By Stephanie Ondrack
Q: I have heard that some baby carriers are unsafe, and that wearing your baby the wrong way can be dangerous. Can you explain the rules to me?
A: Babywearing can be a satisfying solution to meeting baby’s need to be held, while allowing yourself some much-needed hands-free time. Babywearing provides an easy way to transport baby on walks, without the hassle or bulk of bringing a stroller. Best of all, babywearing has many positive effects on baby’s sensory, emotional, cognitive, and physical development: it strengthens neck and core muscles, it promotes bonding, it lowers stress hormones, and it provides opportunities for eye contact, breastfeeding, and shared experiences.
BUT, as you rightly point out, babywearing can indeed be unsafe if done incorrectly. If you observe the following simple guidelines, you and your baby can enjoy safe and pleasant babywearing any time.
- You should be able to kiss the top of baby’s head. Your baby should be situated where he would be if he were in your arms. In other words, avoid carriers or wraps that position baby too low on your body, as this can be unsafe.
- Make sure baby can breathe. Basically, avoid covering baby’s face with fabric, and avoid crunching your baby into any position that prevents her from raising her head. Her chin should not be squashed onto her chest.
- Facing you is preferable to facing outwards. This is not so much a safety concern as a physical development concern. Baby’s spine and hips are in a healthier position when inwards, or in a ‘cradle’ position. When baby faces outwards, he is usually putting too much weight on his crotch, and his hips are leaning forward at an awkward angle. As well, babies benefit from being able to see your face, to feel reassured by your presence, eye contact, and facial expressions.
That’s it! If you follow these simple tips, you and your baby can enjoy babywearing for many months, or even years.