NOTE: I am not endorsing any particular style or brand of carrier over another, so use this information, along with other resources, to help you make an informed decision, whatever that may be.
One of the first things I looked at getting (when I was newly pregnant, and totally overwhelmed with all of the baby products out there – who knew there was SO MUCH STUFF!!), was a baby carrier. I loved the idea of being able to have my bubba close to me and cuddled in, but also have my hands free. For day trips out or walks around the shops, I also knew at times it may be more practical than having the pram out all the time.
So I started researching… Yet again, like with everything else for babies, I had no idea there were so many varieties and options out there – wraps, carriers, slings, different fabrics, styles, colours… it can get pretty overwhelming knowing what to choose!!
As a paediatric physiotherapist however, I knew the one thing that was important to me, was ensuring I picked a carrier that was ‘hip healthy’. I was born with hip dysplasia, or DDH, (and will go into that more in future posts), and therefore know that my baby is at an increased risk of also being born with DDH. There are lots of contributing factors to developing DDH, and I knew that hip carriers were one.
Hip dysplasia (or DDH – Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip) is where the hip joint is shallow and underdeveloped. It can be related to the baby’s positioning in the uterus, have genetic links, or can develop post birth depending on how your baby is positioned day to day. When babies’ legs are left dangling downward (i.e. in some baby carriers or other devices), or if they are swaddled with their legs straight and together, over time it can change the angle that the top of the leg bone (the ‘ball’) makes with the hip socket. Because baby’s bones are quite soft when they’re first born, and they are growing so quickly, the hip socket may become or grow to be flat and shallow, causing hip dysplasia, if left for long times in these positions.
When looking for a baby carrier that is ‘hip healthy’, consider the following features: (taken from: https://hipdysplasia.org/developmental-dysplasia-of-the-hip/prevention/baby-carriers-seats-and-other-equipment/)
- a wide based carrier that supports the baby/child’s pelvis, with the legs spread apart
- the baby/child’s thigh should be supported all the way to the knee joint
- hips should be bent so that the knees are slightly higher than the hips
- legs not forced together as seen when swaddled tightly or used in certain baby slings
Thighs spread around the mother’s torso and the hips bent so the knees are slightly higher than the buttocks with the thighs supported.
These features will ensure the baby’s legs are positioned in such a way to promote healthy development of the hip joint.
There are no ‘Australian Standards’ for choosing a baby carrier, but lots of tips and guidelines to ensure you wear your baby safely. I personally have gone for a stretchy wrap style carrier in the newborn weeks, and will transition to a more structured style (the Ergo Omni 360) for when my bub is a bit older that both my partner and I can use.
To ensure I prevent against the risk of suffocation (which is another risk when baby carriers are used incorrectly), I will follow the TICKS rules:
Tight: the sling should be tight, with the baby positioned high and upright with head support. Any loose fabric might cause your baby to slump down, which could restrict his breathing.
In view at all times: always be able to see your baby’s face by simply looking down. Ensure your baby’s face, nose and mouth remain uncovered by the sling and/or your body.
Close enough to kiss: your baby should be close enough to your chin that by tipping her head forward you can easily kiss her head.
Keep chin off the chest: ensure your baby’s chin is up and away from his body. Your baby should never be curled so that his chin is forced onto his chest. This can restrict breathing. Regularly check your baby. Babies can be in distress without making any noise or movement.
Supported back: your baby’s back should be supported in a natural position with her tummy and chest against you. When bending over, support your baby with one hand behind her back. Bend at the knees, not at the waist.
(Adapted from the Raising Children website: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/safety/equipment-furniture/baby-carrier-sling-safety)
In summary, baby wearing and baby carriers can be a fantastic way to carry your baby, keep them snug and close, while also freeing up your hands. It can help with bonding, is practical and baby carriers are quite compact. Make sure you do your research, try on lots of different brands and styles (if you can) before you purchase to find one comfortable for yourself, and follow guidelines to help keep your baby safe.