of the baby. Excessive force can lead to unintended and potentially unsafe outcomes.

The Potential Benefits of Baby Tossing

girl child lifted
Photo by Any Lane (Pexels)

1. Bonding and Trust

Proponents of baby tossing claim that it can strengthen the bond between the parent and the child. The act of tossing a baby into the air and catching them can promote trust and a sense of security between the two.

2. Sensory Stimulation

Baby tossing is believed to provide sensory stimulation. Advocates argue that the movement and change in perspective as the baby is gently lifted and caught can help stimulate their senses and foster their spatial awareness.

3. Motor Skills

Supporters of baby tossing also suggest that it can aid in the development of motor skills. The act of coordinating movements during the toss and catch is thought to contribute to a child’s physical development.

The Potential Drawbacks of Baby Toosing: the Scientific Perspective

baby tossing
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: (Pexels)

Safety concerns and the scientific perspective on the practice of baby tossing cannot be ignored. Pediatricians and child development experts raise several issues to consider.

For starters, babies’ brains are still developing and are more vulnerable to injury. A baby’s brain is approximately 75% of the size of an adult’s brain by the time they are born. However, it continues to grow and develop rapidly in the first few years of life.

The brain is made up of soft tissue that is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid acts as a cushion to protect the brain from injury.

However, the cerebrospinal fluid is not fully developed in babies, making their brains more vulnerable to injury.

Secondly, babies’ heads are large and heavy in proportion to their bodies. A baby’s head is about 25% of their total body weight. This is much higher than the proportion of an adult’s head to their body weight. The weight of the baby’s head can put a lot of stress on their neck muscles, which are still developing. This makes it difficult for them to control the movement of their heads.

When babies are tossed, their heads and necks move back and forth suddenly. This is known as whiplash. Whiplash can damage the brain and blood vessels in the neck.

… health challenges due to baby tossing:

  • Shaken baby syndrome: This is a serious condition that can cause brain damage, bleeding, and even death in babies.

Shaken baby syndrome is a type of brain injury that happens when a baby or young child is shaken violently. When this happens, the brain can bounce back and forth against the skull which can cause bleeding, bruising, and swelling.

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  • Concussions: These are brain injuries that can cause a variety of symptoms, including headache, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Brain bleeds: These can cause a variety of symptoms, including seizures, coma, and death.
  • Retinal damage: This can lead to vision problems or even blindness.
  • Serious injury or death: Baby tossing can result in serious injuries or death, such as head injuries, neck injuries, and spinal cord injuries.
  • Developmental delays: Baby tossing may interfere with the baby’s normal development. This is because the baby is not ready to experience such rapid and intense movements.
  • Emotional distress: Baby tossing may cause the baby to experience emotional distress, such as fear and anxiety.

… age matters

Baby tossing is bad at any age, but it is especially dangerous for babies under 6 months old. This is because their necks are not strong enough to support the weight of their heads.

Even for older babies, tossing them in the air is still a very dangerous activity. There is always the risk of being dropped or falling, which can lead to head, neck, and spinal cord injuries.

The Bottom Line

It is important to note that even if a baby does not show immediate signs of injury after being tossed, they may still have suffered internal damage. This is why it is so important to avoid tossing babies altogether.

Some symptoms may be noticed immediately while others become evident as the child grows older.

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If you see someone tossing a baby and shaking them violently, it is important to speak up and intervene. You can explain the risks and offer to help them play with the baby in a safer way.

Here are some tips for playing with babies safely:

  • Always support the baby’s head and neck.
  • Avoid any play that involves sudden movements or jostling.
  • Keep the baby close to the ground.

If you are considering baby tossing, consult with a healthcare professional, and adhere to safety guidelines strictly. Ultimately, whether or not baby tossing is scientifically safe is a subject that requires further research and consideration.

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