Discussions about certain styles of baby carriers and the possible harm they could do to the baby and the back of the person wearing it are hot topics at the moment. With this in mind, what should parents pay attention to when choosing a carrier?
M-position baby carriers
A big advantage of an ergonomic baby sling or carrier is that the child can always be carried in the healthy M position. What makes this position so important for the baby’s health? In the M position, the baby ‘s knees are up higher than its bottom. Thus the spine of the baby is not burdened and, moreover, a good development of the hips is fostered. The fabric of a good baby sling can be spread from knee to knee. Whether the baby is small or somewhat bigger, the baby is always in a right M position.
Obviously a baby carrier can be used right away from birth (depending on the actual carrier), however the hips of the baby are not quite sufficiently developed for the M position straightaway. In the womb the baby lies in the foetal position with both hips bent in a flexed position (see image below). After birth, it takes a while before the joints are stretched. When children are born breech this can take a little longer.
Babies are naturally very flexible. Using a baby carrier can help prevent hip dysplasia and sometimes even helps the healing of it. For newborn babies though, we recommend using the foetal position, known as the frog posture with legs are lifted in the carrier. Even then though, the legs are still in the M position, just held slightly differently by the carrier.
Carrying facing outwards
It is intended that a child, when carried in a baby carrier, is in the most natural position. If you carry the baby facing outwards, its back assumes an unnatural posture as well as the hips. The back isn’t nicely curved, but instead has a hollow curve facing the other way which is neither comfortble or healthy. Your child may also be over-stimulated and this is also unnecessarily tiring for the back muscles. When carrying your child on the back the same applies, the back of your child should be in its natural position. So, for carrying both on the back and belly the best option is having the baby facing the person that is carrying.
Safe ergonomic carriers
Some baby carrying systems don’t provide a facility to support the legs from knee to knee. Something to be aware of when purchasing a baby carrier, particularly those in high street shops The pressure on the hips should be minimal with a good support, because the legs are spread and are also supported by the wide straps. In addition, the hips are in a stable position.
Have a look at the picture on the right above for an example of a good carrying position. On the left you can see the position of the hips that we do not recommend.
Comfort for the Carrier
Let’s not forget the father or mother. We wouldn’t want a baby sling or carrier causing any discomfort for the person carrying. When a carrier has narrow shoulder straps people can still sometimes experience shoulder and back problems because of the weight that burdens these narrow straps, and the minimal distribution of the weight over the shoulders and torso. A good baby carrier distributes the pressure over the body thanks to the wide straps. When wearing a good baby carrier you burden your back and abdominal muscles in an ergonomic way, affording stronger muscles. Back problems are often caused by the lack of strong back muscles, or by an incorrect burdening of weight. When using a baby carrier or sling you train your abdominal and back muscles in an ergonomic way, making your back stronger.
With the right baby carrier it is a pleasure to carry for both baby and parent. Carry your love, anyway you want!
By Kay Poelen, found of ByKay Baby Carriers www.bykay.com