Your carrier may claim to be ‘ergonomic’ - but is it really? Together, let’s take a look at what qualifies as healthy for both your baby’s hips and spine and for you as well.
Are you panic-stricken over the potential hazards of babywearing, reading about hip instability or hip dysplasia? If all of the buzz surrounding terms like “C back”, “M legs” and “frog legs” and the flood of product information leaves you feeling overwhelmed, this piece of advice is for you.
Let's take a look. Put your carrier on and pop your baby inside, facing in. With the help of a mirror, have a look at the shape of your carrier’s seat: did you make it smile? If you see a true ear-to-ear smile - or let’s say knee-to-knee, then congratulations are in order. You’ve got yourself a hip-healthy carrier!
The smiling carrier is a carrier with a perfectly wide seat that supports the spread squat position of the baby. This is a very natural position for your baby, resembling the one that he holds when resting on your hip, or lying on a changing mat as a newborn: the knees are slightly above the level of your baby's bottom, thighs slightly exceeding an angle of 90 degrees measured from the midline, the pelvis is tucked and the lower back is gently curved.
Our goal is to enter the carrier without disturbing this natural squatting position, with a seat which reaches from knee to knee to support the entire length of your baby’s thighs, leaving the calves hanging down, free to move. This is a hip-healthy position, stabilizing your baby’s possibly shallow hip sockets, unstable hip joints and lax ligaments. For newborns, we suggest starting with a front carry, your chest as the support, where you can remain fully responsive to your baby's needs.
The smile is easy to achieve in a wrap - soft and perfectly adjustable to your baby's buttocks. Carriers with pre-shaped seats are different: their seats can range from super-narrow to super-wide (to fit toddlers). Some will never smile and some that could, won’t at the moment that you need them to, being either too small or too large for your baby. Our task is to find a carrier with a pre-shaped seat that can smile when your baby’s little butt finds refuge in it.
In light of this explanation, let's proceed. What do you see in your mirror?
Do you have a super narrow seat?
A carrier with a super-narrow seat is also called a “crotch dangler” and does not offer a seat wide enough to maintain the spread squat position. It features a pantie shaped support for the baby's bum (and bum only). Legs hang down unsupported, stretched, putting the full strain of their weight on the possibly shallow hip sockets and lax ligaments. The baby’s spine is pulled downwards, straightened, decreasing your baby’s comfort and calling for additional head support.
Do you have a narrow seat?
A narrow seat is slightly wider than the super-narrow seat. However, it still does not offer optimal support for your baby’s thighs. The knees do not raise up above the level of the buttocks. Consequently, the weight of the unsupported legs puts strain on the still-forming hip joints.
Do you happen to own a carrier with a (super) narrow seat? Check in here for an easy temporary fix using a scarf tucked into the seat to make your crotch dangler smile.
Do you have an overly wide seat?
An overly wide seat reaches over your baby’s knee pits onto the calves. It is not ideal either: this setup impairs the proper alignment of the hips, causing babies to slump and recline and putting pressure on the upper part of the carrier. The baby feels heavy, straining your shoulders, neck and upper back. Try to adjust the width of the seat according to the product instructions and see if you and your baby find it more comfortable. Your carrier may not be ready to flash that smile until your baby has had a little extra time to grow into it.
Did you get yourself a carrier that requires a booster? You might have trouble achieving the smile with an infant insert (or so-called ‘booster’), a pre-formed cushion for a baby to sit on nested inside the carrier. This feature is an effort on the part of manufacturers to qualify some buckle carriers on the market for use with newborns. Read more about Insert or not to insert?
Only a few carriers on the market support the smile when your baby is forward facing - held with its back to your chest, facing the world. Most babies end up outward-facing in a super-narrow carrier seat with their legs hanging straight downwards. As discussed above, the narrow seat does not promote the health of your baby’s hips.
Safety check and rock on!
Safe babywearing is beneficial for parents and babies at all times, including any less-than-ideal hip-healthy position. Just keep on carrying, explore and adjust to find the right position for you and your baby. Don’t forget to check the overall safety of your carrier: does the top of it reach up to your baby’s earlobes? Is the baby high and close enough not to swing low, slump or fall out when you bend over?
If you’d like to further explore this topic, consider reading the blog posts including The one rule of babywearing.
Looking forward to seeing the smiling seats you make with your baby’s bums!
Don’t hesitate to let me know, write, send me a picture or tag @carry.coach and follow me for more tips and tricks.
Freedom to babies’ hips!