Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Safe and Healthy Babywearing

More and more parents today are utilizing baby carriers to wear their babies in the first several months and years of their child’s life. There are many benefits to babywearing including bonding, healthier social development, calmer babies, physical development, and others. Anyone who has had a baby knows that babies desire most of all to be physically close to their caregivers.  

Back in 2010, the news was all astir for several weeks with reports of unsafe baby carriers killing babies. Parents, doctors, and well meaning strangers were advising mothers not to put their babies in any sort of carrier for fear that they would surely die. All the hype came as a result of the deaths of babies who were being worn in one type of carrier. It was legitimately unsafe.

However, just because that one was unsafe, that does not mean all baby carriers are unsafe. Think about it: how can a tradition that has been practiced all over the world for thousands of years suddenly be causing deaths of infants? Furthermore, there are dozens of types and even more dozens of brands of baby carriers on the market - and in the world! They can’t all be unsafe can they?

The one carrier that was the cause of death for these infants was terribly unsafe. How do we know? Well, here are some basic rules about safely wearing your baby. We will compare them to the carrier that was recalled for infant deaths.. Taken from the T.I.C.K.S. guide for safe babywearing pdf.

  • The baby should be tight against your body. A carrier should never sag or sway.
  • Your baby should be in view at all times. You should be able to see them.
  • Baby should be close enough to kiss, meaning that their head is close to yours.
  • Of course, baby’s back and neck must be supported at all times.
  • Finally, baby should be facing you.

Now let’s examine the carrier that was recalled.

It was a “bag” carrier” which sounds just like it implies. It hung the baby at the parent’s waist. Baby was tucked in the carrier which closed at the top, so the parent could not see the baby. Obviously when hanging in a bag the baby is not against their parent’s body and they are not facing the parent. When hanging in a bag, baby’s back was not supported, the baby’s chin fell to their chests, and this cut off their air supply.  

In addition, babies should never be worn in carriers that are styled similar to the baby bjorn. They are known as "crotch carriers" because baby hangs basically from their crotch. Not only do they look terribly uncomfortable for baby, they are arguably as uncomfortable for the parent wearing them! (And most parents with Bjorn experience will tell you as much!) The straps on the parent cross on the upper shoulders putting the entire weight of the baby on a parent’s shoulders. This quickly puts a strain on the lower back, making parents want to take baby off as quickly as possible.

When you look at your newborn baby, you’ll notice that their legs naturally come to what looks like a "froggy" position. Their knees come up to their chest and they are generally open wide. This is not simply a learned reaction, a reflex, or a habit from the womb. This position has an important job: it helps develop the hips.

When a baby's legs hang straight down, like they do in a baby Bjorn type of carrier, they come out of the hip socket. That means that any carrier that you use for your baby should keep baby's legs in that "froggy" style position. Furthermore, a safe baby carrier should be one that supports your back while it supports the baby’s back.

This is a lot of criteria! So what baby carriers are safe and recommended? We will talk about that in the next post.

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