Q: My son is almost one year old. My question: Is it safe to throw a baby in the air, then catch him? My husband does this. I’ve told him it’s the same as shaking a baby. Am I right?
A: Unlike a ball, a baby’s weight is not distributed evenly. Therein lies the problem with tossing or vigorously bouncing a baby. Until about age two, an infant’s head is larger and heavier than the rest of his body, so his skull and its contents (the brain) take the brunt of tossing. Furthermore, his neck muscles are still developing.
The result of throwing baby in the air can be compared to whiplash. This could cause small blood vessels to rupture, which is similar to what happens with concussions. There have been incidents of retinal damage with this type of playing. Parents who run or jog while carrying young babies in front packs are also putting their infants at risk.
I’m sure it won’t be long before dad and son are tumbling happily on the floor, but until your son is more than two, up in the air and vigorous bouncing are out.