Babywearing is nothing new. For centuries, mothers have been utilizing baskets and wraps to carry their babies on their front or back, creating an unbreakable bond between mother and child while giving mom two free hands to do what she needs to.
As technology develops, the designs of the modern baby carriers are constantly improving the built-in safety features to make them safer for babies and parents alike.
It is still worthwhile being aware of the risks surrounding improper baby carrier use, and the consequences of prolonged misuse.
Accidents and injuries are rare, and a little education can go a long way to minimizing the risks.
We are here to help address these concerns and help you get the most out of your baby carrier while ensuring that you and your baby are comfortable and safe.
Safety Tips For Baby Carriers
There are a few universal precautions you can take to ensure your baby’s safety, regardless of what type of baby carrier you have.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when using a baby carrier:
This is an easy to remember acronym will guide you with the basics of safe babywearing:
Loose carriers, wraps, and slings can make baby wearing uncomfortable for both you and your baby. It can cause her to slump, making it harder to breathe and pushing on her joints, and it can pull on your neck, back, and shoulders.
In View At All Times
When wearing your baby on your front, you should be able to easily glance down and see your baby’s face. There should be nothing, especially excess fabric from a carrier or your clothing, that obstructs your view of her face.
Close Enough To Kiss
Your baby should be at the proper height, just at or below your chin, so that you can easily dip your head for a quick kiss to her head.
Keep Chin Off The Chest
When your baby’s chin is pressed into your chest, it can restrict her airway and affect her neck. There should always be at least a finger’s width of space between your chest and your baby’s chin.
If your carrier is tight, your baby’s back should be supported. There should be no arching or slouching, which can be hard on joints, physical development, and her airway.
To ensure your baby’s back is supported, simply place your hand on her back and push slightly. There should not be much give, and she should not be able to move closer to you.
2. Use The Appropriate Carrier Type For Baby’s Age
For carriers that can be used in multiple positions, you want to make sure you are using it appropriately for your baby’s current age and development stage.
Infants should never be carried in an outward facing position until they are able to support their own heads, which is usually around 4 months of age.
Until then, carriers should only be used in an inward facing position with either your hand behind her head for support or the head support flap on the carrier (if applicable) in an upright position.
You should also not carry your baby on your back until she is able to support her own back (i.e. sit up on her own with ease), which is usually around 6 months of age.
3. Take Precautions To Prevent Falls
If you are wearing your baby around the house, you are most likely going to be reaching for things at different levels.
Whether you are reaching up into a cabinet for a snack, or reaching down to the floor to pick up some toys, you should always make sure you take care to prevent your baby from falling.
If you need to pick something up or reach for something low to the ground, always be sure to bend at the knees, squatting to get what you need.
A bend from the hips or back puts your baby at risk for falling out of her carrier or having her head hit on something.
Also, make sure your carrier is securely fastened, either by the ties or buckles, and that your baby is properly supported so that she does not fall out.
It is best practice to always keep one hand on your baby as you are changing positions.
This will make you more conscious of being careful with her in the carrier, and will offer support and quick recovery if anything were to happen.
4. Maintain Baby’s Airway At All Times
As we mentioned before, carriers should always be fastened and tied appropriately, keeping your baby tight and close to you.
This will help her to maintain an upright position which will protect her airway by keeping it open.
There should also never be anything obstructing your baby’s face, especially her nose and mouth. This includes fabric from your clothing or the carrier.
Do not wear scarves in the winter when wearing your baby, and do not use bibs and blankets that can get in her face and block air flow.
You should always be conscious of your baby’s head position. I had to constantly watch my daughter and move her head to the side since she seemed to like to try and sleep on me with her face down for some reason.
Only your baby’s cheek and ear should be touching your chest when she lays her head down.
A Word On Hip Dysplasia And Babywearing
This condition occurs when a baby is born with an unstable hip as a result of how the joints developed while in the womb, or from the birthing process.
It is usually diagnosed at birth, but may not be identified until months later in some cases.
Due to the complexity of hip disorders, there have only been loose assumptions made regarding the link between babywearing and hip dysplasia.
To date, there have been no studies on the specific issue of baby carriers and their effect on hip health in infants.
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute has released advice on the proper positioning of a baby in a carrier so that the hips are adequately supported.
The information presented indicates that “improper positioning” could lead to hip problems.
A claim of which there is no evidence to support.
Most baby carriers will naturally position your baby in a similar way to what is recommended and in my experience this is what is most comfortable for them anyway.
Are All Baby Carriers Safe?
In addition to the general safety tips we just went through, there are specifics that you need to keep in mind when it comes to the type of carrier you are looking at.
- Age Range: Newborn to early toddler
- Positions: Cradle hold, kangaroo hold, hip carry, snuggle hold, piggyback
- Risks for Baby: Falling out of carrier; Blocked airways when positioned incorrectly
There are also safety concerns when it comes to the use of slings, particularly with babies who are less than 4 months of age.
Improper positioning can cause the baby’s face to be turned in toward your body, blocking her nose and mouth so that she cannot breathe.
Also, with this carrier not having a solid structure, your baby can slide down in the sling which can push her head to her chest, making it difficult to breathe.
Since babies under 4 months of age cannot move their heads or necks very well, they cannot reposition themselves if they get into a position that causes them to not be able to breathe easily.
Because of these concerns, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly advises that parents who use slings do so with extreme caution.
For more information, you can watch this short PSA video from the CSPC.
- Age Range: Newborn to Toddler
- Risks for Baby: Blocked airways when positioned incorrectly
- Positions: Hug Hold, Kangaroo Hold, Side Hold, Hip Hold
Wraps can be tricky to tie up safely. Both in the process of wrapping, and then keeping that in place when in use.
It is easy to tie them too tight, to where you can squeeze your little one in. There are also safety concerns with tying them too loose, as your baby can begin to slouch and cut off her airway.
Always use proper caution when using a wrap, double checking all knots before placing your baby inside.
Soft Structured Carriers
- Age range: Six months plus (unless infant insert is used)
- Positions: Front Inward, Front Outward, Hip Carry, Back Carry (will vary depending on the design)
- Risks for Baby: Inadequate support in carrier resulting in unsafe movement; Blocked airways when positioned incorrectly
Due to their soft structure, SSC’s cannot be used easily with infants. Many models come with inserts for newborns, but these can be a bit bulky and uncomfortable.
Caution needs to be taken when using an SSC with a newborn.
You need to make sure that your baby’s back is straight and well supported. They also need enough head space so that they do not become pinned between your body and the carrier.
This can lead to suffocation.
- Age range: Three months plus
- Positions: Front Inward, Hip Carry, Back Carry
- Risks for Baby: Poorly tied knots unraveling when in use; Blocked airways when positioned incorrectly
The Mei Tai’s ability to be tied rather than buckled gets you more versatility when positioning your baby.
Being able to place them at the right height and tightness to make it comfortable and safe for both of you.
Just like with the wrap and SSC, you need to be cautious when using them with a newborn.
Always double check your knots to ensure that they are tight, and make sure your baby’s head has room to move, there is nothing obstructing her face, and her back is supported so that her airway remains open and clear.
- Age range: Six months plus
- Positions: Cockpit seat only in backpack
- Risks for Baby: Blood flow in legs restricted if stirrups inadequate; poor safety straps in seat; Human error while on a hiking trail
Just like any other carrier, there are safety concerns to keep in mind.
Babies should not be carried on the back if they are unable to support themselves. This means that you will not be able to use this type of carrier until your child is at least 6-8 months of age.
You also want to be careful of prolonged exposure in the sun if you are using your backpack for a long hike.
Always apply sunscreen, and utilize hats and sun shades to keep your child safe from burns and melanoma.
There is also the more obvious risk of human error if you are walking down a rocky trail. If you were to slip and fall with your little one on your back it then this could be a recipe for disaster.
Babywearing is a great choice for most parents. However, caution needs to be taken when using baby carriers.
Each type has its own safety concerns, and improper use, both in how you wear it and your baby’s age, can put your baby’s life at risk or cause improper development in the hips and neck.
Being aware of these safety concerns and ensuring you use the carrier correctly can save a life, and can make parenting fun and easy as you carry your little bundle of joy close to you at all times.
If you have any questions about the use of baby carriers, please leave us a comment below. And be sure to share this article with other parents who will find it useful.
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