I am told that even though baby carrier choices are expanding, the only obvious option to most parents, especially those looking to big box stores for guidance, is the Baby Bjorn and its various knock-offs. A lot of parents have ended up equating babywearing with the Bjorn, and I come across parents all the time who say that their children, especially their boys, hate babywearing, because they only encountered that one specific type of carrier.
Not every child dislikes them, because they don't cause pain, maybe just some discomfort, especially if a boy's little penis gets squished as gravity puts pressure on the pelvic bone.
The real health problem with wearing a baby in a "dangling" narrow-bottomed carrier like the Bjorn is that it forces an unnatural and unhealthy stretching in the hip joints as gravity pulls the legs straight down.As it turns out, the International Hip Dysplasia Institute has an explanation–the bottom support fabric of these carriers is too narrow, which allows gravity to cause discomfort.
As the International Hip Dysplasia Institute explains, it can take a while before babies adjust to life with more space:
After birth, it takes several months for the joints to stretch out naturally. Babies that have been in the breech (bottom first) position may need even more time to stretch out naturally. If the hips are forced into a stretched-out position too early, the ball is at risk of permanently deforming the edges of the cup shaped socket (hip dysplasia) or gradually slipping out of the socket altogether (hip dislocation). Hip dysplasia or dislocation in babies is not painful so this may go undetected until walking age and may also result in painful arthritis during adulthood. - IHDI
Here's an illustration of the type of carrier that is not recommended:
and an illustration of why:
See why it might be a shock for Baby to go from that knees-to-chest position in the womb to the straight-leg position pictured above? The Bjorn and the similarly designed Chicco carrier I recently encountered lets gravity pull a baby's legs into an unnatural position (even though it looks natural to an adult, because we obviously need to straighten out our legs to walk). The thing to really note here, so I'm going to repeat it, is that while this might be uncomfortable enough to cause your baby to resist to or fuss at being worn in this way, it's not going to cause screaming pain. The child may adjust to the carrier just fine without a complaint. That's why the IHDI has issued such a detailed report on the subject.
How Your Carrier SHOULD Look
Here's what you want your carrier to look like, when you look in the mirror:
You Have Choices
- Babyhawk is a much-beloved company that makes a Mei Tei and a soft-structured-hybrid-style carrier. They also have a fun feature that lets you pick the fabric to design your own carrier.
- My favorite carrier in the buckle category is the new Onya carrier, but the Ergo is great, too. And if you want to wear your newborn with either carrier, Ergo sells an insert that provides the extra support you'll need–it even comes in organic! (Onya is developing an insert, but this family run company is fairly new and still growing, so they recommend using Ergo's insert for now.)
It is 100% worth the time to try out the different types, because some are better on different body types. I hear more petite mamas rave about Mei Teis, while dad's rave about the Ergo. If you're going in for a buckle/soft-structure carrier, know that you'll be spending a bit more; the engineering and construction behind these is pretty intense, so forgive the price tag. (Mei Tei's use gravity to keep the knots you tie nice and tight, but gravity is not so kind to plastic buckles!) It's more important with structured carriers than with any other type to try out a few different brands, because each one seems to work differently on different body types.
Read the Box Carefully
This becomes less pronounced as Baby grows and can hug your body, but the "M" rule helped me a lot when I was wearing an eight-week-old. When she does get a bit older, you can use that illustration right there to help you tuck the fabric under Baby's bottom to make sure she's still getting good hip support.
Humans thrive on physical contact, especially when they’re brand new. Hospitals encourage “skin-to-skin” contact (often called Kangaroo Care) between parents and babies in the NICU because it actively aids the healing process.Read More
Last year, I transitioned from a PhD program in English literature to a career in childcare. You can read about that here, but today we’re talking about the fact that since I started caring for children full-time, baby carriers have become a passion of mine.
Ok, fine, it’s an obsession. Why am I obsessed with baby carriers?
For starters, I have really bad luck with strollers.
Have you ever tried holding onto a stroller and a dog’s leash while also calling someone to ask for directions? When a skateboarder flew past, the dog lunged. The leash injured my wrist, the phone fell to the sidewalk, and the stroller came this close to rolling into the street. I could go on, but the point is that I will choose a carrier over a stroller every time.
I’m a nanny, now, caring for an infant for ten hours a day, five days a week. She has taught me the difference between baby wearing and simply using a baby carrier; I wear her around the house, not just when we’re out and about. We both love it!
Cuddling with babies is awesome, but getting stuff done is awesome, too. Each baby is different, but the child I spend my days with naps in two styles: either she sleeps for twenty minutes in her crib, or she sleeps for two hours on my chest/in the carrier. If you don’t know why I prefer two-hour naps, you’ve clearly never met a baby. Lots of cuddling helps us bond. Later in my babywearing guest post series I will go into detail about why babywearing facilitates a healthy child/caregiver bond.
Two hands are better than one. ‘My’ baby is still small enough to carry with one arm/hand, but even then, it’s a bit precarious to try and both comfort her and make or warm a bottle (I am not a wet nurse). I just hate putting her down and letting her cry while she waits! Babywearing makes it possible for me to comfort her and use both hands for the bottle. Magic!
If Your Child is in Group Childcare
Make babywearing easy for your provider, especially if you have a baby who must be held. My mother runs a home daycare, and when a baby who must be held joined the group, she was at a total loss. Then, a parent gave her a carrier and saved the day. The baby was held, and the other children got the attention they needed. Note: your childcare provider will appreciate such a donation, even if yours is the most independent kid in the group.
Oh, and dads? You need this, too! You’ll thank me for it the first time prep a bottle for an impatient baby without having to put her down, especially if she is used to breastfeeding. Yes, babywearing is manly!Read More
Did you know that some babies absolutely insist on being held for incredibly long stretches of time?
I didn’t, until my sister gave birth to a baby who must be held. Not only was my niece a baby who must be held, but she was also very picky about who held her. Inexplicably, she insisted on Mama from day one.
This “separation anxiety” is not supposed to occur until six months, at the earliest. It was a bit of a cruel joke on my sister, a developmental psychologist who, every semester, explains to students that newborns shouldn’t show signs of separation anxiety!
Nevertheless, my weeks-old niece cried when she was held by one of the “mother’s helpers” my sister tried to employ. Instead of enjoying a cup of tea or a peaceful meal while the babysitter held the baby, my sister was forced back into the glider, babe in arms, while they did laundry or tried to help out somehow. Time to herself became virtually impossible. Babywearing was largely responsible for saving her sanity.
Enter The Sanity Saver
During my first visit after the birth of my niece, my sister told me that the baby was refusing to tolerate the stroller. Instead, she showed me a ring sling; it allowed my sister carry her new baby closely, outdoors and inside, while keeping her hands free. That morning, my sister and I were actually able to leave the house, walk to a coffee shop and drink our coffee without much fuss! During the walk there, the baby fell asleep, and during the walk home, she enjoyed staring up at her mother’s face, the sky, the trees. It was a lovely morning that would have been impossible without babywearing.
I suspect that my niece was a baby who must be held because she had terrible reflux. That baby spit up more than anyone thought possible. It must have been miserable for her! But when she was more or less upright, she felt better–gravity was on her side. The cradle position shown in the picture kept her in a relatively upright position and allowed both baby and mom to relax.
Working with the Grain – not Against
Even though it was difficult to keep my niece happy, I refused to call her a “difficult baby.” Our difficulties were never her defining characteristics. I have since met other babies who must be held. Their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and childcare providers agree–without baby wearing, you will absolutely lose your mind trying to keep these babies happy. If you need some sanity preservation or know someone who does, I highly recommend purchasing or borrowing a ring sling. Because it is adjustable and easy to put on, a sling is a great place to start!Read More
I think that one of the most confusing types of baby carriers is the one long piece of fabric style, however it’s the best baby carrier for newborns. One of the most popular brands of these carrier styles is the Moby® Wrap. I personally used a Moby® Wrap for the first several months of my middle son’s life – it saved me from many tired days and nights!
I remember one of the first days he was home from the hospital and I had him in the Moby® Wrap and I honestly forgot that I had him. It wasn’t until he started to cry that I was reminded that I in fact had a newborn baby – both him and I were that comfortable!
Here is a great video on how to do a front belly-to-belly hold with the Moby® Wrap:
So you can see how these are the best baby carrier for newborns with the numerous ways to hold a baby and how snug they are when chest to chest. One of my favorite online parenting shops, Mom 4 Life, has a number of the wrap style baby carriers in their shop.
Wondering if you have a safe baby carrier? Use this illustrated guide to safe baby wearing for hip health!