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.
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.
But first, what is hip dysplasia?
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
- A breech birth
Want to know more about hip dysplasia, we’ve got all the information here.
Can carriers cause hip dysplasia?
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.”
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.”
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.
We’ve got more on safe babywearing right here…