I often get asked at when it is OK to put babies in bumbo seats and bouncers. The big concern is if they are putting them in too soon and/or what are the detrimental effects of putting them in too soon.
My advice is to wait until they can sit up on their own (meaning unassisted and for at least one minute). The average age is anywhere between 6-9 months. When a baby is placed involuntarily in a seated position before he or she is able to sit up on their own, the body is impeded from developing necessary tone for creeping and crawling. Many babies will develop a less-than-optimal movement pattern of bottom scooting instead of crawling to try to get to where they want to go. This has been found to not be optimal for the joints or development of lower body and torso tone. Additionally, it hampers the upper tone and chest strength related to speech and language development.
Furthermore, babies have the ability to arrive in a seated or standing position on their own if we let them have floor time to explore and strengthen their developmental movement patterns. Skipping a step in the pattern is not helpful, as each pattern connects to brain and social-emotional developments, as well as speech, language, and developing stereoscopic (depth) vision. By encouraging and being present with your baby, it helps him or her to develop a strong sense of body and self awareness and a deep trust and attachment with his or her parents and caregivers.
So what can you do instead to help aid development of necessary tone? Have the baby on his or her tummy as much as possible when he or she is awake. (tummy time is an easy way to help combat Torticollis along with chiropractic adjustments) Once the baby starts to elevate their lower legs and feet you can start to prop their arms up by placing a rolled up towel or breast feeding pillow under their chest to help them find their feet and engage with the floor. This helps to elongate the fetal “c” curve and start to develop the natural form of the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical curves. Additionally, it is helping develop muscle tone and strength in the legs all the way through the trunk,or core, of the body. Next, you can start to place objects out of the babies reach to help build up their arm and shoulder strength.
On a final note, until the baby can sit up on their own I would recommend to instead use assisted devices such as the moby wrap or ergo carrier. This allows you to do more while giving the baby the ability to explore his or her surroundings instead of putting them up in a bumbo seat or jumper when their body is not ready for it.