Babywearing Myths and Misconceptions: Part Two.

Wowza everyone! The response to Part One of Babywearing Myths and Misconceptions has been truly amazing! Thank you to everyone who has read it, shared it and gained some insight from it. I promised that I would get to Part Two this week and so without further ado, here it is.

Part Two of babywearing myth-busting is focused on the person wearing or carrying the baby and babywearing safety and these were the common themes that people submitted.

Jessica and Laura from Facebook both wrote:

Myth: [Babywearing] will hurt or ruin your back.

One of the most common things that I see with babywearing is mamas who continue to wear their big babies (>6 months, >20 lbs) on their fronts in either a stretchy wrap or in their bjorn or snugli-type carriers. They wonder why their backs are always hurting and figure that baby is just too big and can't be worn comfortably anymore. NOT SO Mamas!! This is usually the ideal time for your baby to move from being carried on your front to being carried on your back.

Wearing your baby on your back is perfect for this stage of baby's life for multiple reasons. Baby's usually get very curious about their surroundings at this age and by moving them to your back, they get to see things from a completely different perspective, yet they are still in a safe and secure position on mommy (or daddy). And having a baby on your back versus on your tummy frees up a good two feet in front of you to be able to actually DO things like, oh... see where you are going and drink your coffee without worrying about spilling it on anyone's head! Keep in mind that learning back carries is another babywearing skill that you must practice, practice, practice to get it just right. Seek out help from a babywearing educator or an experienced babywearer, or check out some of my top recommended YouTube videos for visual instructions.

Also remember that using a forward facing carrier or putting your baby in a forward facing position (and we already discussed in Part One why this is not optimal for baby) also puts undo amounts of stress on your back and your pelvic floor. In the short-term a weakened pelvic floor can simply mean back pain and strain for you and in the long-term this can lead to lovely things like stress incontinence, uterine prolapse (yup, that means falling out) and a less satisfying sex life because of weakened vaginal walls.

Why does this matter? The answer is quite simple. Your pelvic floor is the group of muscles and tissues that makes up the foundation of the core of your body. Have a good strong core and the likelihood of back pain diminishes significantly. Maintain good posture and use proper baby positioning and carrying techniques while babywearing and you also diminish the stress you are putting on your pelvic floor.

If you do have a history of back pain or injury, then having a baby carrier that supports the weight of your baby or toddler across your hips and distributes it evenly over both shoulders as well, will be the best way to practice babywearing. A mei tai carrier, a soft-structured carrier like a Pipa Pack or a Boba or a wraparound carrier can all accomplish this and ensure that babywearing is not only cosy for your baby, but is very comfortable for you too!

Emily from @joyfulabode also shared this:

Myth: [babywearing] is just for the hippies!

According to Wikipedia,

"...the words "hip" and "hep" came from black American culture and denote awareness. To say "I'm hip to the situation" means "I am aware of the situation." Thus the word "hippie" means "one who is aware", and expanded awareness was a goal of the movement."

If we accept this as the definition of a hippie, then by all mean YES, babywearing IS for the hippies! Those who choose to be aware of all of the amazing benefits that this practice confers not only to babies but also to the parents who are wearing said babies! It is absolutely ridiculous to think that just because someone has their baby in a sling or wrap carrier that they also own 14 pairs of tye-dyed socks, don't shave their armpits and only ever wear Birkenstocks sandals!

Babywearing is not about choosing a certain kind of parenting technique, nor is it about labeling people with different words like 'crunchy', 'granola', 'tree-hugging' or 'hippie'. Babywearing is simply about you and your baby, regardless of how you live your life. It is about fulfilling a child's need to be held and it is about making the lives of parents and caregivers easier and a lot more enjoyable. Babywearing is a fabulous practice for everyone regardless of parenting style or philosophy, and I for one, look forward to the day that it is considered a natural part of child-rearing and given the educational attention and focus that it needs both from a pre-natal and a postpartum perspective!

And finally, Kristen on Facebook wrote:

 Misconception: An older woman told me that she saw on TV that my baby could die in there.

Last year Health Canada and the U.S. CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) recalled more than 1 million Infantino baby slings in the U.S. and 15,000 slings in Canada. Tragically, these bag-style slings were associated with baby deaths that were under investigation by federal regulators. In March of 2010 the CPSC included another warning message on their website regarding slings in general:

Slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles. The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.

This phenomenon is called positional asphyxia and is a danger that is not solely related to sling or baby carrier use. Any infant left unattended in a car seat, bouncy seat, swing or other similar device runs the risk of curling into the dangerous curled, chin-to-chest position and should NEVER be left unsupervised for long periods of time in any kind of container or carrier.

And it is for this reason that, as a babywearing educator, I no longer recommend a cradle carrying position for any baby carrier. I feel that it is too much of a slippery slope from a cradle position to one that puts baby into a position that compromises their airway.

The ideal and physiologically normal position to carry a baby in is upright on mommy (or daddy's) chest, oriented towards the wearer (tummy-to-tummy) and with wide-spread, flexed legs (knees higher than the bum in the "M" position) and with a slightly rounded back. This position fully supports a baby's head and full spine with the fabric of the carrier spread from knee-to knee and snug around the baby's body. In this position as well, baby's head should be turned to one side and the chin at least two finger widths distance from the chest to avoid any closure of the airway.  Never pull the fabric of any carrier completely over your baby's face, doing so can decrease fresh air flow to your baby and increase the risk of 'rebreathing' CO2 (a known risk factor for SIDS). And if you notice ANY of the following symptoms while carrying your infant; rapid or laboured breathing, grunting with every breath, 'snoring' or general restlessness, than please reposition your baby!

As with anything when it comes to the safety and well-being of little babies, please use your common sense and make sure that you are monitoring your baby regularly to ensure that they are comfortable and secure in their baby carrier.

Phew! Myth-busting is hard work, and I didn't even blow anything up! (My nod to the real MythBusters!!)

I hope I have been able to give you even more solid reasons to get out there, get informed and go and find a great baby carrier for you and your baby.

Happy {and safe} Babywearing Everyone!!


References used and for more information please see: 1. Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) Position Paper 2. Upright Babywearing positioning. Strollers, Baby Carriers & Infant Stress. Elizabeth Antunovic (2008 NAP, INc.)