Recently, I came across a viral photo on Facebook. In the photo, a man was tossing a baby up (really high). Around him were a man and a boy looking on in shock at the height to which the toddler was thrown. If you are a social media person, my guess is that you may have come across this picture. In the comments section were laughter emojis, and shoddy memes made out of the baby’s suspension in air.
It was, indeed, a funny thread. Because of how funny it was, I’m sad now that I have to be the party pooper. But tossing babies up — as much fun as it is for the baby — isn’t entirely harmless.
Is it risky to toss toddlers?
Tossing a baby up poses a number of safety risks to it. One of the major ones being the risk of the baby slipping from the thrower’s hand. Especially if the baby has been thrown as high up as in that picture.
In Nigerian homes, grandmothers who come to take care of babies are fond of this. After a bath, the baby — who is barely toweled — is thrown up and caught. But the fact that the baby’s body is still slippery means there’s a chance that the baby could fall.
According to the National Center on the Shaken Baby Syndrome — a condition where a child is shaken violently and his head whips back and forth repeatedly. This causes a bone, brain, or eye trauma shortfalls that can cause skull fractures or epidural hematomas (bleeding between the inside of the skull and the tough skin that surrounds the brain).
If that doesn’t make you shudder, I don’t know whether anything else would. Good thing the grandmothers catch them nicely, but not everybody has hands as capable as theirs.
What pediatricians say about tossing a baby
This, unfortunately, is not the only risk. The baby only starts developing control of the head at around the fourth month of his life up until the sixth month; by which time, the muscles of his neck would have strengthened.
Throwing a baby high in the air before the age of 6 months could cause neck strain (and also trigger the Shaken Baby Syndrome) for the baby because, at that time, he is still not able to properly support his head.
Even after the sixth month, pediatricians still do not fancy the whole tossing game and advise that any kind of rough play at all is toned down.
Is there a safe way to do this?
There are many other safe ways to entertain babies that you could try. You could give them a back rub, make clownish faces at them, or sing them songs. They probably won’t understand what it is you are doing, but it will earn you a chuckle.
It is possible that you have dreams of seeing your child on an Olympics podium receiving the gold medal in high or long jump, but trust me, you do not have to start training them that early. But if you must, throw them gently — and not so high.