There are so many wonderful benefits of babywearing. From supporting baby’s natural posture to reducing infant crying, strengthening the bond between baby and her caregivers and more, using a baby carrier is a win-win for you and your baby, emotionally, cognitively and physically.
But if you’ve never used a baby carrier, everything is new and unknown. What kind of ergonomic baby carrier should you use? When can you start using a baby carrier? What about baby carrier safety and hip dysplasia?
Here are the basic things you need to know about using a baby carrier.
1. You can start using a baby carrier from day one.
Some parents think they can’t use a baby carrier until their baby is 6 weeks old or older, or they choose to wait until then. But you can take a baby carrier with you to the hospital and use it the day your baby is born, as long as they weigh at least seven (7) pounds. It’s important for babies to maintain a close connection with mom and dad right from the start. And while you can get that closeness by holding your baby in your arms, it’s not convenient to hold your baby four-plus hours a day. But using a baby carrier is. Additionally, it’s a great way to get in the benefits of skin-to-skin contact from the start. Be sure your baby meets the minimum weight requirement for your baby carrier, and in some cases, you’ll need to use an infant insert until he reaches a certain weight.
2. Do research on different baby carriers.
There are so many types of baby carriers out there. The most popularly-used ones today are wraps, slings, soft-structured (often referred to as “buckle” and Mei Tai baby carriers. Research types and safety reviews online, ask family and friends about baby carriers they use and go check out different types of baby carriers in stores before purchasing one.
3. Know the different baby carrying positions and when to use them.
The main baby carrying positions include:
- Front inward facing
- Front outward facing
- Hip carry
- Back carry.
Your baby’s weight, age and developmental stage will determine when it’s appropriate to use the different baby carrying positions. You, of course, want to check your owner’s manual to be sure you follow its minimum weight and age requirements, but the following is about when you can typically start using the four different carrying positions based on age:
- Front inward facing: 0+ months
- Front outward facing: 4-6+ months (Baby’s neck needs to be strong enough to hold up his head, so this could mean as early as 4 months or not until he’s 6 months old.)
- Hip carry: 6+ months
- Back carry: 6+ months
4. Know how to practice safe babywearing.
Nothing matters more to you than making sure your baby is loved and protected. You want to keep your baby safe while in her baby carrier, and you want to feel safe and comfortable while using the baby carrier.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of baby carrier safety:
Carry your baby in the correct position.
This means keeping him sitting upright with his neck fully supported, airways open, chin off his chest, as well as close against you and higher up on your torso. You should be able to bend down and kiss his sweet, little head.
Sit baby in an ergonomic position.
Your baby should be sitting in a natural wide-leg, spread-squat position with her knees higher than her bum, think an M or frog leg shape. This ergonomic carrier position supports your baby’s spine, hips and legs to help prevent hip dysplasia.
Secure all carrier fasteners.
Make sure any buckles, snaps, wraps, etc., are securely fastened or locked to keep baby safe and secure inside the carrier.
Check fabric for wear and tear.
Fabric tears and holes could make the baby carrier unsafe to use.
Be more cautious and alert.
Because your center of gravity changes when you wear your baby, your chances of falling can increase. Be more aware of your surroundings and careful when on or nearby stairs, slippery surfaces, curbs and other tripping hazards.
Being so close against you, it can be easy for your baby to overheat inside his baby carrier. Be mindful of the season, outside and inside temperatures (depending on where you’ll be), what you’re wearing and what you’ll be doing so you can appropriately dress your baby.
Don’t lie down while using a baby carrier.
Babies need to stay in an upright position in their baby carrier, so if you need to lie down, take your baby out of her carrier first.
Don’t bend at your waist.
If you need to bend down, bend at your knees so your baby stays in an upright position.
Don’t use a baby carrier while biking, running, skiing, snowboarding, etc.
Light physical activity like walking, hiking and even babywearing yoga are fine, but intense physical activity should be avoided while using your baby carrier because it’s unsafe for your baby and can be for you, too.
Don’t drink hot liquids or eat hot foods.
Getting cookie crumbs on your baby’s head is no big deal, but you’d never want to accidentally spill hot coffee or soup on your baby’s sensitive head. Be mindful of what you drink and eat while babywearing.
5. Practice using the baby carrier before putting your baby in it.
Once you have your baby carrier, don’t immediately put your newborn inside of it. You first need to get used to your carrier. Practice taking it on and off, adjusting it and testing out the different positions. Use a baby doll or teddy bear if you want. Even once you feel comfortable, have a spotter nearby lending a helping hand the first time you use your baby carrier with your baby and keep one hand supporting your baby. Baby carriers aren’t as tricky as they seem, especially if you’ve read the owner’s manual and watched instructional videos, but you will feel more comfortable the more you practice. You got this!