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.