There are many benefits of baby carrying. These include body contact, developmental benefits such as constant movement and hip alignment, ease of day-to-day activities for the parent and the feeling of security for the baby. With so many styles available, it can be difficult to find the most suited to the wearer and to the baby. Here are a few ideas;
Best choice of carry:
- Woven wraps in the front cross carry
- Stretchy wraps in front carry
- Ring Sling
- Soft structure carrier
All of these carrying methods allow for the baby’s head to be supported when they do not have this control, supports the developing spine and gives a broad base of support. They also allow for the hips to be placed in the ideal position for hip joint growth (when worn correctly). The hips should be in flexion and abduction, a deep squat position.
Use of the cradle carry is not encouraged due to the risk of closure of the baby’s airways with prolonged chin tucking.
The Young Baby (>3 months) with Neck Control
At this stage, the baby should be able to lift their own head, which allows for other options, predominately the hip carry.
Whether using woven wraps or ring slings, the baby again should have a good base of support with their legs in a squatting position and should have their back and neck supported. The same carries as the newborn are still great for this age-group too.
There is much debate about the use of back carries for this age. It is ok, if the baby is well supported in the above-mentioned ways. At this age, it can be difficult to get the baby into a back carry due to their lack of muscle strength and control. If you can get assistance in getting bub on and off the back or learn safe techniques to do so then this is fine too.
The Sitting Baby & Toddler
Once the baby can sit on their own, most carrying techniques are safe. This includes upright back carrying. At this age, baby will have more muscle control and therefore the positioning of the back carry will be easier.
Most of the time, the way baby is carried will be determined by the parent, based on what is comfortable and of course what baby enjoys. As previously mentioned, it is still important to make sure baby is secure, has good hip positioning, and a stable base of support.
International Hip Dysplasia Association, “Baby Carriers, Seats and other Equipment”, 2012, http://hipdysplasia.org/developmental-dysplasia-of-the-hip/prevention/baby-carriers-seats-and-other-equipment/
- Does the sling allow for various carrying positions for the baby on the wearer? This is important if the wearer has mid or lower back problems. Some carrying positions and techniques will feel more comfortable and will help stabilise the area. Wide and/or cushioned adjustable shoulder straps will allow for easier carrying and less strain on the Carriers neck and shoulders too.
- Does the carrier allow for different positions for the baby: for example; forward or chest facing, vertical, horizontal, folded legs, straight, or frog-leg position? All of these will help with the baby’s postural development. Does it allow for optimal positioning; specifically of the hips? The carrier should have a wide base of support that supports the thighs and flexes the knees. The legs should be in an “M” position. · Make sure that there is head and neck support for the baby and/or sleeping infant
- How long will the sling/wrap/pouch accommodate for the child’s growth and postural development? This is important as often carriers suit different ages.
- Can the infant be moved from one wearer to another without disturbing them and can they be removed without disturbing them? This can be an important consideration especially if the baby is generally hard to settle or is in a clingy phase or a wonder week. It can be stressful for both the parent and baby.
- Is cleaning of the carrier easy? Can you throw it in the washing machine?
- Does the wearer have both hands free or does the baby still require some support with a hand? The baby should be secure enough in the carrier for the wearer to not have to support with their hands. If this is the case, it is possible that the carrier is not tight enough, not on correctly or not suited to the wearer or baby.
- Can the baby be put into all carrying positions by the wearer on their own, or do they require help from a second person?
- Is there an even distribution of the baby’s weight for the wearer’s comfort? Does the sling/wrap cause repetitive postural stress to one area of the wearer’s spine and pelvis?
- Breastfeeding is not generally recommended while baby is in the carrier. This is not because it isn’t possible or more efficient, but because breastfeeding is its own activity and should have the focus of Mum. Eye and body contact is important during this time.
My favourite carriers are the soft structured carriers. Based on the Mei Tai design, they are easy to use for beginners, quick to put on and take off and some designs allow for a number of different carries. In saying that, I like almost all carriers because they allow for contact between parent and baby.
Amy Melamet is an Inner West Chiropractor in Sydney and a university tutor with a special interest in women’s and kid’s health and pregnancy care. She is also a Die Trageschule baby wearing consultant, having completed the basic course earlier this year.
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