BabyWearing Institute

Babywearing Blog

Best Practice Babywearing

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Best Practice Babywearing

Why pick a physiologically correct baby carrier in the first place.

After reading one of Dr. Mercola's health articles where he points out why Coca Cola's claim that Aspartame is safe is not so true, I thought about all the manufacturer of baby carriers out there claiming their product to be safe when in reality they are not.

I went to some of the websites to see what they say about their products and want to point out why it is not truthful in most cases.

Yes! It’s fine for your child to sleep in a Baby Carrier. In the baby carrier, your child gets the closeness and warmth he/she needs to fall asleep feeling safe. Baby Carriers provide good support for the child’s back and neck, so you can carry your sleeping child for as long as he/she is satisfied. However, small children should not remain in the same position for extended periods. That’s why we recommend that you always pay close attention to your child’s needs and switch between the baby carrier and, for example, a baby sitter, stroller or crib. 

Since the baby carrier’s front piece is completely detachable, you can easily put your sleeping child down without waking him or her.”

Why this is not best practice?

When I read that I immediately thought about suspension trauma. It is not safe for a child to be in the same position in a harness type carriers because the circulation in the legs are suffering. The legs are dangling straight down with the fabric slowing down circulation in the legs. There might not be sufficient blood exchange. When legs move, the arteries help pump blood. If the legs are still, the heart has to do all the pumping and simply can't do it all the way down the legs and up for long periods of time. Of course a baby is smaller than an adult and the heart can pump a bit longer but essentially it is not a favorable position for any size person.

If you cannot use your legs for support you will eventually faint. A harness type carrier will prevent baby from falling over, which would restore circulation in the lower body. Experts estimate the first signs of suspension trauma in legs that are completely still hanging straight down can be felt in as little as three minutes, with the average being between 5 and 20 minutes. Babies again are smaller and are not prone to die of suspension trauma, however, I think parents should be aware of the possibility. The best way to prevent suspension trauma and help your baby have a healthy restful sleep is by having baby face you with the legs in the spread squatting position (essentially straddled around you in a squatting position 90 degree spread apart, legs up 110 degree which means bum is lower than knees. Try squatting on the floor, that is a good position for baby in a good carrier)

A good baby carrier will support baby in this healthy spread squatting position for hours of restful sleep and blood pumping. Baby back is supported in the rounded position called kyphosis, which takes about 1 year to straighten. Baby is supported vertically to avoid falling into himself. Baby's neck and head will be supported. Having baby's head close to mom or dad's senses, helps to ensure baby's airway is free at all times.

The advice to switch using to all the companies products and buy them all is also misleading. Babies generally would love to be carried all day to feel safe and secure. Emotionally a good baby carrier is better than 10 swings, activity saucers, play pen, etc.

  • When can I start using Baby Carriers?

    The Baby Carrier Original can be used from when your child weighs 3.5 kg/8 lbs until he/she weighs 11 kg/25 lbs.

    You can use the Baby Carrier Active from when your child weighs 3.5 kg/8 lbs up to 12 kg/26 lbs.

    A good time to start using the Comfort Carrier is when your child is 3 months old and weighs at least 6 kg/13 lbs up to 14 kg/31 lbs.

    You can use Baby Carrier Miracle from newborn, as long as your baby weighs at least 8 lbs/3.5 kg up to 26 lbs/12 kg.

Having studied healthy and good baby carriers, I can with confidence say the weight recommendations are not accurate. There is also a difference in baby's build that plays a huge part in baby actually fitting in the harness type carrier or not.

For a tiny baby, 8-9 lbs, the neck support is not sufficient and the harness type carriers do not allow for natural movement of the baby. The vertical support is often missing as well and baby can fall into himself. The leg/hip support is lacking and therefore is not a good start into baby's healthy hip development. Baby's hip develops until about 2 years of age, starting with the best carrier possible to support a healthy hip hardening is essential for our precious little ones. Carrying a 25lb baby in a harness type carrier will most likely damage your back. A good baby carrier will distribute baby's weight evenly close to your body without your back having to take the dangling weight and the impact weight of a child pulling forward. Your pelvic floor is also negatively affected with a carrier that has baby's weight dangling in front of you rather than straddled around you close to your center of gravity.

With baby's spread squatting position in a good carrier, the carrier will absorb the jostles from being carried rather than baby's spine.

  • When can I start carrying my child facing forward in the baby carrier?

    After consulting the pediatricians we work with, we recommend that you carry your child facing you in the baby carrier until he/she is around 4 months – or until the child’s neck muscles are strong enough to hold up his/her head.

After consulting with pediatricians” is a very misleading statement. We don't know the pediatrician, have no record of what they might have said, etc. Most pediatrician actually are not experts on baby's hip and spine development unless they are also pediatric orthopedic surgeons, which most of them are not. After consulting with pediatric orthopedic surgeons such as Dr. Fettweis, we know that facing baby out can be detrimental to baby's healthy hip and spine development. There is also a great risk of positional asphyxiation for baby facing out since there is no head support, especially if baby should fall asleep in this uncomfortable unsafe position. There are simply too many stimuli crashing in on baby and baby has no way of turning around. Baby also has no way of stabilizing himself against your body, leading baby to the moro reflex of being startled often. Pages have been written about not facing baby out and why this is not best practice. The Babywearing Institute has quite a bit information on it on their site.

  • How long can I carry my child in the baby carrier each time?

    You can carry your child in the baby carrier for as long as he/she is content there. However, small children should not be motionless in the same position for long periods of time. That's why we recommend that you always pay close attention to your child’s needs and switch between the baby carrier and, for example, a baby sitter, stroller or crib.

Most children are not comfortable in a harness type carrier for long periods of time. The position is simply not supportive and leaves baby feeling like he is floating without proper support. Harness type carriers also leave your back hurting like you are carrying a 50 lb child instead of a newborn. Again the consumer is advised to change to different products rather than a proper carrier.

  • When is it most important to carry your child?

    From newborn and during the first 5-6 months in life, closeness through eye-to-eye and bodily contact is essential to babies. Several studies shows that the warmth, the breathing and the sound of the parent’s heartbeats and voice, make the child feel secure and safe.  This also contributes to the creation of a close connection and an emotional bond between baby and parent.

This is probably the only answer that is close to being true. Not only does hearing mom's or dad's heartbeat make baby feel secure and safe, it also helps stabilize baby's heartbeat and breathing. There is a lot of research on how baby's brain is stabilized by the parent being close. This closeness however is important until baby voluntarily leaves, which can be two or three years. Many good baby carriers allow you to carry your baby in comfort for hours every day and years. Enjoying this closeness with baby leads to a better verbal ability of your child later on, better sense of balance, better emotional balance, better concentration, and better self esteem as baby is on eye level with other adults rather than always looking up. These are just some of the aspects of wearing your child until they voluntarily leave the comfort of mom or dad. The list is long, we can talk about it in another article.

  • Can I carry my newborn upright?

For newborn under 1 month whose spine is still soft, upright carrying will compromise the spine growth.”

This is complete misinformation. The spine is rounded, called kyphosis until the upper part of the spine, the neck lordosis stretches. After that it is the chest kyphosis and then the lenden lordosis. This stretching process is compete when baby can walk unassisted at about 1 year of age. The spine is never considered soft, only rounded. Lise Elitot, Ph.D. said: “The reason they [babies] are so receptive to motion is because they are born with a highly developed vestibular system-a “sixth” sense that allows us to perceive our body's movement and degree of balance. The vestibular sense are very old, in evolutionary terms, since all earthly organisms have had to orient themselves with respect to gravity and their own motion. Accordingly, they emerge quite early during embryonic development. Like touch, the vestibular system is precociously poised to transmit sensation that is not only very comforting for babies but also critical to their early brain development.”

She goes on to explain how carrying baby upright helps baby turn his head, detect linear movements, and the body's position with respect to gravity. Movement stimulates the inner ear, which is a complicated set of chambers and ducts that include not only the hearing but the vestibular organs as well.

For baby to find his equilibrium it is favorable to carry baby upright from birth.

That not wearing your baby upright for the first month is nonsense as is evident in cultures where babies are worn on mom's back from day one, like Africa. Millions of babies would be crippled if this statement carried any truths.

There are more misleading or down right false statements made by those manufacturing unsafe and uncomfortable baby carriers but this will suffice for this article. Sad to see so much misinformation given to new parents who often don't know where to turn for correct information on best practice.

Manufacturer of harness type carriers do not understand the natural development of babies. Selling a product seems to be the top priority. Education is essential in keeping our babies emotionally healthy in their most formative first five years of their lives.

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