So, how do you go about changing tantrum central into Mr. Roger's Neighborhood? Dr. Marcie suggests using the playpen when it isn't necessary — and not just when you have to get dinner on the table or take that important call. "Sit on the outside and read them a book," she says. "Walk away for a minute, then come back, so they realize, oh, it's just a moment that you disappear." Build it up as a fun space, singing her songs and talking to her. When it comes to transforming a place, "it's not about the stuff, but about the level of engagement," says Dr. Marcie.
Stop using the bassinet when your baby reaches the manufacturer's recommended weight limit (typically 15 pounds) or can sit up, pull up, or roll over. "For the first month or two they are not going to go anywhere," Gary Smith, M.D., Dr. P.H., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, said of infants. "But when they start to develop, they do it really quickly, and all of the sudden they are rolling over and sitting up." If you don't take precautions, Smith said, "Parents who don't take precautions may end up taking their child to the emergency department from a fall."
In search of insight, Romper spoke with Dr. Marcie Beigel, a behavior specialist with over 20 years of experience. For Dr. Marcie, it's all about being intentional. If your kid throws a tantrum every time she gets in the playpen, she associates the space with being upset. Likewise, it doesn't matter how well you've stocked your playpen with toys if every time she gets in it, mom disappears. If you want to change the pattern here, "you have to make the space really fun and delicious and enjoyable," says Dr. Marcie.
As Ann Hulbert documents in Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children, this sort of confused and conflicted debate has long been a touchstone of the parental advice genre. In Anxious Parents, Peter Stearns notes that where parents once put children in playpens to safeguard them from dangerous household equipment, as that household equipment was made more accident-proof, the playpen itself soon began to be seen as the source of danger—both literally, as in a series of high-profile recalls of poorly designed playpens and playards, and figuratively, as a symbol of damaging neglect.
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