Since the dawn of civilization, parents have donned their babies—taking them as they foraged for food and traveled on foot.
Today, babywearing is now a common fashion accessory for parents with little ones. It’s not just the “crunchy granola” parents toting them around anymore—they’ve gone mainstream. Some parents are ditching strollers completely in favor of carriers to lug their babies and toddlers around.
One reason for this, is that science is finally catching up with cultural and anecdotal wisdom. “Baby carriers have many benefits,” said Suzanne Clinton, a registered nurse and program outreach manager at Banner Health Women and Infant Services. “They can help prevent crying and soothe the baby, promote attachment and bonding between parent and baby, aid in baby’s development and it sure makes it easier to travel and have your hands free.”
As popularity continues, so do the number of options. With options ranging from slings and carriers to stretchy wraps, you may wonder where to begin.
Tips for Finding the Perfect Fit
If you are scoping out baby carriers, here are some tips to help guide you to the perfect fit.
Age and weight considerations. Many structured baby carriers require babies to be at least six months old to ensure they have sufficient neck muscle stability. Some carriers do accommodate for this with special inserts, but Clinton does warn parents about the risk of suffocation.
“When using any type of baby carrier, ensure your baby’s airway is open and their face isn’t covered, at all, to prevent suffocation,” she said. “Read the instructions carefully and double-check the weight restrictions before using. Some max out at 35-40 pounds.”
Special note: If your baby was born premature or spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, they may not have the muscle strength to keep their airways open in an unsupported position. Check with your child’s pediatrician before placing them in one.
Try before you buy. If you have access to a baby store or big box store that sells wraps, slings, and carriers, go and test run a few. While some carriers can easily adjust to your body size, some need to be specially sized. Although wraps can be worn in many different ways, it can take a little bit longer to get the hang of them. Testing them out can give you a good idea of which types you like.
Wide seat for baby. When selecting a carrier, make sure it allows for your baby’s legs to be in the hip-healthy “M” position—with their knees higher than their bottom. The reason for this is to reduce your child’s risk of hip dysplasia.
“Some baby carriers can place the baby’s hips in an unhealthy position, especially when used for extended periods of time,” Clinton said. “Any device that restrains their legs in an unhealthy position should be considered a potential risk for abnormal hip development. When in doubt, discuss with your doctor.”
If you’ve found a carrier you love but aren’t sure if it’ll be right for your baby, the International Hip Dysplasia Institute has a list of approved hip-healthy products.
Make sure it can be washed. Let’s face it, babies and kids are messy. There are bound to be a few spit-ups and blowouts in your future. It’s in your best interest to make sure the carrier is machine washable.
Safety first. As with anything in life—there’s a wrong way and a right way. After you’ve selected a baby carrier, don’t forget to follow T.I.C.K.S to ensure your baby is safe:
- Tight enough to hug your baby
- In view at all times
- Close enough to kiss
- Keep their chin off their chest
- Support their back
You Got This!
While you have so many things to consider when you’re having your first baby, don’t let the stress of finding a baby carrier overwhelm you. Follow your gut about which carrier is right for you and your baby. Rest assured, you’ll find the perfect fit.
Still have questions or concerns? Reach out to a Banner Health pediatrician or bannerhealth.com.