Baby carriers, or any form of baby wearing, have become quite popular. And if you’ve done any research on baby carriers, you know that there is a huge variety of types and styles to choose from. With all that, it might become difficult to make an informed decision. And if you just make your decision based upon what’s popular, that might be an error in judgment. I say that because forward facing baby carriers or carriers that place the baby’s back against your stomach and chest are quite popular, and have a significant market share. And personally, I find this hard to believe because there are several reasons why this type of carrier is not the best decision for your baby.
Going forward — pun intended – I’ll discuss a few reasons on why these are bad choice, not only for you but for your child as well.
Why to Avoid Forward Facing Baby Carriers
- Unnatural, Unhealthy Positioning — Think of the position your baby holds for much of their time in the womb. At birth, a baby’s spine is naturally C shaped, and that’s why they continue to remain in the fetal position for a significant period of time after that — with their legs pulled up towards their chest, and not stretched out straight. Due to the shape of their spine, the fetal position is the most natural position for them.
This C shaped spine is referred to as the Primary Curve. From there, the baby’s spine develops into what’s called the secondary curve and this happens as the baby’s neck muscles get stronger, as well as the cervical curve, or upper spine. Ultimately, they will develop what is known as the lumbar curve, or S shaped spine.
By the time your baby begins to walk, they will have transitioned from the C shaped to S shaped spine.A traditional baby carrier or sling — one that places the babies front against your front — allows your baby to maintain the fetal position, the natural position of their spine. Placing a baby who hasn’t fully developed their lumbar or S shaped spine too early, places unnatural pressure on a spine that is still developing, forcing it straighten out.
- Hollow Back — The unnatural positioning mentioned above, could be a contributing factor to something called Hollow back, where your baby’s spine is arched or tilted back. This can also place unnecessary stress on the pelvis, because it has to carry the weight of the baby that is seated in the forward position, leaving their, as yet underdeveloped, spine responsible to bear more force that it’s able to bear.
- Hip Dysplasia — In order for your child’s hips to develop naturally, they should be allowed to remain in the fetal position for as long as they need to. Yet a forward facing baby carrier disallows this, placing unnatural pressure on the hips, just as it does on the spine mentioned above. This pressure and positioning may contribute to hip dysplasia. This is a condition that affects the development of the ball and socket of the hip joint, and as many as 3% of newborns are affected by this. To correct it, babies need to wear braces or a cast. Do you really want to take a chance and end up having to put your child through that? Go for a traditional wrap or sling as it will support the upper leg and allow for the optimal hip position.
- Overstimulation — While in the forward facing position, there’s also the chance of your baby becoming over stimulated. As long as their eyes are open, they have no way of being able to filter out all the lights and action happening around them, and they need time to be able to process this. When they’re facing their mother, or whoever should be carrying them, the majority of these stimulants can be blocked out. Since it can take several hours for a baby to overcome the effects of overstimulation, it could be ultimately beneficial to both you and the child not put them forward facing.
We’ve discussed a variety of reasons why it could be detrimental to an infant to be placed in a forward facing baby carrier, but what about some of the reasons why it might be problematic for you as well?
- Harder to Carry – When you’re carrying your baby in a traditional wrap or sling that has the baby facing you, their weight is evenly distributed across your body. With the baby tucked in against you, your center of gravity isn’t impacted, so you’re not forced to compensate, and likely give yourself a backache.
- Harder to Respond & Interact With Your Child — If your baby is in facing away from you, you’re not going to know immediately if they have fallen asleep, or become ill. Until your child can talk to you, his cries and facial expressions are its ways of communicating with you. Not being able to see your child’s face cuts off one form of communication. In some situations, it’s purely for safety that you situate your child with their back to you, and that’s when they’re still in a rear facing car seat. When you’re transporting your child against your chest, allow them to see your face.
Armed with this information, don’t be lured into thinking that your only alternative is a forward facing baby carrier. There is an array of choices that allow you to carry your baby facing you, that are comfortable and healthy for them, and are comfortable and healthy for you as well.