Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why I don't like forward facing carriers

I am not sure what happened to this part of my blog but it somehow disappeared. Thanks to the sweet mama who alerted me that it was missing! Here it is again. (this does need updating with the newest pics and info so I'll be back tonight to fix that!)

Question: But my baby LOVES to face out! What carrier is best?
Answer: None of them!
I don’t recommend forward facing carries. Here is a very informative article from Boba site to explain why.
Bjorns and other similar carriers are what we call crotch danglers. The baby is being dangled by his or her crotch which is a position that is at best uncomfortable for mom and/or baby but at worst can cause problems with your baby's hip and spinal development.
I guess I should clarify, it is a bad idea to wear your baby facing out all the time or for long periods of time. There are three main reasons (and a 4th reason why the other carriers are better than a Bjorn) so be prepared for a long read!

One reason is babies do better being able to turn away from their surroundings. Facing out they are stuck being overstimulated and can't turn into the comfort of mom's chest if they need to get away from it all. This is a quote from the FAQ on the Ergo website:
The ERGObaby carrier is designed in compliance with the recommendations of Dr. Evelin Kirkilionis, and SHOULD NEVER BE WORN WITH THE BABY FACING OUT. According to Kirkilionis:"Infants in outward-facing orientations can’t turn away from surrounding stimuli. They can't turn inward toward a parent's body if stimuli become overwhelming. In this position the baby cannot make eye contact with his or her parent to evaluate facial expressions, social cues, and so forth to make assessment of the situation. Only choose a baby carrier that allows your child to face you ... never out. There are too many events going on around your baby. A baby has no way to exclude himself from the environment by turning his head away and towards you. Healthy sleep is difficult for a baby who is facing outward. I am not a supporter of the outward facing method of carrying a child." From - A Baby Wants To Be Carried by Dr. Eveline Kirkilionis (available in German) Dr. Kirkilionis is a human development specialist who has researched babywearing since 1985.

Another reason is that in many carriers like a Bjorn the area that supports the baby from below is too narrow so the baby dangles by his crotch instead of sitting on his bum in the carrier. This pinches nerves and arteries in the legs and creates pressure points in the spine, neither of which are good for growing babies. Babies should sit in a pocket of fabric made by the carrier position and their knees should be inline or above their rear. See the difference? (look at the babies' legs)
Beco carrier

Bjorn carriers

The third reason is that it is really uncomfortable for mom. With a better carrier, moms can wear babies for hours but in a forward facing carry, your center of gravity is thrown off. You are supporting baby using your shoulders which pulls on your back and you will give up wearing quickly since it is painful and tiring.

Finally, most carriers like the Bjorn can only be used one way: a front carry. A better carrier like the Beco or the Ergo can be used on the front, back, and hip. Also the Bjorns are rated to 26lbs on their website (not that you can actually use them that long--they will kill your back around 15lbs!) but the other carrier types can be worn up to 35-45 lbs--and they ACTUALLY can be used to that weight! I can put my 42lb 6 year old in my Ergo and wear her if I wanted to (not that I do that often!) I like having options.
Here is a great comparison chart I found.

I do want to say that I am in no way an expert. This is just the info I have read and what I have experienced with my own children. I used a Snugli exactly ONCE with my older daughter because it hurt my back and I so wish I had this info when she was little so I could have experienced the real joy of baby wearing.

So can you NEVER do forward facing carries? No, of course not! I did them. But I wouldn't buy a carrier if that is basically the only option. I did forward facing carries in pouches and wraps for short periods of time. In a pouch, I froggied her legs and she leaned her back against my chest; this was done before she was 4 months or so because after that she was too big. There are also a few SSC that allow for forward facing carries in a better position, like the Beco Gemini or the Pikkolo by Catbird Baby. I still don't recommend using facing out carries exclusively. Both the Gemini and the Pikkolo can be worn facing in and on the back unlike the Bjorn.

Question: What about just making sure my baby faces in in the Bjorn? Is it OK then?
Answer: Nope!
It still dangles the baby in an unnatural position. Here is an interesting article about the dangers of crotch dangling from another point of view. Workers who have to use harnesses have problems with crotch dangling too! I am not saying your baby is going to die from using these types of carriers obviously but the circulation problem explained here is concerning. Read the part that talks about suspension trauma.

Question: Is it really THAT bad? I just don't buy it. My baby is comfortable or he/she would be crying. I used it with my first baby and he/she is fine.
Answer: You don't have to buy it.
But I have done enough research that I am convinced. I am not the only one who feels this way either but don't take my word for it. Do your own research. Decide for yourself what is right for you and your baby.