Is Babywearing Safe?
When done properly, carrying a baby in a soft baby carrier can be safer than carrying a baby in your arms. Your carrier doesn’t have muscles that get tired, and your carrier doesn’t have arms that reflexively reach out to balance you or catch you when you fall. But, as with anything concerning babies, good safety practices are of paramount importance. This article has many safety tips, but no set of guidelines can anticipate every circumstance. You are responsible for your child’s safety as well as your own.
Whatever carrier you choose, learn to use it properly, and always keep safety in mind.
A Few Absolute Rules:
1. Make sure your baby can breathe. Baby carriers allow parents to be hands-free to do other things … but you must always remain active in caring for your child. No baby carrier can ensure that your baby always has an open airway; that’s your job.
a. Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. This rule applies to babies being held in arms, in baby carriers, in infant car seats, or in any other kind of seat or situation. This position can restrict the baby’s ability to breathe. Newborns lack the muscle control to open their airways. They need good back support in carriers so that they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position.
b. Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause her to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering her head and face keeps you from being able to check on her. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on her frequently.
2. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.
3. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.
4. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight. For example, frame backpacks can be useful for hiking with older babies and toddlers but aren’t appropriate for babies who can’t sit unassisted for extended periods. Front packs usually have a weight range of 8 to 20 pounds; smaller babies may slip out of the carrier, and larger babies will almost certainly cause back discomfort for the person using the carrier.
5. Choose carriers that mimic carrying in arms
A carrier should never place your baby in a position that you wouldn’t carry them naturally. Babies would be carried in arms upright on the chest, upright on your hip, cradled while nursing, or even in a piggy back. You would never carry your baby horizontally at your hips, or smushed under your breasts, therefore you should avoid any carrier which forces you to place your baby in this position.
Graphics courtesy of Jan Andrea Heirtzler