The Myth of the “BAD” Carrier

At least a couple of times a month a parent comes in and says they have a Baby Bjorn or other narrow based baby carrier which they were using, perhaps not comfortably but happily using nonetheless, but now they are worried because they heard that it was “BAD”, “Bad for their babies hips” or even worse that it was “dangerous”.  Once a parent even dissolved into tears because they thought they’d damaged their baby.  As much as I love the internet, I really wish people would stop using it to scare parents.

It is well past time to bust the myth of the BAD carrier. Time and time again I hear sentences like “I’ve been told the Baby Bjorn is bad and only the Ergo holds baby correctly”.  While there are differences between narrow based carriers and more ergonomically designed wider based carriers (of which the Ergo is just one of a great many!)… the most important thing is baby positioning and NOT the carrier they are in.  It is more than possible to get good positioning in a narrow based carrier if you know what you’re looking for, equally if you simply plonk your child in even the most brilliant wide based carrier with no idea what you are looking for it is certainly possible to end up with a suboptimal carry.

So as a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s take a look at what I mean!  My models are the wonderful Cat and William, and William is just 8 weeks old in these pictures (albeit he is quite a tall 8 week old).  Looking first at a narrow based carrier – here we have used the Baby Bjorn Original carrier.

The first two pictures (on the left) were taken just plonking poor William in without paying any attention to his positioning.  Note how his legs hang straight down and this in turn pulls his spine straight.  This means he is bearing the weight of his legs and the weight of his body is resting on his upper thighs and crotch.  Developmentally his spine should be curved into a c shape so the carrier is currently artificially straightening him out.  None of this is dangerous, it’s just all less comfortable for him.  It’s also less comfortable for his Mum as all of his 6kg is resting solely on her shoulders and upper back only.

Now let’s compare this to the two pictures on the right.  Here we have thought carefully about William’s positioning, and how to achieve a better position for him.  First and foremost we have tucked his pelvis so that his weight is resting on his bottom and not on his inner thighs.  To do this Cat literally reached inside the carrier and swept downwards and toward herself to tilt his pelvis such that his bottom is right in the base of the carrier.  Then, because the carrier isn’t wide enough to continue to support him in this position (he could easily re-straighten from this point), we have used a scarf to support his legs in this “spread squat” position (full tutorial on how to do this here).  By supporting his legs so his knees are at least as high as his hips (or higher), he is bearing none of the weight of his own legs and all of his weight is resting quite comfortably on his bottom.  The other knock on effect of this more tucked position is allowing his spine to adopt its natural curved c shape and consequently bringing his head to rest comfortably on his mum’s chest.  The addition of the scarf seems like such a tiny change, but you can see from the photos what a massive difference it makes to how William’s body is positioned in the sling, and consequently to his comfort levels.  And not only his comfort, the scarf also helps give his Mum support at her waist helping to distribute baby’s weight better.

Now let’s take a look a wide based more ergonomic carrier.  Here we have used the newest Ergo model – the Ergo Omni 360.

Again the first two pictures (on the left) were taken just plonking William in, and generally putting the carrier on in the manor most parents do if they haven’t ever been professionally demonstrated a buckle carrier.  You will note the base of the Ergo Omni is much wider and thus William’s legs do not hang down.  But if you zoom in you will see his knees are pointing downward and his weight appears to be resting on his thighs rather than on his bottom.  Likewise, again his back has been artificially straightened out by the carrier.  In this has happened in part because his pelvis is not tilted toward his Mum, and partly because the waistband is too low with respect to Mum – which has ment baby is too low and due to this is straightened out as Mum tightens the straps.

By contrast, the two pictures on the right show optimal positioning.  Again we have performed a pelvic tilt – sweeping William’s pelvis toward his Mum so that he sits directly onto his bottom in the base of the carrier.  We have also raised the carrier’s waistband so that it sits on Cat’s true waist, rather than her hips.  The result is that we can see William’s legs are in a beautiful spread squat, weight is firmly on his bottom and not being carried in his hips or thighs and his back is once again in a beautiful c shape with his head resting comfortably on his mothers chest.  So much more comfortable.  And likewise Mum is more comfortable because, by having the carrier tight and on her true waist, William’s weight is transferred onto her hips.

Again small changes have made all the difference!

While I have shown just two carriers here, the same applies for literally any carrier on the market.  It matters less WHICH carrier you have versus HOW you are using it.  

Don’t get me wrong here – I am not suggesting we all go out and buy Bjorn Originals! There are big big differences between narrow and wide based carriers, in terms of how easy it is to get a great positioning for your baby and a comfortable carry for you.  And in terms of how long those carriers will last you.  Most narrow based carriers such as the Bjorn Original only really work from around 4-6 weeks until around 5-6 months after which they generally become too heavy and too uncomfortable even with the scarf trick.  Whereas the vast majority of wide based carriers will last well until around 2-3 years of age.  In fact you can just how well they fit a 3 year old here.  These wide based carriers do vary in terms of how well they fit a newborn, with many working best from 4-6 months but there are an increasing number on the market that do fit newborns well such as the Ergo Adapt, Ergo Omni, Izmi, Mamaruga Zen sling and Tula free to grow to name a few.  Hence I would always advise anyone purchasing a new buckle carrier to purchase a wide based carrier.

However, many people are given second hand carriers by friends, and often these are narrow based carriers such as the Bjorn Original (in fact, I would say nearly 50% of the time someone brings a sling that they have been given to one of my sessions its a Baby Bjorn Original!).  While I wouldn’t advise spending money on one of these, anyone who is given one shouldn’t feel bad using it.  Yes it won’t last as long as a wide based carrier, and yes it won’t be as comfortable for you as a wide based carrier but it does give you a flavour for carrying your baby!  Following the advice above will make it more comfortable for you and your baby and gives you time to see how carrying your baby works for your family and how it can help you and then you can spend the money on buying your own carrier safe in the knowledge this is something that you’d like to do!  In fact, I have worked with a great many parents who have used a newborn sling such as a stretchy wrap or a Caboo around the home for the fourth trimester period, then used a gifted Bjorn for a couple of months for out and about when their little one is starting to grow out of the stretchy or Caboo developmentally and then move onto a wide based buckle carrier around 5-6 months when baby fits into these better.  Moral of the story – used correctly with a little help from a scarf, a narrow based carrier can have a time and a place.

There is no such thing as a “Bad Carrier”, only poor positioning or a carrier that that doesn’t fit well.  No matter what carrier you have (or if you haven’t bought one yet) the best thing you can do, is go along to a sling library or visit your local consultant and get advice on how best to fit your carrier to you and baby.


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15 thoughts on “The Myth of the “BAD” Carrier

  1. Milena says:

    Sorry, but this is bullshit. I hope you do not teach parents what to use to carry their babies and how to use it…

    • sheenslings says:

      Hi Milena – Thank you for your opinion, and constructive criticism. Might I ask what qualifications you have to back up your stance, or evidence? I am happy to provide you with evidence behind everything I state in this article and my qualifications as a babywearing consultant. I also have a PhD in Immunology, so I fully believe in the importance of evidence, fact based debate and understanding the reasoning and science behind things – which is what I have tried to do here. Simply sayings something is”bad” or “Bullshit” is not helpful to anyone. No one learns from it. It doesn’t help anyone and instead puts a great number of people off carrying and thus all the benefits babywearing provides.

    • sheenslings says:

      Thank you for your opinion Gina. I sincerely invite both you and Milena to come back to me with what specificly you don’t agree with this article. Lets have a open, evidence based debate on this so that new parents can get all the information – pros, cons, benefits and risks and make their OWN choices. Unfortunately single word statements like “Bullshit” or “Bad” are ambiguous and not helpful when it comes to arming people with enough information to navigate the quagmire of conflicting stances can come to their own feelings on what is best for them and their family.

  2. East Surrey Slings says:

    Great post!

    We see so many parents who have been gifted BBs. Although they invariably go on to replace them with something that provides a more optimal fit without adaptations, I agree they can be a very accessible way to start carrying. It’s always lovely when we can empower the parents we see with more comfortable ways of using their gifts for a safe and happy carry! And often rebuild their confidence a little when they’ve been told their carrier is no good…

    • sheenslings says:

      Thank you! And thank you for sharing your experience. Like you I have seen many parents who have had their confidence shaken by being stopped in the street or negative comments in response to a photo posted on Facebook. Its nice when you can help restore this confidence and empower families to carry however is comfortable for them. Often that is a new carrier, but if it helps get them started, then it can’t be all ‘bad’ 😀

  3. Kimberly Nicoletti says:

    Hi Madeline, I’m writing a story for MedTruth on carriers & hip dysplasia and would like to add your overall comment about carriers. My deadline is Monday. Could you provide your last name, and let me know if this represents your opinion accurately:
    While some professionals, like Madeline XXX, Slingababy consultant and research scientist, say the position caregivers place their infants in is much more important than the actual carrier, others, like Erika Krumbeck of do not recommend narrow carriers like Baby Bjorn brand, in particular, because it places excessive force on infants’ hip joints.
    Thank you.

    • sheenslings says:

      Hi Kimberly! Thanks for getting in contact – I will email you directly RE your article in a few moments!

      But for those reading here – yes broadly speaking yes it is my opinion based on my training and my experience that positioning is more important than the carrier. It is more that possible to position a baby in a way that puts their weight on their inner thighs and thus pressure on their hip joints in a wide based carrier. I have seen it happen over and over again, and parents are almost always shocked to discover this because they thought having a wide based carrier meant that they didn’t have to think about positioning at all and that it was automatic!

      However, it is worth noting that I don’t recommend narrow based carriers either. I don’t because it is harder to get and maintain a great positioning, compared to a wide based carrier. It is much much easier to get a good seated position with all of baby’s weight on their bottom and no pressure on the hip joint in a wide based carrier. So for parents who don’t currently have a carrier or who can easily afford to purchase a new carrier I will always recommend a wide based carrier. However, for parents who already have a narrow based carrier I’d rather teach them how to position their baby in a way that protects their hips than suggest they go out and buy something new that they may or may not be able to afford.

  4. tanayajetaime says:

    Hi Madeline, I just want to say how absolutely mind blown I am by this post and a huge THANK YOU!! For the insightful education … based on logic and my limited knowledge already, your points make SO much sense. I’m just annoyed with myself for being ignorant of these things (for my child’s comfort and health) until now.

    So I cannot thank you enough! Knowledge is power and you’ve definitely empowered this mumma with your post 😍🙌 I will be sharing this with everyone! A cup of coffee is the least I can do for your hard work hehe thanks again xx

    • sheenslings says:

      Hi Tanaya!

      Thank you for your kind words and thank you so much for the coffee – so hugely appreciated! I am so glad you found the article helpful and empowering, I am touched as this is exactly what I set out to do. Please don’t be annoyed at yourself for not knowing something, none of us can ever know everything and so much of my why is that I knew none of this when I started! We are all learning together.

      Thank you again and best!

  5. Bernadett Li says:

    Dear Madeleine,

    I have a question. We were gifted a Baby Bjorn carrier before my birth by my midwife friend. I trusted her with the choice and didn’t do my research on the carriers. We have been using it for 2-3 hours/ week since he was born. He is going to be 4 months old next week and i just noticed that sometimes he looks uncomfortable therefore I started to do my research now. I know now that it was a mistake but is it too late to switch to a different kind? I am thinking about buying a cloth that I can tie around me however I see fit but I would like to ask for your opinion which is best for him.

    Thank you in advance!
    Excuse me for any mistakes in grammar ir typos, English is not my first language.


    • sheenslings says:

      Dear Bernadatte

      It is definitely not too late to change to a different carrier at all. And you haven’t made a mistake at all! Using your Bjorn has allowed you and your baby to enjoy the closeness and benefits of babywearing. How could that possibly be a mistake?

      Often Baby Bjorn carriers (depending on model) can actually work quite well for little babies and then they quickly grow out of them and it become less comfortable for both parent and babe… sounds like this is what is starting to happen now. So definitely worth investigating other options that will give you both more support and more flexibility.

      If you would like to explore different options with me, I do offer online consults via Zoom (see the our services tab) and would be able to see you and your little one and make personalised recommendations accordingly as well as showing you different options so you could see how they work in real time.

      Or for a cloth sling I wholeheartedly recommend taking a look at Woven Wraps (rather than Stretchy wraps – at 4 months, stretchy wraps wouldn’t give you much more time before he grew out of them). You can see tutorials and much more information about these under the learning zone tab (in tutorials and frequently asked questions).

      I hope that helps!

  6. William says:

    I recognise myself while reading this article : We have a Baby Bjorn carrier and it’s the second time that we received a comment that baby bjorn is not good and can cause damage to hip… When searching more information on internet, I can see that the subject is blurry and and it’s difficult to have correct information with facts.



    • sheenslings says:

      Hi William – I am sorry you have experienced this issue of people commenting in this way. I hope it didn’t deter you from carrying your little one and enjoying the benefits of babywearing that you get regardless of what carrier you use. I really hope the article help give you the information you need to carry in whatever way works for you and your family. Yes the subject is a bit blurry but your absolutely not damaging your baby by carrying them in a carrier and meeting their needs for security and closeness.
      If I can help in anyway please do ask!

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