The Confusion Over Carriers – How to Pick the Best Baby Carrier for You and Your Baby
When I was born, my mother was already busy chasing around my two older brothers. When it came to getting anything done, she had one solution – her carrier. In her words, “you LIVED in that thing!” So when it came time to shop for my own baby, it definitely was high on my list of things to get. I often get asked by parents about carriers and how to make sure that they are keeping their babies safe. Which is the best baby carrier? Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting your carrier:
The first thing to ask yourself is why you are getting a carrier. To wear every now and then in order to get a few things done while your new baby sleeps? For nursing? To wear on walks? Do you want inward facing or outward facing, or both? Prioritize your needs and then look for brands that allow you to do what you want. That may mean looking for ones that can be worn from birth, or ones that provide more durability and strength to last until toddlerhood, or both! Or it may also mean buying one carrier to use from birth, and having a second one for later as baby grows. Always make sure that the weight and height ranges for your carrier can be used with your child.
Crotch support creates the most confusion about baby carriers. Some carriers have gotten a bad rap as “crotch danglers”, essentially meaning that there is not enough support to the groin area to promote the healthy development of the hips. The healthiest position for a baby’s developing hips is to be spread naturally open, with the thighs supported and the hips and knees bent (think frog position). When the part of the carrier underneath the baby’s crotch is not wide enough to also support the thighs, the legs can “dangle” which can cause the baby to be more susceptible to abnormal hip development. As long as there is enough support to the thighs so that the hips and knees are bent to about 90°, then the carrier is safe for the hips.
When do you plan on starting to use your carrier? When using a carrier with an infant younger than 3-4 months, appropriate head support is important. When examining the head support on your carrier, make sure that the baby’s airway is unobstructed, and that the baby’s head can face either side. Switch the direction they look towards every so often if you are wearing the carrier for a prolonged period of time to prevent a preference to one side (torticollis). Babies should only face outwards in the carrier when full head and neck control has developed.
This is probably the most overlooked part of picking a carrier but it is one of the most important! I’m definitely guilty of some “new mom injuries” myself (which can be a whole other post for another time!) but it is so important to protect your body as much as possible when caring for your baby. Look for a carrier that allows your baby to be high up on your chest (or back) and close to your body. This will allow for the baby to be close to your center of gravity, and decrease stress on your back. As baby gets heavier, I recommend using a carrier with a good hip belt. This will allow the weight to be distributed to your hips and not rest solely on your shoulders and back. If you are using a ring sling carrier, make sure you are wearing it as high and as snug as possible to decrease stress to your shoulder and neck. The fabric should be centered over your shoulder, and spread out as much as possible. You may need to readjust and spread the fabric more while wearing it. The more the fabric is spread out (especially across your back) the more comfortable it will be.
Babywearing has many benefits for both you and your baby. Make sure you are both comfortable and safe and “carry” on!