Facing in or facing out – what’s the safest way for baby carriers and slings?

We spoke to experts at the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI),BabyBjörn and Attachment Parenting UK (APUK) to find out whether outwards-facing carry positions are safe

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There’s a debate going on in the babywearing world about safe positions for carrying a baby in a carrier, sling or wrap. Some argue that babies can only safely face inwards (ie, towards your chest) and that babies shouldn’t face outwards (towards the world).

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But, like many issues in parenting, it’s not so black and white.

The one thing that we’d unreservedly recommend is following the T.I.C.K.S guidelines. These advise that you should be carrying your baby Tight (and securely), that your baby is In view at all times, is Close enough to kiss, Keeping your baby’s chin off your chest and that your baby’s back is Supported.

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But there’s much more controversy around whether a baby can safely be carried facing outwards. At MadeForMums, we’ve looked into the arguments and spoken to three different babywearing and parenting expert sources to get their take on the controversy. And perhaps, not surprisingly, the experts themselves differ.

We spoke to:

  • The International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI)
  • Carrier manufacturer BabyBjörn
  • Attachment Parenting UK (APUK)

Attachment Parenting UK says, “Choose positions that works best for you and your baby”.

“The best carrying position is the one that mum/dad and baby are happiest with,” explains Michelle Mattesini at Attachment Parenting UK.

“In early development being able to see the caregiver is hugely beneficial to cognitive development.  But as the child develops they also benefit from interaction with the world around them. This is individual to each child.  There are carriers now available that make world-facing more comfortable for both parties.”

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APUK offers education, information and support to parents nationwide by way of over 70 affiliated support groups, a positive discipline e-course and helpline, coaching support, a huge online community.

Many of the APUK facilitators are trained in babywearing and breastfeeding support and all APUK groups offer sling libraries.

International Hip Dysplasia says, “It’s OK to face out if hips are supported”.

Dr Price at the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI) is all about healthy hips for babies and adults. According to Dr Price the position of the baby comes secondary to the support a carrier, sling or wrap offers.

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“From the perspective of hip health, it’s OK to face toward or away from the mother/father as long as the hips are supported properly.

“Hip support is probably more natural when the baby faces the mother and most babies prefer to look at their mother or father instead of the world.”

BabyBjorn says, “Face babies inward (towards your chest) for first 4-6 months, then babies can face outward (towards the world) after that”.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the babywearing industry, BabyBjörn has been making baby products since 1961.

It launched Europe’s first baby carrier back in 1973 and has been synonymous with babywearing ever since.

BabyBjorn has its own test facilities and works with pediatricians, orthopedist and midwifes when developing its carriers.  The Swedish brand says parent-facing is the optimal position for new babies to be in when being carried.

“With a newborn it is important to change their position often and alternate between a baby carrier, lying on the back and being carried in the arms,” says Annika Sander Löfmark Head of Public Relations at BabyBjörn.

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“They should be able to move their arms and legs. The first 4-6 months they face the parent, as they need the neck support.  After that when they can hold their head, many babies enjoy facing forward and discovering the world with the warm feeling of the parent.”

“The crucial thing is to be observant to the baby´s needs and see what they prefer. When they get older and the legs longer a wider seat position is often more comfortable. After a year, the baby, (now a toddler!) is ready to be carried on the back.”

In a nutshell:

  • A newborn baby’s position should be changed often, it’s best if you alternate between a baby carrier, lying your little one on her back and carrying her in your the arms.
  • Always follow the T.I.C.K.S guidelines whenever you’re babywearing.
  • Support you baby’s hips, head, neck and back when you’re using a carrier of any kind, but allow them to move their arms and legs freely.
  • Facing inwards is beneficial to your baby’s cognitive development, particularly in the first 4-6 months.  Once he is old and strong enough to hold up his head he can face outwards and benefit from interaction with the world, while still having you close.
  • Choose the position that’s best for you and your baby
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We’ve got more on safe babywearing right here…

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