With such a huge range of baby carriers on the market including slings, wraps, structured carriers and backpacks it can be challenging to know which is the best option for you and your baby. Chiropractor, Dr Michelle Ronan, explains the benefits of ‘wearing’ your baby and what to look for when choosing a baby carrier to ensure the health of both your spine and your baby’s.
The benefits of ‘wearing your baby’
- Just like tummy time, there are enormous neurological benefits for babies having time where they are upright and being safely held in baby carriers. Both are a critical part of your baby’s neuromuscular development.
- It’s much more energy efficient than carrying your baby in your arms. Correctly fitted and positioned baby carriers are designed to mimic your ‘in-arms’ carrying position.
- Research suggests that infants who are carried for 3 + hours per day in the first 3 months of life cry less often than those who are not. Their upright position may also help to foster improvements in digestion along with contributing to developing head and neck control.
- The calming effect of being firmly wrapped and held close to your heart and the gentle rhythmic nature or rocking of your walking also provides a secure and soothing environment for your baby that is like being in the womb.
Tips to keep in mind when buying a carrier for your baby
- Initially, a sling or wrap is an excellent option. Once your baby begins to gain weight, the sling can create postural strain on the adult wearing them. A soft wrap style carrier can be for up to 4-5 months dependant on your baby’s size and your comfort levels.
- As your baby’s head and neck control along with their ‘tummy time’ strength increases, a structured carrier such as the Ergobaby or Manduca is a great option.
- A good test of whether your baby carrier is correctly positioned is to bring one of your arms up around the baby as though the carrier isn’t there. If there is significant movement, then the carrier needs to be adjusted so that it mimics an in-arms position as much as possible.
- Before purchasing your baby carrier try various brands and select one that has as much mid and low back support as possible.
- If you are concerned about the position of your baby’s hips and the possibility of placing stress on your baby’s spine (spondylolisthesis or forward-slipping of the spinal vertebra), a carrier approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute is a safe option.
- Outward facing positions (where the baby faces away from the parent) are best avoided for young babies, especially under 5 months of age, due to the dangling leg posture – the hip capsule can become stretched or even forced when in this position, potentially promoting malformation of the hip joint. The posture of the torso also tends to become strained.
If your child has “clicky” hips or if breech delivery is a factor, make sure you seek the advice of a health provider for more specific advice and support.