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Nine Reasons Not to Carry Your Baby Facing Out
Dr. Catherine Fowler of Australia, as reported by CBS.com in 2011, made a comment that parents who face their babies out are “cruel and selfish“. Actually for the record she said they were “inadvertantly cruel”. I am not here to judge you ladies and gentleman; a walk around the block with your baby in the forward facing position will probably not wreak havoc on your child’s development or health. I don’t think any parents holding their little ones are cruel. But when you start to think maybe your baby should change perspectives and face the world head on, here are some reasons to consider for not letting your baby face out:
Carrying your baby facing out…
1. does not support your baby’s legs.
Your baby’s upper legs should be pulled up to at least hip level, if not higher. This is possible only if the fabric in a baby carrier covers the whole back of the thigh to the backside of the knee, or if the carrier has footstraps. When your baby is facing forward with legs unsupported, it isn’t that his legs are simply dangling – his spine and hips are unsupported too and there is simply nowhere for baby to “sit”.
Check out this medical research by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute and the infant biomechanics of different types of baby carriers. A baby carrier that supports the upper legs encourages proper hip development. Front facing carriers do not support little hips. Those babies already diagnosed with DDH should steer clear of front-facing carriers.
2. makes it tough for the wearer to carry the baby.
It’s much harder to carry something that curves away from your body than something that embraces your body. With a front-facing carrier, the wearer has an awkward load and often ends up arching her back to compensate. Babies’ bodies are naturally adapted to being carried facing you.
3. places your baby in an arched or hollow back position which places pressure on the spine.
Extending the back (like arching after waking from a nap), is not injurious or “bad” in and of itself. The problem arises when you compress a “hollow back” under a load. Placing an infant in a front-facing carrier stretches the naturally convex rounded curve (see infant spinal development in upright transport paper) of his spine into a hollow back position. With nothing to cling to, weak abdominal muscles, and retracted shoulders, the infant’s pelvis tilts backwards and is forced to not only carry weight of his own body but also to absorb the force of every step that the carrying individual takes- all on his little compromised spine.
3. places undue pressure on groin and may chafe the inner thighs of your baby.
Chaffing is no fun. Being suspended by their most sensitive parts is not ideal for babies, especially for little boys.
4. may overstimulate your baby.
Babies can face their parents and still experience the world around them while taking it in at their own pace. It is very easy for a small infant to become overwhelmed.
5. doesn’t support the head or the neck.
Positional asphyxia is possible when babies have no neck control and their chins fall toward their chests. Little babies should never be placed in a position that can compromise their airways. The US Consumer Products Safety Commission recently passed a law that the warning labels of forward-facing carriers must state that babies should not face out until adequate head/neck control is acheived. The law does not extend to sleeping infants even though they don’t have control of their necks or heads while snoozing.
6. makes thermoregulation more difficult.
The flexed position a baby assumes on his mother’s chest when facing her is more efficient at conserving heat than when the chest is exposed. Check out kangaroo care and thermoregulation benefits. The baby also has more fat cells (insulation) on its back side than front.
7. makes it harder to respond to baby’s cues.
With no eye contact it is harder to communicate with your baby, check their airways, see their spit up, see them rooting, practice EC, and know their needs. There’s a neat study that shows that even front-facing strollers interfere with your ability to interact with and respond to your baby.
8. throws off baby’s center of gravity.
Most often the wearer will intuitively stick out her pointer fingers for the baby to grab on to and stabilize himself, or the wearer will try to support baby’s legs by lifting them up in the front. With no seat and nothing to grab on to in front of him it is tough for baby not to arch his back under the weight of his own body.
9. may not be so wonderful on your back either.
Carrying a load with an arched spine will give you an aching lower back.
Carrying your baby facing forward is not the best option. It’s not “cruel”, but it’s not ideal either. Embracing your baby, or having them embrace you is what your baby is adapted to do and quite naturally the way to go.
As someone who teaches babywearing, I found this article to be spot on! For babies who do not like to be facing mama, or who want to see out, a hip carry or a back carry allows baby to see the world, while still having proper support and the ability to turn away from too much stimuli. There are babywearing groups all over the country! You can go to Babywearing International and search for the group closest to you. The group can teach proper carries, let you try different carriers to find something that works with you baby and give you lots of free help and support!
When my nephew was a baby, all that he wanted to do was look out, he was happiest this way, it was his choice, no one forced it upon him... Dad would have held him in his arms for hours each day. What would you suggest for babies such as him who will not sit in the facing in position, ut ut, no way! You can carry a baby, however you can't force him into the position that you necessarily want to carry him in. I am not saying that I like carrying babies for long periods in a forward facing position with a little seat and legs dangling in front, however what do you think about babies sitting crossed legged in a sling, with no dangling legs, for short periods of time? it would be interesting to hear peoples opinions.
Its common sense. Thank you for this article. If you dont see how this is dangerous and painful for babies then you probably shouldnt have one.
My baby refuses to face forward in our boba wrap she hates it and actually scoots around to the side which isn't safe at all. She wants to see things. What am I supposed to do?
I agree with you about wearing a baby forward is not cruel. However, it can have adverse affects on the baby. The baby needs to face you, they need to feel your heartbeat through their cheeks. You have stated many great points in this article, thank you.
More importznt than this over-sensitive approach is to say that variation on the positions and physical activity for babies make them more adaptable to all kind of ways to carry them, I developed a pro-active way to carry my baby on my bicycle at which she can herself switch from standing to sitting, and it worked out perfectly, she loves to be standing many times and thats why i called it BABY BIKE BOARD!
This is a better, more helpful article that includes child development (shifting from viewing the parent 1-2 or 3 months to the outer world 3-6 months) and helpful alternative positions other than front-outward facing.
People that start having their babies outward facing are following their child's lead to explore their outer world. All of the babies in the above pictures are at or above 6 months. They should just probably try to carry them on hip or back instead.
Wow. This is almost comical. Where are the cited peer-reviewed studies showing the dangers of front-facing carriers? I have a feeling these parents also don't immunize their children for fear they will develop autism.
Good to know. Always good to be aware of the risks, which is why I read this. Nonetheless I have a baby who screams like a banshee whenever I face him towards me in the carrier, but happy when facing outwards. Have checked his hips, no problems there. Have also checked multiple times with my pediatrician, and he gave the all-clear too. My baby didn't want to face inwards from day 1, although we tried repeatedly. While I could try to force him to 'learn to like' facing in, I'm not sure I have the energy to endure the screaming that would be involved. But like I said, it is important to know what risks one is taking.
From the perspective of a concerned and tired mom, I really try my best so my baby is happy and healthy, but sometimes some compromises have to be made, and if Dr. Catherine Fowler thinks that this is 'cruel and selfish' then I would hope that she someday has a child who is as demanding as mine.
Mechanics aside; repeat 4 and 7. Parents are not intentionally cruel, just ignorant of the neuropsychoemotional readiness of a newborn to face the world/process the rapidly incoming data/develop some means to cope with it. Compassion to all.
I have carried both of my boys facing outwards and they are just fine. I say to mothers everywhere educate yourself on such topics and then decide what's best for your baby. Also do not let anyone judge you or make you feel like a bad mother for not carrying your baby inward. Mothers need to stop judging each other. It does no good for anyone involved. We are our childs best teacher and I believe we teach them it is ok it judge and discriminate when we exhibit such behaviors against other mothers. We should use one another as allis not punching bags. Every child and every parent are different as long as what you are doing is not morally or ethically wrong you are fine. So do what is right by your child and ignore those who judge you.
One should be able to carry their baby however they want to. I can see how carrying a baby inwards is better. But I have to say my son HATES being carried inwards. So instead I chose to have a happy baby and carry him outwards. His hips are fine, I have had them checked by his ped. I get judged all the time for carrying my baby out, but unless people want to hear him scream, I am going to do what works best for our family. My next baby I will start carrying towards me with the hopes he/she gets used to it.
...seems this is more of an advertisement for Boba baby carriers than it is a scientific evaluation of anything. Tell ya what, you hire someone to actually make this believable, as opposed to marketing propaganda, and I'll think about it. In the meantime, I guess it's better than a telemarketer calling you during dinner, but not by much.
As a mother of six boys, who are now (or almost) 25yrs, 22 yrs, 19 yrs, 16yrs,11yrs and 10yrs old... I have to say this article is poorly written, inaccurate, and prejudicial towards the advertisement of the product which carries this blog.
Point 1: 'poorly written' ...in reason #1 the author states, and I quote: "his spine and hips are unsupported to and there is simply nowhere for baby to sit.", end quote.
This is poor grammar, punctuation, and a false statement. It should read "unsupported too," (or 'also' works instead of 'too', or neither at all)... but of course the baby has someplace to sit. He/she SITS and the sling is passed under their bottom, or buttocks.
Think about when you carry or hold a newborn. Due to their size and weight, not to mention their need for head support, you cup the back of their head with your palm, and allow your forearm to support their spine. You are facing said newborn, they are approximately a foot away from you, and able to focus on you, which is good for establishing facial-recognition, as well as vocal recognition. Remember, they only SEE objects within a few feet of their face, so guess what... anything else is a blur, and NOT a stimulus that will overstimulate them. Within a few months, their eyesight improves, but they still lack the strengthened neck and abdomen muscles that allow them to hold their heads up unassisted, or to sit unsupported.
As for inaccuracy #2, it comes when the author mentions the health risk of hip-dysplasia. Again, think of the bio-mechanics of holding an older baby (like the ones pictured). You hold them by placing an arm under their bottom, and their legs "dangle" over your forearm. This is not going to cause your babies' hip(s) to be displaced. Even putting a baby or toddler on your hip, and supporting their back/shoulders with your forearm, will not harm them. Grasping your child by the ankles and suspending them upside down, or swinging them in this position, may definitely cause injury!
Holding babies in the seated position, whether facing you or facing away from you, is a personal choice, and one that should be made based on your activity. If you're vacuuming the floor, or walking the dog, front-facing is fine. Slap a burp cloth over the seam of the material supporting your baby's chest, and rock on. If you're grocery shopping or it's cold, face-to-face may be best.
I mention grocery shopping because in many instances, babies, especially newborns, are attention-getters. That is to say, complete strangers will strike up a conversation with you, or peek into baby seats & strollers, and occasionally, God-forbid, reach in to touch your bundle of joy. A baby that is nestled within his mommy's or daddy's arms, embraced and protected, are less likely to have a human head pop into their little haven of peace.
Inaccuracy #3 is in reason #2: "Makes it tough for the wearer to carry the baby and may not be so wonderful on your back either."
Humans are capable of carrying burdens on the front or back of their bodies while they accomplish tasks, or travel from one location to another. Where the load is placed is, again, mostly a personal preference, but in either case, a body's natural reaction is to lean in the opposite direction of the additional load. It's not just natural, it's a physical requirement to remain standing or walking. It's 'physics'. When you increase the load a body has to carry, it takes greater effort, physically, for that body to move. It causes the bearer to counteract the weight by leaning their body in the opposite direction in order to remain 'balanced'. Therefore, if you carry on the front, either forward-facing or face-to-face, you will lean back to adjust for the additional weight, and vice versa if you carry your baby/child in a piggyback position. It isn't just the leaning that will cause back pain, but also the increased weight. Not so noticeable if your baby is <10 lbs, but as the weight of the baby/child increases, so does the strain. These issues are also true for expecting mothers (gaining weight), and for men and women who are overweight. Think about it. Ask your doctor.
For the sake of brevity, the fourth and last inaccuracy I will note is found in reason #3: "Places your baby in an arched or hollow back position which places pressure on the spine."
For the unfamiliar or uninformed, the term "hollow back" is laymen for excessive lordosis, which is the inward curvature of a portion of the lumbar and cervical vertebral column often-caused by anterior pelvic tilt, when the pelvis tips forward while resting on top of the femurs. This is a physical stress caused to the adult carrying the infant, rather than to the baby him/her-self. A newborn, infant, and baby all lack sufficient strength in their abdominal muscles to support their torsos in sitting positions until they start developing these muscles through activities like rolling over. Prior to this accomplishment, the back is naturally concaved, that is curved inward, because the baby was in that position during the fetal period (ninth week thru birth) of their development in utero, or otherwise, in the womb.
Overall, this article is not even fit for the enjoyment of reading, and if I were a new mom-to-be/mommy, I would be too scared to pick up my baby for fear of hurting him!
Ladies and gentlemen readers, kindly disregard this rubbish and if you're unsure, ask your pediatrician for advice in caring for your infant. - Christine Martinez
Wrong! I disagree. I macro-made a front facing baby carrier because in 1970 there was no such thing. I had an infant that would sleep no more than an hour at a time and wanted to be constantly held. Exhausted and in desperation for sleep and in need of time for household duties this invention of mine became a saving grace. My front facing carrier during infant stage lent to support of head along with freeing my hands to do household work. My baby was happiest being able to see all that was happening while being attached to mommy. Not only that, I think it contributed to my babies intellectual development. My baby started speaking quit early forming sentences by 6 months of which my Pediatrician was quit astounded, and was quite verbal at one year of age. At 10 years of age my child was tested at 150-165 range IQ. BTW, breathing was never a problem. My child's lungs were so strong that I felt here's a child who'd do well with vocal lessons and yes indeed, singing came natural and a fond talent. BTW, I only used my carrier while my baby couldn't support head on own.
I can't believe people are offended by your article! Parents and grandparents are constantly thinking about keeping little ones safe and healthy. Getting some new information to explore is a good thing! Sure we can check out our own sources, but why attack the messenger? You took the time to share your thoughts and you get attacked for that? Lots of bad manners online!
Thanks for writing this. I used the old Snugli (before Evenflo bought the name). It had a great little seat inside the pouch and it was all cloth. The outer pouch supported the baby's neck. Both pouches were adjustable.
The same people made a new one called the Weego. I bought one for my daughter and it is almost like the old snugli. I was disappointed by the hard plastic fasteners. I used to put my sleeping babies in the crib in the Snugli (and put them in the car seats wearing it), but you can't do that with the Weego.
I'm pretty sure both are designed perfect for the little ones' hips! I always found the forward facing position awkward. Once the baby is old enough to face forward, she's old enough to go on your back. Back wearing is always better for your back, especially if you have a pack that's adjustable.
This article really bothers me for a couple of reasons. First of all, the "research" that you are citing from hipdysplasia.org is not actually research at all. In fact, I have not been able to come up with any peer reviewed scientific research articles that support your claims. Second of all, how many babies under 6 months of age do you actually see sitting up? Not many. The "sitting position" is not a natural position for an infant under 6 months old. That would mean that cradle holding my baby with legs close together and close to me would be damaging her hips.
Thermoregulation does occur better when baby is close to mom. However, dressing your baby appropriately is more important. Any baby that is old enough to control their head and face forward in a carrier already has thermoregulation down.
Both of my babies certainly looked disturbed and overstimulated while they were laughing, cooing and having a great time facing forward. Geez. It's like any activity you do with your baby. You have to know when enough is enough.
As far as moms health goes, don't kid yourself. Any carrier is going to be bad for your back if you do not use your ab muscles and hold your shoulders back. The very act of carrying your baby without a carrier throws your back off. This is true especially when you place your child on your hip. Baby carriers simply make the act of carrying your baby a little easier because you can have your hands free.
Articles like this make me mad because moms have enough to worry about without reading through information that has no real research behind it and yet is presented as fact.
Thanks for the article! The couple of times I've tried my tot facing outwards she has hated it, babes often know best :-)
As for "Motherknowsbest"s blah blah blah comments lol, I find it interesting that you are preaching about listening when you obviously are not prepared to do it yourself!
Blah blah blah, carry your baby this way, carry your baby that way. Dont hold your baby, never put your baby down.
There is always someone who comes up with some reason or other why you shouldnt do something or how you have to do things in a certain way.
Everyone seems to think they are the perfect parent, writing articles telling others what sort of parents they should be. I say put down your pen and spend some time with your kids. Stop talking and start listening, your kids are only little for such a short amount of time CHERISH EVERY SECOND.
Rarely used wraps or straps of any kind. I did hold babies outward with my hand cupping cute little chins and cheeks, when baby is awake and alert and curious, that's fine. When less alert and tired, cuddle hold works best. But I was hardly ever using a device other than my own arms for holding baby. Tones the arms too! But if I had gone hiking or something. I would clearly have needed something to aid holding. We did more biking and our babies loved their baby seats right behind Mom or Dad. I always found the wraps and stuff awkward and more difficult than simply holding the baby. So did my husband.
As for strollers that face outward, as a mom of 5, I found them fine in non-crowded settings but not so great in crowded areas. Kids like to feel protected and secure. if the stroller has side panels the little one can retreat into, they're better than the over exposed ones. We had one that worked both ways and for crowded busy or loud over stimulating situations, baby faced Mom or Dad. A stroll through a park, calm walk around the block, baby faced out. We held them more than anything. After all, they're not babies forever.
I am expecting my first child and having read this article which was interesting i was very saddened to read the responses which follow. I can't believe the catty, childish, emotional, personal, immature and absurd comments. If this is what I have to look forward to at the school gates I can't wait.
There is a carry like that called the Buddha carry and allows the baby to sit cross legged in a sling, but it isn't recommended for miore than 20 min. Yes baby's want to face out but as their parents we know better than they what will be most comfotable and healthier for them. Same concept as baby wants to play with a knife but it's dangerous, so as their parent we avoid letting them play with that. Hip carriies and back carries are recommended for baby's that want to look around and see the world.
Are you kidding me??? Let me guess you also believe in co-sleeping and not vaccinating your child? I think you need to change your name to ithinkmywayistheonlyrightwaybutmychildwillliveathomeuntilheisforty
wow judgy much?!
Have you tried the hip carry? This allows for baby to face out and look around, but gives the much needed to support to the hips and spine. @NewMom99
Thank you for reiterating this point! Parents do what they believe is right for their children. A little kind advise and some helpful facts are more useful then judging. Though the outward facing is not ideal it is okay for larger babies, for short term, in a carrier designed for the position (following the carriers instructions closely). The photos above are not illustrating the correct positioning of the babies at all; not just the fact that the baby is facing outward!!
@melissamcgraw1 You mean like cigarettes.
@melissamcgraw1 They still make fluffy nursery bedding and bumpers for cribs, etc. too. Those are hazardous and raise the risk of SIDS. Many manufacturers simply care more about making a buck. There are tons of polyester baby blankets, also, even though only breathable cotton blankets are recommended to reduce the risk of suffocation.
@melissamcgraw1 because never, ever has any company, ever, created a product that is dangerous or continued to sell unhealthy or dangerous products after determining that they were unhealthy.
Simple as that.
@melissamcgraw1 That is ridiculous of course things are made that are hazardous. This isnt saying that its hazardous to use either, it is just saying that it can cause harm to your baby.
@James They are not promoting Boba's specifically, nor are they damning particular brands of other baby carriers. They are explaining why people should avoid carrying their baby in a particular position in a baby carrier.
While this article is written for a general audience-- as opposed to an academic audience-- I can assure you that every point made is supported by peer-reviewed publications.
ad hominen fallacy (and proof-reading your own rebuttal before attempting such a fallacy is advised).
For your consideration: the distinction between writing for a general audience as opposed to an academic audience. Every point made in this article is supported by peer-reviewed publications which focus on ethnopediatric anthropology (my area).
Harness-style carriers (those with arm and leg holes) and forward-facing carries in other styles of carriers without sufficient support under the infants thighs can and do lead to:
- positional asphyxiation (chin-to-chest, pinching the trachea), compounded by external pressure on diaphragm and chest from tilting forward against the inside of the carrier.
- decreased or severely restricted circulation to the brachial and femoral arteries.
There is personal choice, yes. People are free to make mistakes and most generally learn from them (obviously, not always). Generations of hairless, bipedal apes have had to carry their infants and learned what is safe, effective for the happiness of adult and baby and most efficient at preserving energy. When it comes to human morphology there are correct and incorrect ways of carrying infants or "loads", as you put it. Babywearing is a universal practice. It is found in every culture and throughout history. Nowhere, save in the west, in the last 50 years, is the front-facing carry seen. This is because it throws the center of gravity off for the adult, straining back and shoulders and making it impossible to breast feeding while wearing the child. It is a pathological way of carrying a child. It is unhealthy for everyone involved-- and this is why so many western parents rarely "wear" or carry their child, opting instead for rigid infant holder with handles.
... but I get the impression that facts don't really get through to some, especially those wallowing in cognitive dissonance. I understand. Some will learn new facts and change their behavior based on new information-- while others will learn new information, consider their own actions and refute the new information to save face. That is fine. The fact is the new information was learned and deeply affected the learner.
Whether it's padded bumper rails in the crib, or new regulations on rear-facing car seats-- there will always be someone preaching about "parents choice" and "my kids were just fine!".
Good for you.
@maryo Just because you disagree does not mean that the author is wrong. The article states that these problems CAN happen, not that all children worn front facing will be a drooling idiot.
One more thing...you state that parents cannot respond to their babies cues in a forward facing carrier. However, you show your air carrier placed on the back. To me, that seems even worse!
Our dd has SPD. When she was born she hated being worn in a wrap/carrier except for facing out. If I tried to position her any other way with her stomach against my body... Front carry or back carry, she would arch her back and scream. She also screamed in the car seat and stroller. I think carrying her facing out was a better alternative to not carrying her at all or letting her scream. There are safe positions and carriers for facing out but the ones shown are bad examples. Beco Gemini is a better carrier for facing out as well as crossed leg position in a wrap or sling. I'm pregnant with #6 and I've always followed my instincts when it comes to parenting as most moms do. I think this article should focus more on the correct way to face baby out rather than shaming mothers for wanting to be closer to their babies.
When I said that dressing your baby appropriately was more important, I was referring to when they are in devices such as carriers, car seats or stroller. I'm sure someone will attack me on that one
@Sarahpot fun stuff!! Enjoy your child and ignore the rest!!
@AradiaPaganus Can you provide links to these peer-reviewed publications?