Ergonomics of Babywearing: Bjorn-like narrow seats and facing out

One of our VBEs, Taryn Leary, wrote this post.

Most parents enter babywearing at the same place– structured carriers that they can buy from the local Walmart or Target. While it is wonderful that these products can introduce new parents to the joy and benefits of babywearing, most of these products are not made with baby and mother’s health and comfort in mind.

Bjorn carriers and other narrow seats
Some carriers have very narrow support pieces that hold the baby by just their bottom and crotch area, with legs dangling straight down. This is not the normal sitting position that you or your child would be comfortable being in for any length of time. I often desribe it as being like to standing on a bicycle that is too tall for you– definitely not ideal. There are medical concerns as well. Some experts feel that a baby being put into such an unnatural position too frequently could lead to hip dysplasia or put too much pressure on the developing spine. Some may dispute this burgeoning research, but I feel that regardless of whether it is damaging, there is no reason to waste money on a carrier that is not comfortable for baby or for the wearer. These carriers become unbearable on the wearer’s back by around 15lbs– Why not pay the same money for higher-quality product that can be used into toddlerhood?

Facing Foward
The issue of babies facing forward (away from the wearer) is less clear cut.  Most forward-facing is done in sync with a narrow seat carrier, unfortunately. When a baby is facing out with legs down, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to properly support their legs all the way to the knee, as is necessary, which almost always leads to a their legs being in a dangling position. This is a problem in itself, but there are other factors to consider. A forward facing child’s back is hollowed, and their weight pulls away from the wearer. It ergonomically does not make sense when the natural position that you would hold your child in-arms would be facing you, with their legs spread around you in a seated position. There is also concern in the babywearing community with overstimulation while facing forward. The child cannot turn away from the commotion and burrow into their parent, which can cause undue stress.

Keeping all of this in mind, your child CAN face foward if done responsibly, with ergonomics and their emotional health in mind. If worn with legs “froggied” inside the carrier (inside of a wrap or ring sling, most often) for a short period of time, forward facing is a viable option.  Read more on this topic at Meredith’s blog or here.