Is it safe to throw your baby up in the air?

It tends to be a dad thing - and often elicits squeals of delight. So is it just physical play or could it be harmful? A dad blogger's child-throwing pic has fired up the debate again...

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In a nutshell: You should never throw a newborn baby, and our MFM doctor Philippa Kaye advises not throwing babies even above 6 months when their necks are stronger.

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As your child gets older, it’s not an easy ‘yes and no’ answer, says Dr Philippa. “Children may enjoy the rough and tumble but you still need to make sure you do it safely and, of course, the risk of dropping them increases the higher you throw them.”

The ‘throwing child’ pics that made the headlines

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When dad blogger fathers_of_daughters shared the above heart-stopping pic on Instagram – throwing his child not a baby – he had more of an inkling that it would create a debate.

“It’s just me invoking my father’s privilege to chuck a kid in the air, simultaneously setting a new world record while making all mums everywhere feel very uneasy,” he joked. “Please note – no children were harmed in the making of this photo. There was a lot of shrieking with laughter,”

The response was mixed, but mostly positive, especially as fathers_of_daughters‘ daughter was a young child rather than a baby. One mum commented, “That seriously turns my stomach to see… but it’s also when I look the other way and let dad be dad.”

A couple of celeb parents have found themselves being criticised after sharing social media posts of themselves throwing their kids up in the air.

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TOWIE’s Billie Mucklow’s fiance Andy Carroll posted a holiday snap of him throwing their 1-year-old son in the air and had a number of concerned parents worry that the throw was too high. 

Jessica Simpson’s husband Eric Johnson got snapped throwing his 14-month-old son high in the air in the swimming pool. It wasn’t the first time – an earlier post showed him throwing his two-year-old daughter up high while walking along a beach. 

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So how safe is it?

The headline-making throws we’ve mentioned here seem pretty high – and we’re not really talking so much about parents doing quite such stomach-churning moves. Though neither do we mean the ‘knee bounce’ either.

We mean the in-betweens – when you or your partner decide to throw your baby (never a newborn we hasten to add) a foot or so to get some giggles and smiles out of them.

Should you do it? One of the mums on our team says her husband used to do it when their daughter was just over a year old: “I hated him doing it,” she recalls.

“My heart was in my mouth and I wanted him to stop but didn’t want to tell him to as it looked like I didn’t trust him – and our daughter loved it.

“In the end my dad stepped in and told him not to. I felt like a bit of a killjoy but it made me feel really uncomfortable – although you couldn’t deny the fits of giggles our child would have when he did it, so she clearly loved it.”

What does our expert say?

It’s an absolute no-no to throw a newborn, as our GP Philippa tells us: “They don’t have enough control of their neck muscles and their heads are proportionally big and so being thrown in the air could result in their heads sort of whipping rapidly on their necks. This can lead to whiplash type injuries or even brain injuries.

“Even at around 6 months, when most babies will have good control of their necks, I would still avoid throwing them in the air,” she adds.

As they get older lots of children do enjoy some rough and tumble play but it is important to remain safe, as Philippa points out: “When you throw them in the air you let them go – therefore there is a risk you won’t catch them and they will fall. This risk obviously increases the higher you throw them.

“So throwing a 2-year-old a few inches is unlikely to be that risky! If you want to stay safe then do the same whooshing type movement, or flying through the air without letting them go – gives all the pleasure with less risk!”

Pics: Getty/father_of_daughtersBilli MucklowJessica Simpson on Instagram

Dr Philippa Kaye is a London GP who has written several books on pregnancy and childcare including The First Five Years. Follow her on twitter @drphilippakaye

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