are carriers safe for babies

Are Baby Carriers Safe For Newborns

Baby carriers aren’t recommended for babies under four months of age or babies who can’t hold up their heads yet. This is because they’re at greater risk of neck injuries if you don’t use a carrier that properly supports your baby’s head and neck

If you’re wondering whether baby carriers are safe for newborns, the answer is probably no. Babies under four months old and babies who can’t hold up their heads on their own yet aren’t recommended for baby carriers because they risk neck injuries.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that you don’t carry your baby under four months of age or if they can’t hold up their heads yet on their own. They advise this because infants aren’t as strong in their neck muscles at an early age, so they’re more likely to suffer from a neck injury if there is any pressure on the back of their neck

Are Carriers Safe For Babies

Are baby carriers safe for newborns? You can start using a baby carrier, sling or backpack as soon as your baby is born. Look for healthy hip positioning and comfort for both you and your baby to be sure it is properly fitted.

The baby can be carried in a carrier, sling or backpack. Choose what suits you best. You should choose a carrier based on healthy positioning for your baby and be sure the product has been safety tested and complies with Australian standards. Baby slings are not recommended for babies under 4kg (8.8lbs) including premature or low birth weight infants, who could be at risk of suffocation if the face is covered by the fabric.

You should not use a baby carrier on a newborn who cannot hold up her head. If your baby’s neck isn’t strong enough yet to support the weight of their head, it’s more likely that they’ll experience neck, shoulder and spine injuries. These injuries can become life-threatening if not caught early.

Baby sling safety babywearing international, Inc. Babywearing safety guidelines t.i.c.k.s r.u.l.e Sling meets wrap: safe babywearing the way we choose to carry

For safety, look for a hip-healthy carrier, sling or backpack that keeps the baby close and does not restrict their face or nose. The Bjorn is not recommended due to its position of the baby in the inward-facing position.

If you want to carry your baby in a child carrier, sling or backpack, there are some important safety precautions. Choose from a carrier, sling or backpack that moulds to your body and keeps your baby close to you. Cushion the part of the carrier that goes between your baby’s legs so it doesn’t press into their chubby thighs.

A baby carrier, sling or backpack can be an invaluable way to get things done while your baby naps; but how long can you safely carry your baby in a carrier? After all, you want to ensure you’re providing enough movement and stimulating tummy time for development—and that your baby isn’t in uncomfortable positions for too long.

Key points

  • A baby carrier, sling or backpack can be a practical way to carry your baby and keep your hands free.
  • When choosing a baby carrier, sling or backpack, look for healthy hip positioning for your baby. Your comfort is important too.
  • Use the T.I.C.K.S. rule to position your baby safely in a sling and avoid suffocation risks.

Baby Carrier Danger #1: Putting a Baby in a “C-Shape”

The first consideration for proper fit, per Raspa, is to ensure the child isn’t forced chin-to-chest, which doesn’t allow him or her to straighten out. In such a position, there’s a risk of cutting off the airway. “Anything that would keep the baby from breathing,” he says, should be avoided. When carrying, notice any squirming while visually assessing for your child changing colors. Both, he says, are clear warning signs. You want your child to have room to lengthen.

Baby Carrier Danger #2: Strapping a Baby in Too Tightly

While your child can be forced into a position where he or she can’t breathe, being held too tightly to you can also pose risks. Once you’ve ensured that your child isn’t forced into a C-shape, check to see that he or she isn’t being forced into your chest or back, which can also pose a risk for suffocation. The same warning signs from the previous point apply.

Baby Carrier Danger #3: Not Accounting For Temperature

When the summer sun is out, provided you’ve got a well fitting sling, your baby should be fine: “Babies can raise their core body temperatures quite a bit. A degree or two is not an issue,” Dr. Raspa says. Of course, freedom of movement and a clear airway are key. However, if a baby is sweating excessively or turning red, it’s time to remove your child and get him or her into the shade to cool down.ADVERTISEMENT

Baby Carrier Danger #4: Letting a Baby’s Legs Hang Straight

“We want the baby’s hips to stay in a position up close to their bellies in a ‘W’ kind of situation,” Dr. Raspa says referencing the natural splay open from the groin when a child’s knees are drawn up. While it may seem counterintuitive, you actually want the child’s butt pulled toward the belly, with the legs bent and naturally falling open. If his or her legs hang straight down, your child is at risk for hip dysplasia, which is a deforming of the socket joint, to which those less than six months are especially prone. Find a carrier with a wide base or ensure your wrap sits wide over the bottom and extends to the backs of the knees. For reference, find a chart here.

Baby Carrier Danger #5: Ignoring Straight Arms

A baby’s arms, Dr. Raspa says, shouldn’t be stuck out to the side. If they are, your child is at risk for shoulder dislocation. Do a quick visual check: Do his or her arms have a gentle bend to them? You’re all set. It’s only when a limb is forced straight that the risk is present.

About baby carriers, slings and backpacks

Baby carriers, baby slings and baby backpacks are different types of equipment for carrying your baby on your chest or back.

A baby carrier is a soft padded carrier that you wear on your front. Some have adjustable options so you can wear your baby on your back or hip.

A baby sling is a pouch or strip of fabric, usually secured over your shoulder and worn across your front in various positions.

Baby backpacks usually have rigid frames. You wear them only on your back. They’re suitable for older babies and toddlers who can hold up their heads. It’s a good idea to ask your GP or child and family health nurse whether your baby is old enough for a backpack.

Carrying your baby in a baby carrier, sling or backpack gives you the advantage of having your hands free, and most babies like being able to see the world from up high. If you use carriers, slings and backpacks the right way, they’re safe and practical ways to get around with your baby.

What to look for in a baby carrier

If you’re interested in baby carriers, it’s important to look for one that:

  • allows healthy hip positioning for your baby
  • is safe to use
  • is comfortable for you to wear.

Healthy hip positioning
Healthy hip positioning encourages normal hip development in babies and reduces the risk of developmental dysplasia of the hip.

Your baby carrier should allow your baby’s hips to spread so their legs are straddling your body. Your baby’s knees should be spread apart, the thighs should be supported, and the hips should be bent.

Here’s how to carry your baby for healthy hip positioning, plus what not to do.

Image showing how to carry a baby for appropriate hip support
Image showing how not to carry a baby for appropriate hip support

Carrying your baby with their hips together inside a sling can increase the risk of hip dysplasia.

Image showing child being carried with hips open
Image showing child being carried with hips closed

These images are reproduced with permission from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

Safe baby carriers and slings
There is no Australian standard for baby carriers, slings and backpacks. But the following tips can help you choose a safe baby carrier:

  • Look for a baby carrier with the European standard EN 13209-2:2005 or the US standard ASTM F2236-08.
  • Check that the carrier or sling comes with easy-to-understand written, visual or video instructions that show you how to use it safely.
  • Take your baby with you when you’re shopping for a carrier or sling. Ask a shop assistant to show you how to fit the carrier or sling correctly with your baby in it.
  • Your baby should be able to move their head, arms and legs.
  • Check that your baby can see out of the carrier or sling and that the fabric doesn’t cut into their face.
  • Make sure you can put the carrier or sling on and take it off without any help. Also ensure that you can do up any buckles, straps or clips without help and that you can adjust all straps firmly with one hand.
  • With a sling, make sure it doesn’t cover your baby’s face or force them into the fetal position.

Comfortable baby carriers
The best way to find a comfortable baby carrier is to try on different styles with your baby. If your partner and other carers will be using the carrier, look for a style that will be comfortable for them too.

Here are a few tips for choosing a comfortable baby carrier:

  • Look for broad, padded shoulder straps that go across your back, as well as a broad waist strap. These will help to distribute your baby’s weight evenly and keep some pressure off your shoulders. They should also stop the carrier moving from side to side too much.
  • Ensure the carrier is appropriate for different seasons and won’t make your baby overheat in the warmer months.
  • If you plan to use the carrier as your baby grows, look for a carrier that you can change around so your baby can face forwards.
  • Use your carrier only until your baby feels too heavy or uncomfortable to carry safely. Check the carrier’s instructions for the maximum weight the carrier can handle.

Baby carriers aren’t recommended for babies under four months of age or babies who can’t hold up their heads yet. This is because they’re at greater risk of neck injuries.

Using a baby carrier, sling or backpack safely

Here’s how to secure your baby in a carrier, sling or backpack and use this equipment safely.

Securing babies in carriers, slings and backpacks: general tips

  • Read the tags for height and weight, and use the right baby carrier for your baby’s size.
  • Tighten the straps before you put your baby in the carrier, then use the straps to get a snug, secure fit.
  • Make sure you can adjust all straps firmly with one hand.
  • Try to get into the habit of checking that the straps are still secure and show no signs of damage before putting your baby in each time. If any straps or buckles are damaged, contact the supplier or manufacturer.
  • Get someone to help you put your baby in the carrier until you get used to doing it on your own. Some people find it helps to practise with a doll or teddy before putting the baby in.

Using carriers, slings and backpacks: general tips

  • Wear shoes that are easy to walk in, and look out for uneven surfaces so you don’t trip.
  • Avoid using carriers in hot weather, because your body heat and the carrier will increase your baby’s temperature.
  • Take care when putting on and taking off the carrier, because this is when falls are most common. If you can, get somebody else to help you, or sit down on the floor.
  • Hold on to something stable – like a pole – if you bend down or lean forward while wearing the sling, carrier or backpack.
  • If you’re cooking, don’t carry your baby in a front-wearing carrier or sling because of the risk of burning your baby.
  • Avoid holding hot food and drinks, running after other children and doing anything else that could be dangerous.

Physical activity is vital to your baby’s healthy growth and development. Aim to balance any time your baby spends in baby carriers or slings with plenty of tummy time and other physical activity.

Baby slings: avoiding suffocation risks

Babies are at risk of suffocation if they’re not correctly put into baby slings. This is because young babies can’t move if they’re in a dangerous position that’s blocking their airways.

The T.I.C.K.S. rule can help you remember how to position your baby safely in a baby sling:

  • Tight: the sling should be tight, with the baby positioned high and upright with head support. Any loose fabric might cause your baby to slump down, which could restrict breathing.
  • In view at all times: you should always be able to see your baby’s face by simply looking down. Ensure your baby’s face, nose and mouth remain uncovered by the sling and/or your body.
  • Close enough to kiss: your baby should be close enough to your chin that by tipping their head forward you can easily kiss their head.
  • Keep chin off the chest: ensure your baby’s chin is up and away from their body. Your baby should never be curled so that their chin is forced onto their chest. This can restrict breathing. Regularly check your baby. Babies can be in distress without making any noise or movement.
  • Supported back: your baby’s back should be supported in a natural position with their tummy and chest against you. When bending over, support your baby with one hand behind their back. Bend at the knees, not at the waist.

Take your baby out of the sling or carrier straight away if you notice that:

  • your baby’s face is covered or their chin is tucked in
  • your baby is curled into the fetal position
  • your baby is grunting, wheezing, or taking laboured, rapid or whistling breaths
  • there’s a grey or blue tinge to your baby’s skin
  • your baby is fussy, restless or squirming.

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