Why are Baby Bjorn Carriers Bad

BabyBjörn carriers are generally considered one of the very best on the market, and have been around since the ‘60s. They feature a simple and lightweight design. However, in recent years the brand and its carriers have come under fire from parents, and some paediatricians, for not being safe.

It’s true that BabyBjörn have come under fire in recent years for not being ergonomic. The main accusation being that the BabyBjörn carriers aren’t ergonomic and can cause hip dysplasia.

But back in 2010, a study by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute found that BabyBjörn carriers weren’t ergonomically friendly to babies and could potentially lead to hip dysplasia or other health problems.

From carrying your baby from car seat to stroller to the supermarket, no wonder the BabyBjorn is such a popular baby carrier. It’s easy to wear, lightweight and durable. But are they safe? Apparently not according to paediatricians and parents who complain that it can cause hip dysplasia in babies.

This is what BabyBjörn say: “The design and ergonomics of all our soft carriers are based on the baby’s natural position in the parent’s arms. The hip-healthy A-position of the legs and thighs is characteristic of an ergonomic carrier.” Focusing on the comfort and safety of your child, the Baby Bjorn Comfort Carrier is made of 72% cotton and 28% polyester making it easy to clean and very durable.

BabyBjörn carriers were the absolute most popular baby carrier of the ‘80s and ‘90s. These front-facing carriers were a staple for hip Scandinavian parents who doted on their children and babies.

The Swedish brand has sold over 40 million baby carriers in the last 40 years, but it has come under fire over concerns about hip dysplasia – we investigate what the brand is doing to combat this

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By Hazelann Williams

The traditional art of babywearing is becoming popular again.  And as a result so are baby carriers, wraps and slings.

Often seen as a convenient, hands-free and comfortable alternative to pushchairs, carriers, slings and wraps also offer calming close contact between infants and parents.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the babywearing industry is the Swedish brand BabyBjörn.  Making baby products since 1961 it launched Europe’s first baby carrier back in 1973 and has been synonymous with babywearing ever since.

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But in recent years the brand and its carriers have come under fire from parents, and some paediatricians, for not being safe.

The main accusation being that BabyBjörn carriers aren’t ergonomic and can cause hip dysplasia.

Given the fact that many parents (over 40 million) have used or are using a BabyBjörn carrier, it is something we had to look into at MadeForMums.

So, for context, we spoke to BabyBjörn and for impartiality, we also spoke to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI), to find out whether BabyBjörn carriers are safe or not.

So why not the Baby Bjorn carrier?

Simply put, the carrier makes the legs dangle, putting excessive force on the hip joint.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that ALL children in the Baby Bjorn will develop hip dysplasia, it means that it greatly increases the risk. (That whole argument “Well my baby was in the Baby Bjorn all day and he’s fine” isn’t a good reason to keep wearing it.  It only means that single child wasn’t susceptible or wasn’t in it long enough to develop hip dysplasia.)

There are many excellent carriers other than the Bjorn which are safe, sturdy, and (many claim) way more comfortable anyways.  You should note that other carriers that look like the Bjorn (like the Infanto) are just as unsafe, so skip those.  Some other great options are the Ergo, Moby, Beco, Boba, and woven wraps like Didymos, Dolcino and Girasol. Check out The Baby Wearer (www.thebabywearer.com) for product reviews.  The carrier should hold the legs outward, with support on the entire length of the thigh all the way to the knee joint.

Here are some excellent illustrations by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute that show very clearly what type of carriers are best:

BAD. See how the legs dangle?
BAD. See how the legs dangle?
GOOD. Legs are out! The thigh should be supported all the way to the knee joint.
GOOD. Legs are out! The thigh should be supported all the way to the knee joint.
BAD. Notice how the forces of gravity traction the joint downward.
BAD. Notice how the forces of gravity traction the joint downward.
Good support all the way to the knee joint helps the hip develop properly.
GOOD. Support all the way to the knee joint helps the hip develop properly.

Baby Bjorn Bouncer Hip Dysplasia

I don’t like the Baby Bjorn.  (I can just hear the cries of all the Bjorn-wearing mothers across the country: “WHAT? How dare you scorn my Bjorn!”)  Here’s why:

Hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is simply the abnormal formation of the hip joint.  The hip joint is a ball and socket joint (remember that from your 8th grade health class?), which means the ball of the femur (thigh bone) is held into the hip by a soft tissue capsule and many very strong ligaments.  When babies are born both the bones and ligaments have not completely developed – this is an advantage for babies as they have increased flexibility to pass through the birth canal.  In the first few months after birth the structures that make up the hip joint form rapidly, giving the joint strength and stability.

Have you ever noticed that a newborn has their hips in a frog-legged position?  Usually their knees tuck up against their chest with the hips externally rotated (outward facing).  This position is beneficial to the hip joint, allowing the structures of the joint to line up properly as all the tissues strengthen and develop.

The way infants are positioned in the womb and in the first few months of life determine whether the hip can form properly.  It has long been known that breech positioned babies are more prone to hip dysplasia.  Similarly, babies whose legs are forced straight either by swaddling or dangling also have an increased risk of hip dysplasia.  Straightening the legs places a lever-like force on the femur, encouraging the hip to pop out of the socket.

Signs of hip dysplasia

The first signs of hip dysplasia are clicking or popping of the hip joint, followed by sway back and/or limitation in range of motion of the joint.  Typically pain does not occur for many years, often beginning in adolescence and persisting and worsening as the person ages.  Hip dysplasia leads to degeneration of the joint, which can be incredibly painful and crippling.

But first, what is hip dysplasia?

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Hip dysplasia (also known as developmental dysplasia of the hip, hip dislocation, congenital dislocation of the hip and loose hips) is a hereditary condition where the bones of the hip joint are not aligned correctly.

It prevents the hip joints from functioning properly and means they wear out much faster than normal joints.

While the condition runs in the family (like heart disease or cancer can) there is no guarantee a baby will develop it.

However, there are a few things that are thought to increase the risk of hip dysplasia according to IHDI:

  • If a baby is a first-born child
  • If a baby is born in cold weather
  • Wrapping the legs straight and together for long periods of time is known to cause hip dislocations
  • Genetics
  • A breech birth

Want to know more about hip dysplasia, we’ve got all the information here.

Can carriers cause hip dysplasia?

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Here’s the thing, according to Dr. Price, the director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI) there is no evidence that points directly to carriers as a cause hip dysplasia.

“There are definitely mechanical forces that can help or hurt hip development when the sockets are soft and immature.

“However, with carriers that carry babies in the traditional flex-squat (Froggy or ergonomic M-position), or “jockey” position, hip dysplasia is almost unknown,” explains Dr Price.

“Also, carrying infants with the hips in optimum positions – the flex-squat position – is associated with a very, very low occurrence of hip dysplasia.”

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What is the optimum seating position for a baby when in a carrier?

The IHDI recommends carrying with baby’s hips in a natural position during the first six months of life, with the hips bent a little more than a right angle – 90+ degrees (see pic above) – and spread so each hip is spread 40 to 60 degrees.

That’s the approximate spread when the baby is held with the legs spread around the mother’s waist.

Small infants often keep their hips bent up more than 90 degrees and that’s OK since it’s a natural position for the hips, according to the IHDI.

Do BabyBjörn carriers meet the ‘natural position’ or ergonomic ‘M’ position?

According to the Swedish brand, it does.

Very aware of the criticism being levied against its carriers BabyBjörn says it has consulted medical experts and can confirm its carriers are ergonomic, do not cause hip dysplasia and are safe for babies and parents to use.

“BabyBjörn Baby carriers comply with relevant products standards in all markets where they are available which is around 55 countries today,” says Annika Sander Löfmark, Head of Public Relations at BabyBjörn.

“In addition to this we test all carriers at different test institutes, in Sweden and other countries and we have our own test facilities. Pediatricians, orthopedist and midwifes, are consulted during the whole development process.  The medical experts examine the product from an ergonomic and a safe development perspective.

“We are a 55 year old family company and our mission is to provide safe and practical products for babies and parents. We would never dream of selling something if there were doubts about the safety.”

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Where does all the criticism come from?

There have been a few paediatricians and mums who have sworn off using BabyBjörn carriers forever and even called them unsafe.  The word crotch dangler is brandished by a few, with pictures of babies in carriers looking quite uncomfortable.

So it’s easy to see why some parents may be concerned.  And looking at the different types of carriers (like the BabyBjörn Original – top right) it does look like little one’s legs are less at an angled position.

However, there are clearly carriers in the BabyBjörn collection that offer the Froggy or ergonomic M-position, like the We and One (top left) carriers.

The main thing to remember is that all BabyBjörn carriers are safe and won’t cause hip dysplasia in babies. But we know some carriers and positions can offer different levels of support and what works for one family may not be the best option for another.

At MadeForMums we recommend every babywearer follows the T.I.C.K.S guidelines and if in any doubt you should contact the manufacturer of your carrier, plus it’s always a great idea to visit your local sling library.

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