One question I get from my clients or friends who are having babies for the first time is this: what do physical therapists think about baby carriers such as the BabyBjorn, slings, or wraps? They also wonder if baby carriers really lead to hip problems.
There are now more carrier choices than ever before, which makes the decision of which carrier to choose that much harder.
Here are the things physical therapists look out for when it comes to choosing baby carriers:
1) Baby Position – Does the carrier let your baby keep her joints in a natural position? For example, young babies have a naturally flexed position, meaning their back is round, their hips and knees bent, and their heads need to be supported. When she is a little older and can hold her head up on her own, she can face outward and interact with the world a little more. A carrier that lets her do that is optimal. Just like with any other baby equipment (crib, boppy, car seat, bouncer, etc), pay close attention to any asymmetries when your baby is in any sort of carrier. Babies aren’t meant to be in the same position for a long period of time. If the carrier only allows them to face to the right or left, then be sure to switch them in and out of that position frequently.
2) Parent Posture – The same thought of proper positioning goes for parents as well. The point of baby carriers is to make life easier for you, not create unnecessary back strain, shoulder soreness, or neck cramps. Carriers with asymmetrical, off to the side, designs should be used with care, and the sides should be alternated frequently. Carriers that do not offer enough adult back support to accommodate for growing babies will do more harm than good in the long run.
3) Carrier Material – Along the same lines, baby carriers should focus on one thing: comfort, for parent and baby. Soft padding is essential to protect the parent’s shoulders and back. Ultra-soft material should be in contact with baby’s skin. Avoid hard fabrics, buckles, or insertions that place pressure on your trunk or rubs on the baby’s limbs.
For everything else, it really is based on your needs and what you want to get out of your baby carrier; whether it’s for hiking outdoors or just getting things done around the house. While there is no medical research indicating one type of carrier contributing to hip dysplasia in babies more than others, certain positions are better for hip alignment.