Carrying Stories – Juliet

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Juliet’s story….

20180101_132833_resized“I knew I wanted to carry my baby when I first found out I was pregnant. It seemed like a common sense thing to do; aside from the fact that we’d be able to keep going to places we enjoyed that may not be accessible with a buggy, I knew that I would want to keep her close and how this would benefit both of us. In advance of Rosa’s arrival, we bought a stretchy wrap and an Amazonas Smart Carrier. I liked the idea of the stretchy, it seemed soft and snuggly, but Rosa’s dad, Tony, was all about the buckles! When she arrived, I found that I alternated between the two. Whilst I did like the closeness the stretchy wrap provided and used this when I was staying local, the Amazonas was definitely more practical when going out and about and for longer walks.

20180607_110833_resizedRosa put on weight quickly and at around 3 months, I packed the stretchy wrap away. We carried on using the Amazonas, but as Rosa grew and her head control improved, we realised the limitations of it. Tony in particular wanted a carrier that could do a front outward carry (as well as wanting a more neutral colour than the purple, green and cream swirls of the Amazonas!). We went along to Sheen Slings library session and chatted with Madeleine about our options. We ended up borrowing 2 different slings to try – a Lillebaby and an Ergo Omni 360. Whilst we liked both, the Ergo was the winner due to the ease of use. After just a few days of having it, we put in an order for our own brand new one using a gift voucher we’d been given.

IMG_20180422_140246 (1)_resizedImmediately the Ergo became our go-to carrier. I have explored other options since getting it – I have a lovely woven wrap and a ring sling, but I don’t find either to be as easy, comfortable and supportive to use as the Ergo. Luckily, Rosa seems to love it too! We started with front inward carrying and when she was strong enough, started to use the front outward carry for periods too. As we got closer to her 1st birthday and she got heavier, we started to have a go with back carrying and recently, because I find it difficult to get her into a back carry by myself (need to practice more!) I have started doing a hip carry with it so she can see where she is going but can still snuggle in if she wants to.

20180414_111314_resizedTony and I both love carrying Rosa, I think keeping her so close has really helped us all to bond. Rosa seems to love being up at our level, seeing the world as we do and constantly interacting with us (and others who stop and talk to her, which happens a lot!), which you just can’t do in the same way when they’re in the buggy. Tony was out shopping with her recently and she had a hold of some toothpaste. He went over to the counter, she passed it to the cashier and then passed over the card to pay as well! All that interaction will benefit her language and social communication skills no end! Recently, we’ve done trips to the zoo, farm, aquarium and we regularly go out walking in forests and parks. We only ever take the carrier on these trips and always feel a sense of freedom as a result.  Rosa’s always found it easy to sleep in the carrier too and since I have learnt how to breastfeed in it, we can keep on the go whilst meeting all her needs.

20180414_112334 (1)_resizedWe’re dreading the day when Rosa outgrows the Ergo, but rest assured we will be back at the sling library to find a toddler carrier to add to our collection! There are far too many benefits to stop carrying any time soon!

Advertisements

Which Ergo?

Ergobaby carriers are really popular, and it’s very easy to see why.  They are very well made, well designed and fit a wide range of parents and babies.  They don’t fit everyone of course – like any buckle carrier it’s definitely worth trying on before you buy – as different brands fit different body types differently.  As a general rule Ergo’s are on the bulkier side so its worth checking the padding agrees with your shoulders and they can often feel too much on smaller frames.  But for many many people they fit like a dream and for them Ergo carriers represent a fantastic option.

What takes most people by surprise, however, is just how many different models there are!  Over the last few years, Ergo have brought out a new carrier or new variant on one of their existing models out every single year!  Most people coming to the sling library ask me simply if they can try “THE” Ergo, but there are 4 main models and then 3 of these models have mesh versions – 2 of which differ from the non-mesh version in ways other than simply having mesh.  So it does take a bit of thought to work out which model will suit you best.

So what are the differences?  How do I help people work out “Which Ergo?”  There are 3 main factors to consider when comparing each model;

  1. Would you like to use this carrier with a newborn/baby under 4 months old? (While in theory all can be used from newborn, 2 of these models require the use of a bulky infant insert that most parents don’t get on well with, while the other two have a really great adjustable seat which removes the need for any inserts).
  2. Would you like the option to face baby outwards?  (All 4 models offer front facing inwards, hip and back carrying positions, only 2 offer the outward facing position as well).
  3. Would you like the option to cross the straps across the adult’s back? (All models can be worn in ‘Rucksack’ mode, but only 2 give you the option to cross the straps as well).

I also encourage parents to think about budget and how much value they place on each of these considerations, because there is of course a price difference!   And its not insignificant – the difference between answering no to all 3 questions and answering yes to all 3 is currently £55!  With prices in between for each iteration in between.  So its very much worth considering the pros and cons of each carrier in conjunction with the price.

So with all these considerations in mind – lets look at each model in turn…

The Original

  • Requires an infant insert
  • Weight tested from 5.4 kg (12 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb) without the insert, from 3.2 kg (7 lb) with the insert
  • Does not offer a facing outwards position
  • Straps can not be worn crossed across parents back
  • Has an absolutely huge pocket that will easily fit a nappy or two, wipes and a few other essentials
  • Cost £99.90*

Where the Ergo Original really shines is for babies aged 6 months to ~2 years. Its the simplest, and cheapest of all the Ergo models and it is a great carrier for older babies through to toddlers. It has a slightly shorter back panel than the other models (as it doesn’t have a fold up head support that also acts to extend the panel) so it won’t last quite as long as each of the others but it will nonetheless last well into toddler-hood.  While the Original can be used for newborns, it requires the addition of the Easy Snug Infant insert – which in all honestly is a faff, pretty darn hot and seems to confuse literally every parent I’ve ever met.  If you want a carrier you can use from the beginning, I would avoid anything with an infant insert.  The newest version of this model now features the same amazing lumbar support panel as seen on the Adapt and the Omni. Previous versions of this model just had webbing only, and the lumbar support is a nice addition.

Mesh Version – Ergo are not currently selling a mesh version of the Original carrier.  They did sell a mesh version in the past (I think it was called the Ergo Performance), but this is no longer on the market.

 

The All Position 360

  • IMG_2452Requires an infant insert
  • Weight tested from 5.4 kg (12 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb) without the insert, from 3.2 kg (7 lb) with the insert
  • Adjustable head support
  • Does offer forward facing carrying position
  • Straps can not be worn crossed across parents back
  • Has a wide Velcro waistband
  • Cost £134.90*

The 360 is the model I am most frequently asked for – it’s the one everyone has heard of!  It’s not necessarily the one people most frequently go onto buy, however!  Like the Original it needs the bulky hot infant insert to carry a newborn, so this is a carrier that works best from ~4 or 5 months.  It has a slightly narrower seat than the Original so does tend to work a bit earlier, typically from 4-5 months rather than ~6 months for the Original.  It also has a longer back panel, because the head support can be used to extend the length of the panel, which means this carrier will often last a little longer too – typically until around 2.5 years, maybe even 3 years with a relatively petite child.

What’s really popular about this carrier is the deep ‘bucket’ style seat for the baby, which gives an excellent position for babies in both the parent facing and the facing outwards position.  Swapping between the two carrying positions is as simple as switching over a couple of buttons (“When facing away, go to Grey!”).

IMG_2455The two things that can be less popular are the waist band and the ruck sack style shoulder straps.  The 360 has a very wide Velcro waistband.  Some parents absolutely love this waistband as they find it fits them better because of how wide and form fitting it is, and how it’s continuous and thus there isn’t any webbing to dig etc.  However, the vast majority don’t find they get a better fit with the Velcro, find more traditional webbing easier to tighten correctly and dislike the noise and clothes ruining potential that comes with Velcro!  I can’t count how many times that Velcro has woken babies up during Sling Library sessions – it can be really annoying!  For the straps, again like the Original, the straps do not cross across the parents back on the All Position 360.  Many parents really struggle to get the chest strap done up on their back and thus opt for the Omni 360 or another carrier to avoid this struggle!  However, if the Velcro waist or the Ruck sack straps put you off, don’t despair as both the next two models have these sorted!

All in all the 360 is a good option if your baby is 4-5 months plus, you’d like to be able to forward face, you like velcro and have flexible shoulders allowing you to easily do up the chest strap.

Mesh VersionAll Position 360 Cool Air Mesh, cost £144.90*

Interestingly, the 360 Cool Air does not have the Velcro waist band.  Instead, it has webbing and the same lovely lumbar support found on the Adapt and Omni 360.  The shape of the carrier and the shoulder straps and everything else remain unchanged, its just the waist band that differs.  The waist band, and of course the presence of Ergo’s “Cool Air Mesh”.  As mesh goes, this is very very soft and not at all scratchy.  Although there isn’t really that much of it.  Only the upper panel, the leg padding and one side of the shoulder straps (the side touching the parent) has been replaced with mesh.  So the jury is out on how much cooler this carrier is verses the standard cotton version.

 

The Adapt

  • 20170906_173009Adjustable seat – no infant insert
  • Weight tested from 3.2 kg (7 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb)
  • Adjustable head support
  • Does not offer a facing outwards position
  • Straps can be worn crossed across parents back
  • Lumbar support
  • Cost £119.90*

This is my favourite of the Ergo models.  It was the first Ergo to offer the amazing lumbar support panel and to offer the option to cross the straps across the wearers back.  These two things make such a difference to parent comfort and ease of use for me.  I am not very flexible and have always struggled to do up the chest strap on the Original and the 360 so at last having an Ergo where I could cross the straps and avoid that strap altogether was a big deal for me!  Although my one and only bug bear about the lumbar support is that it is not removable and it does look a bit funny across your tummy when carrying baby on your back.  That said it is supremely comfy and feels a bit like wearing a tummy support!  But out of vanity I’d probably remove it if I could for back carrying!!  The other reason this is my favourite model is the adjustable seat.  It adjusts using velcro within the carrier and poppers on the outside… to give an absolutely beautiful fit to any baby from about 4-6 weeks old all the way through till 2-2.5 years old.  The bucket shape of the seat make it so easy for parents to get a good positioning and super comfortable carry for both them and their little one.

The one thing the Adapt doesn’t do is allow baby to face forwards.  It offers 3 carrying positions – front facing inwards, hip and back carry.  For both my children these 3 positions have always been enough, neither have really needed or wanted to forward face.  If your debating the pros and cons of forward facing this article might help!  However, if you want to forward face but like all the advantages of the Adapt over the All Position 360 then the Omni is most likely the carrier for you.

Mesh VersionAdapt Cool Air Mesh, cost £129.90*

The Adapt is available in a mesh version, and unlike the 360 and the Omni there are no differences (aside from mesh of course!) between the mesh and cotton versions of the Adapt.  A large proportion of the carrier is replaced with mesh and a very soft mesh, so I would expect this carrier to be a fair bit more breathable than the cotton version, and worth considering if you travel a lot, have a summer born baby and/or someone who finds they get hot easily.

 

The Omni 360

  • IMG_20170828_230307_088Adjustable seat – no infant insert
  • Weight tested from 3.2 kg (7 lb) to 20 kg (45 lb)
  • Adjustable head support
  • Does offer forward facing carrying position
  • Straps can be worn crossed across parents back
  • Lumbar support
  • Cost £154.90*

The Omni really is the model that offers absolutely everything.  It has a super simple and intuitively easy to adjust seat, which is very similar to the Adapt and allows this carrier to be realistically used for babies from  4-6 weeks old all the way to 2-2.5 years.  The size adjustment is done via Velcro tabs, which are conveniently colour coded to help you know how to size it for your baby as they grow.   Like the All Positions 360, the Omni can be used for forward facing and has the same buttons which allow it to be simply switched from inward to outward facing modes (“When facing away, go to Grey!”).  Like the Adapt it has the lovely lumbar support panel and the option to cross the straps across parents back for increased parent comfort.  It also has safety buckles at the sides, which can be easily opened with one hand (once you’ve got the knack!)  And a detachable zippered pocket on the waist band.

The one and only thing it doesn’t have is a small price tag!  But then that is the price of everything and for many parents the improved parent comfort verses the 360 and the ability to forward face compared with the Adapt makes the extra price tag worth it.  It’s worth paying the extra if it means you get more use out of the sling.

Mesh VersionOmni 360 Cool Air Mesh, cost £129.90*

The main difference with this version (other than the presence of mesh) is that the buttons that you use to switch between inward and outward facing carrying positions have been replaced with sliders.  While the buttons are a nice intuitively easy system for switching they are a bit fiddly to do with one hand and thus hard to do while holding baby or with baby still in the carrier.  The sliders on the other hand are dead easy to change with one hand – you just push.  Its a fab update and one I hope will be rolled out onto the other 360 models in the future.

 

All in all Ergo have 4 great carriers and its worth spending a few minutes considering the differences so you can ensure you can get the one that suits your needs and budget!  Ergo do also make a stretchy wrap which is lovely for newborns and as a soft around the home sling.  You can read more about their wrap here.

 

-Madeleine

*Please note all prices quoted here are based on RRP, and are correct as of April 2018.  Ergo and other stockists do offer sales from time to time and the RRP may well change overtime so please don’t take these prices as Gospel!

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.  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.

-Madeleine

 

IMG_20180101_093641

 

The Facts about Forward Facing

Carrying babies forward facing (looking outwards toward the world) is something I get asked more questions about than anything else.  So many different questions on this topic.  The reason is simple – there is a lot of conflicting opinions on this and even more conflicting information.  A disturbing amount of this information comes from articles originally written by carrier manufacturers who either did or didn’t make forward facing carriers and was motivated by marketing. Very very little of it has any evidence to back it up.  So its no surprise that often parents are left pretty confused about whats best for them and their child.

So here are some of the questions I am asked and the facts to be aware of when deciding whats best for you and your little one;

Is forward facing dangerous? Nope.  There is absolutely no evidence to suggest forward facing your baby is in anyway dangerous, so long as they are developmentally ready and awake.  These carriers have all undergone safety testing – they simply would not have passed if there was evidence that forward facing could harm your baby.

IMG_2454

Rachel aged 7 months in the Ergo 360

The better question is – Is forward facing comfortable? While not remotely dangerous, its hard to get as comfortable position forward facing verses facing inwards.  Both for your child and for you.  For your child this is simply because the forward facing position in most carriers offers less support.  Less support for their legs, less support for their neck and upper bodies and as their backs are against you they are often slightly flattened out verses how they’d be either in arms or facing toward you.  None of this is dangerous, nor even uncomfortable in the short-term but but if worn for longer periods they might start to become less comfortable over time.  Think of it a bit like being in a rock climbing harness, completely fine for short periods you wouldn’t want to be in it all day every day.

For you the parent, forward facing is less comfortable as it puts the child’s centre of gravity further away from you.  We load bear best by holding weight high and tight to our own centre of gravity – when baby is inward facing the weight is held very close to our centre gravity.  In contrast, when facing forwards baby’s weight is held slight away and thus feels heavier and puts more strain on the parents body.  Again not a problem for shorter periods, and worth listening to your own body and reading babies cues when forward facing to ensure comfort levels on either side aren’t exceeded.

Is forward facing better for my child’s development?  Nope.  Again there is absolutely no evidence to support this at all.  I completely understand why people might think this would be the case, forward facing allows the child to look out and therefore perhaps ‘gain a better view’.  However, there is no evidence that this is helpful to a baby.  In fact there are several lines of research suggesting parent’s facial expressions are key in infant learning. This is called ‘social referencing’;  in new situations or experiences babies look to their parents or primary caregivers and watch their reactions first.  I.e. when someone picks up my daughter she immediately looks at me, if I smile she smiles and is happy to be held.  While if she can’t see me or I don’t smile she immediately cries.  She is using me as a touchstone to reassure her in this new situation.  Similarly as she begins to eat solid food, if I am eating it, she wants to eat it…. if I am not eating it, she has no interest!  Looking to our parents and watching their facial cues is an evolutionary driven imperative, it allows the infant to judge if a situation is safe or dangerous.  I.e. if my daughter reaches for something and I look alarmed … she knows its dangerous.  It also helps babies determine what is important/interesting, i.e. say she is looking at a new toy she also looks at me – am I looking at the toy? Do I find the toy interesting too?  Thus when holding or wearing our babies its important for their learning that they can see our faces.  When facing out they can’t, they don’t need to see our faces all the time so its fine but this idea that perhaps facing out is better for learning is certainly false.

Its also worth noting that in a well fitting inward facing carrier where baby is able to turn their head easily, they should still be able to get a really good view of the world.  And its worth considering how good a view they need – how well can they actually see?  Its interesting to note that while their eye sight is developing rapidly, children don’t generally reach full adult 20:20 vision until somewhere between 3-5 years of age!  In fact babies lack the ability to see in 3D until depth perception starts to develop somewhere around 5 months.

IMG_2451When can I start forward facing my baby?  When a) they have excellent head control and upper back strength and b) they are big enough to comfortably fit the carrier you have for them.

I prefer to explain this in terms of developmental markers rather than age because different babies will reach this sooner or later than others, and its more important that babies have reached this developmental stage than arbitrarily be over a certain age.  The reason they need excellent head control and upper back strength is simply because when forward facing the carrier is unable to provide any head support.  And because they are facing outwards their head and uppermost torso isn’t even supported by your body either.  So they need to be able to hold these up for themselves.  And its it needs to be rock solid – I remember my daughter went through a distinct ‘nodding dog’ stage where she could mostly hold her own head but she looked a little bit like one of those nodding dogs.  No nodding dogs!!…  we need rock solid.

Comfortably fitting the carrier you have for them is different between different brand carriers.  Some are bigger than others, and so the baby needs to be older/physically bigger before they can be used in the forward facing mode compared to other smaller brands.  Rachel and I are working on a full comparison of the forward facing carriers in the library, which will include more information on this…  But what you are looking for when trying carriers on is that baby is not over extended – that their backs are not really flattened out and over extended in order to look over the panel and equally their in a good sitting position with legs not over spread or conversely under supported.  When trying carriers on trust your gut – does baby look comfortable or overly straightened?

IMG_4536

Tom at 10 months old in the Lillebaby Complete, making friends at the Chinese New Year Celebrations in Trafalgar Square

How long can I forward face my child for?  Several manufactures suggest a time limit for forward facing.  This is something I find fascinating, because babies are all different and they are different on different days!  Some days my children would have been happy forward facing for an hour, other days they’d have got fed up of it after 5-10 minutes.  So far better to read their cues than work off an arbitrary time limit.  And it really is arbitrary because as far as I can tell, unlike the limits set for car seats which were set based on research and understanding of optimal infant positioning, these are suggested not based on any researched or evidence but in response to articles written by companies who didn’t make forward facing carriers and were suggesting that it was ‘dangerous’.  So the companies who did make forward facing responded by suggesting it was ‘safe’ so long as under an arbitrary time limit.

Confused?  I know I was!  So what cues are we looking for in deciding how long to forward face your child on any given day?  Babies enjoy forward facing best when they are wide awake and at their most playful and alert.  So we are looking to time around this phase, and as mentioned how long this phase will last will be different on different days!  We are then looking to turn baby inward before they get tired, as they are becoming less playful, less alert,… long before they are actually tired we want to bring them inward.  When forward facing, babies don’t have the ability to snuggle in if everything becomes too much, so we run the risk of over stimulation and ultimately over tiredness.  The best way to avoid over stimulation is to turn baby in long before they get tired.  This gives them the option to snuggle in and helps them process, and ultimately should help them get that all important nap when they need it!  We all know the pain of a missed nap!

Does it matter if my baby falls asleep while forward facing?  Yes. Unfortunately, there is no head support for baby while forward facing which means if they fall asleep and their head starts to loll there is nothing to help support their head.  If this does happen please check their airway – check that as their head lolls it doesn’t loll over the top of the carrier.

In an ideal world you’d turn your baby inward long before they started to fall asleep, but accidental naps do happen!!  So best practise would be as soon as you notice that baby is falling asleep you’d turn them inward.  While I understand it is obnoxious to move a sleeping baby, the forward facing mode is really only designed for babies who can hold their heads up and are awake enough to be able to hold their heads up.

But my baby isn’t happy in their Caboo/stretchy wrap, they are nosy and want to be able to see and only forward facing will let them do this.  I completely get this, the vast majority of parents coming to me considering forward facing are those whose babies are starting to grow out of the Caboo or Stretchy wrap.  As I have discussed at length before both the Caboo and stretchy wraps are amazing for newborns, but parents often feel ready to move onto something else when babies leave the 4th trimester and go through that huge developmental leap where there are sleeping less and more interested in the surrounding world.  These slings are pretty confining, they are like swaddling, so it not a big surprise that babies might grow out of them developmentally around the same time they grow out of swaddling.  However, please don’t mistake this restlessness in a stretchy wrap or Caboo – where the sides of the sling come up high close to baby’s face – to mean your baby particularly wants or need to forward face.  Instead swapping baby to a carrier where the fabric doesn’t pass beyond the top of the shoulder blades – giving baby the freedom to turn their head this way and that unfettered – is usually more than enough to cure this new-found restlessness in slings.

21013881_1288986917896999_3133343590819235261_oIts also worth noting that forward facing is not the only alternative for a nosy baby.  Most slings and carriers also offer positions on the carers hip or back.  In general, for a buckle carrier, the hip position can be used once baby has good head control.  From here baby can see outward and get just as good a view of the world as they would forward facing, but they can also see the parents face for social referencing.  They can easily tuck in towards the parent when they start to become tired and naturally fall asleep, and they are fully supported in a very ergonomic position.  Its also possible to wear a younger baby on the hip in a ring sling or woven wrap or even a stretchy wrap, provided that the sling is worn in a way that supports the baby’s neck.  Often a muslin rolled into the wrap or sling is perfect for this – providing support behind the babies neck but still allowing them to move and be as nosy as they like!

img_8713The other alternative is to wear baby on your back.  Once they are tall enough to see over your shoulder they can get the same view as forward facing on your front, but it is more comfortable for you the parent as we load bear much better placing weight on our back verses carrying weight on our fronts.  Like the hip carry, it also gives the child the option to tuck in and fall asleep when needed.  For a buckle carry, this position can be used once the baby is able to sit independently or is very very close to being able to sit independently.  So in theory often from 6 or 7 months old, however, most 6 or 7 months old can’t see over their parents shoulders yet and thus are usually less impressed with this position.  Instead back carrying in a buckle carrier comes into its own from around 1 year old.  However, it is possible to carry younger babies on the back – my choice for this is a woven wrap because it is possible to wear babies up much higher so they can see over your shoulder right from the beginning and because they can be tightened to give better support enabling a baby who is not yet able to sit independently be worn on the back without fear of slumping etc.

It is also worth considering how long the forward facing phase lasts for.  As discussed above, babies can be worn forward facing once they have excellent neck and upper torso strength.  This is typically around 4 months (although this can vary a lot, anywhere from 3 months to 6 depending on the individual child).  Interestingly, around 8-10 months most babies seem to grow out of forward facing.  They are less interested and/or equally happy or even more happy in a inward facing carry.  Also around this time they get a lot heavier and the extra strain of forward facing starts to become too heavy for the parent.  Consequently, this is also often when parents start thinking about switching over to back carrying instead.  So the forward facing carrying phase is actually pretty short, typically only 4 to 5 months.  When you consider the majority of forward facing carriers are designed to be used from birth all the way to 2 or even 3 years old – the forward facing phase is only actually quite a small percentage of the total life of a carrier.

IMG_20170828_230307_088

Rachel aged 8 months in the Ergo Omni 360

Finally its worth considering cost and your budget.  Generally speaking you’ll pay a premium for forward facing. So its worth weighing all the information above up and decide how much you might use the forward facing position and how much it is worth to you.  How much are we talking?  Depends on which carriers but for example the new Ergo Omni 360 is £155 verses the Ergo Adapt (which does not offer forward facing but is a very similar carrier to the Omni in every other way) at £110.  So in this case the ability to face forward is costing £45.  Most forward facing carriers are around the £120-£150 mark.  While carriers lacking this function (but offering all the other positions, and a great many other features etc) are typically in the £75-100 region.  The exceptions to this are the Izmi priced at £75 and the Beco Gemini at £99… but these are a fair bit smaller than other forward facing carriers such as the Ergo 360s, the Lillebaby Complete, the Beco 8, the Mountain buggy Juno etc etc and thus while they do cost less they are unlikely to last your baby quite as long.  Deciding on whether its “worth it” or not is really a personal choice and depends a good deal on the personal preferences of both you and your child!  This can be where hiring a carrier for a couple of weeks and trying it out in your normal day to day life can really help.  I’ve had parents who’ve tried it out and decided that forward facing is a position they really love and use frequently and likewise I’ve had parents that to their surprise have found that they barely used the forward facing position.  For the latter group many went on to choose another carrier that didn’t offer the forward facing position and saved themselves a good deal of money. While those in the former group invariably were able to happily go and spend the extra money safe it the knowledge that it would be worth it for them.

-Madeleine