Debunking the Neck Strain Myth: Why Infant Neck Floats Don’t Hurt Your Baby’s Neck

“Doesn’t the Otteroo cause neck strain on the baby?” is a question we get all the time. We totally get it, when you see a picture or video of a baby floating happily in this neck ‘thing,’ you think about how it’d feel for you to be held up by the neck. You may not think of your small head-to-body ratio, low body fat percentage, and bottom-heavy body, but compared to a baby? All adults are functionally different.

But that’s just it.

No one has yet published a study on potential strain related to an infant neck float, but basic understanding of the infant body and water’s buoyancy logically explain how there’s virtually no weight or strain placed on the baby when floating in the water with an Otteroo.

We decided to lay out how when properly used in the water, it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for the Otteroo to strain the neck in a way that can harm the baby. However, every baby is different, so if you have any concerns please do talk to your baby’s pediatrician.

What can cause infant neck strain?

It’s a horrific scenario to even imagine but it takes a LOT, about 150 pounds, of tensile force being placed on an infant’s neck to cause notable damage to the cervical vertebra (neck) and ligaments.1 We have these data thanks to engineers who are interested in finding ways to minimize injuries to babies during vehicle accidents.

The neck is flexible and very strong; in fact, the forces of natural childbirth on your baby’s cervical spine far exceed what he or she would experience in the Otteroo. Same goes for the strain they’ll experience during tummy time when trying to lift her/his head off the mat or from dropping the head forward when she/he falls asleep when supported in an upright position. The vigorous handling and massaging techniques used by many cultures around the world to promote growth and development suggest that the infant’s spine is a pretty resilient structure.2

Why Otteroo is a Perfect Fit for Baby Bodies

1. Babies have bigger heads

  • The body proportions of infants are very different from those of older children and adults.
  • The infant’s head accounts for approximately 25% of the infant’s whole body mass.3 Consequently, approximately 25% of the infant’s weight is directly supported by the Otteroo. The remaining 75% is in the water.

2. Babies are fatty

  • At approximately 4 months of age, the infant’s body composition is approximately 25% fat mass. Fat is less dense than water and therefore floats.4
  • Of the remaining 75% fat-free mass, approximately 80% is water.5
  • As a result, babies float better than adults! When you combine the infant’s fat mass and water mass, the infant’s body is very buoyant (even the remaining fat-free mass will be buoyed by the water it displaces).
Baby body and head proportions
Journal of Heredity (1921) Volume 12, 421

If all that science didn’t convince you, the smile on your baby’s face while in the Otteroo should say it all.

Lastly, we want to remind you that not all neck floaties are created equally! Take a minute to read our recent post about the shocking truth behind generic baby neck floaties.



1 Arbogast, K. B., & Maltese, M. R. (2014). Pediatric biomechanics. New York, NY: Springer.

2 Reissland, N. J., & Burghart, R. (1987). The role of massage in South Asia: Child health and development. Social Science and Medicine, 25(3), 231-239. https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(87)90226-7.

Huelke, D.F. (1998). An Overview of Anatomical Considerations of Infants and Children in the Adult World of Automobile Safety Design. Annual Proceedings for the Association of the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, 42, 93-113. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3400202/

4 Schmelzle, H. & Fusch, C. (2002). Body fat in neonates and young infants: validation of skinfold thickness versus dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry 1,2,3. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1096-1100. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/76/5/1096.full.

5 Fomon, S. J., Haschke, F., Ziegler, E. E., & Nelson, S. E. (1982). Body composition of reference children from birth to age 10 years. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 35, 1169-1175. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7081099.

Additional Sources:

Dibb, A.T., Nightingale, R.W., Luck, J.F., Chancey, V.C., Fronheiser, L.E., & Myers, B.S. (2009). Tension and combined tension-extension structural response and tolerance properties of the human male ligamentous cervical spine. J Biomech Eng 131(8), 081008-081008-11. doi: 10.1115/1.3127257.

Lee, H. M. & Galloway, J. C. (2012). Early Intensive Postural and Movement Training Advances Head Control in Very Young Infants. Physical Therapy 92(7), 935-947. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20110196.

Luck, J. F., Nightingale, R. W., Song, Y., Kait, J. R., Loyd, A. M., Myers, B. S., & Bass ,C. R. (2013). Tensile failure properties of the perinatal, neonatal, and pediatric cadaveric cervical spine. Spine 38(1), E1–E12. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3182793873.

Nightingale, R. W., Carol Chancey, V., Ottaviano, D., Luck, J. F., Tran, L., Prange, M., & Myers, B. S. (2007). Flexion and extension structural properties and strengths for male cervical spine segments. J Biomech 40(3), 535–542. Retrieved from https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0021-9290(06)00073-X.

Nuckley, D. J., Hertsted, S. M., Ku, G. S., Eck, M. P., & Ching, R. P. (2002). Compressive tolerance of the maturing cervical spine. Stapp Car Crash J 46, 431–440. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17096236.

Van Ee, C. A., Nightingale, R. W., Camacho, D. L., Carol Chancey, V., Knaub, K. E., Sun, E. A., Myers, B. S. (2000). Tensile properties of the human muscular and ligamentous cervical spine. Stapp Car Crash J 44, 85–102. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17458720.

Weber, D., Leonard, M., & Zemel, B. (2012). Body Composition Analysis in the Pediatric Population. Pediatric Endocrinology Rev. 10(1): 130–139. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4154503/.

Yoganandan, N., Nahum, A., & Melvin, J.W. (Eds.). (2014). Accidental Injury: Biomechanics and Prevention. New York, NY: Springer.


Tiffany Chiu

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