What Makes a Baby Carrier Safe and Hip Healthy?

Introduction to Babywearing

Babywearing simply means using a sling, wrap or carrier to keep your little one settled close and your hands free. You don’t have to use a particular type of carrier – babywearing can work for every family. Regular carrying offers awesome benefits for both parents and babies! As there are many options, every family can find a sling or carrier that’s easy, safe and comfortable for them. 

So, let’s look at what really makes a sling or carrier safe for your baby and de-mystify some of the confusing information you may have heard about carriers and your baby’s hip health.

The basic requirements of a safe sling or carrier

Whatever carrier, wrap or sling you go for, check that it will provide the following:

1. Safe, comfortable support for a baby’s spine, head, and airways

Your baby should be held high and snug on your body with their face visible. Best support is achieved for a newborn when they’re held in an upright position, facing your body.

For your baby’s safety, the most important things to check are that their spine and head are stabilised, and their airways are clear. Your carrier or sling needs to be made to good standards and used correctly to prevent your baby from falling.

The T.I.C.K.S guidelines are a handy checklist you can use to check for safe positioning in any sling or carrier.

2. Weight comfortably distributed for the carrying adult

Carriers that distribute the weight across both shoulders and evenly into the torso and hips will be the most comfortable.  You’ll also get the best support if your sling or carrier fits you well. Don’t assume that structure and padding make a carrier more supportive; less structured options contour to your body and can offer the most comfortable weight distribution!

3. Straightforward to use

What you find easy to use will differ from what other people find easy.  If you struggle to fasten or adjust your carrier then it will be harder to get a safe, supportive fit for your baby. Check that you can get your carrier secure and comfortable by yourself.

What about being hip healthy?

Many slings and carriers are now advertised as ‘hip healthy’, but what does this mean, and how important is it?

When a baby is born, their hip joints are not fully developed and are much softer and more flexible than adults.  You’ll notice your baby often holds their legs in a tucked up, ‘froggy legged’ or ‘spread squat’ position with their knees to the sides of their body and higher than their hips.  This is also referred to as the legs being ‘flexed and abducted’. In this position, the legs and pelvis are aligned to best locate the thigh bone centrally into the hip socket, and support the developing joint.

‘Hip healthy’ refers to when a carrier or wrap supports under both a baby’s thighs and bottom. It also holds their legs in the ‘flexed and abducted’ position with their knees higher than their hips. As previously mentioned this is a natural position for a newborn baby, which I have discussed in more detail on my blog. When your baby is held in this position, it also tends to make carrying more comfortable for you.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip Dysplasia refers to abnormal development of a baby’s hip joints. Whilst the causes are not fully understood, most babies whose hips develop abnormally will have been born with this tendency. This may be because of a family history of abnormal hip development, or because of positioning during pregnancy or birth (such as a breech presentation). There is some evidence that swaddling a baby with their legs extended straight may affect healthy hip development.

Can I harm my baby’s hips by using the wrong carrier?

Probably not! If your baby has no family history of hip abnormalities, and there are no other risk factors or concerns about their hip development, then there is currently no evidence that any carrier will cause problems for your baby’s hip development.

If you’re concerned about getting the optimum support for your baby’s developing hips, then make sure that your carrier or wrap is adjusted to support your baby’s legs in the ‘flexed and abducted’ position that best aligns the bones of their hips and pelvis.

Baby carriers - Hip Healthy

Looking for extra help?

Why not visit a Sling Library, or book a professional Carrying Consultation for expert advice and get the reassurance you need to carry your baby safely and comfortably!

Emily Williamson

Emily Williamson is the owner of South London Sling Library, is an experienced Baby-Carrying Consultant and the Izmi baby-carrier designer.

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