Why wearing your baby facing in is a better choice.

March 14, 2010 at 11:31 am 3 comments

**This post is NOT bashing parents who have worn their babies facing out, merely attempting to help educate people.**

Some ‘mainstream’ carriers (ie very expensive and not always the best option for mums/dads and babies) offer options for babies to face out. That is, their back is against your tummy, so they can see the world. Many people assume this is a good, healthy, and fun way for your baby to be able to see what’s going on.

In all actuality, this is not the best position for your baby.

I have read a lot of research on the subject (yes, I’m a nerd), but am possibly too tired from hanging out with two very active babies to write an academic and impressive sounding post, so I’ll just break it down for you in everyday language.

Basically, on the parent side, it can be very uncomfortable to wear a baby facing out. It puts more strain on your body than if you were wearing them facing in, as it shifts the baby’s weight away from your centre of gravity – making them feel much heavier.

On the physical side of things, your baby’s anatomy is designed to be in a certain position. Namely, with a rounded back and knees up in a froggy position. Pick up any baby and hold them to your chest, and this is the position they naturally assume.

A good sling will be able to support a baby in this way when worn properly, and this position can only be achieved by a baby’s tummy being against yours (or your back!).

Carriers that have babies facing out – mainstream soft structured ones as well as a mainstream wrap that recommends this – holds your baby in an unnatural and unhealthy position. Namely, they dangle by their crotches. This means their back is in an unnatural position as they have to hold themselves awkwardly (or are held awkwardly by the carrier), and that all their weight is on the base of their spine. This is not good for your baby’s spinal development.

Wearing your baby facing out can also tilt their pelvis backwards and cause their back to go ‘hollow backed’ rather than rounded – this is due to their legs not being supported in the right position (as their legs have no support at all!).

When your baby is worn facing you, any good sling will have fabric to support them from knee to knee, with their knees higher than their bottoms. This ensures that the weight is carried by their bums, and the spread leg placement promotes healthy hip development. And all the medical stuff aside, your baby is probably much more comfortable when supported in the position they would naturally take, anyway.

There is also a genuine physical/emotional component of overstimulation. A baby being worn facing out has no option but to take everything in. This can be overwhelming for a baby, particularly a young one.

When a baby is facing their parent or caregiver, they have the option to quite easily look around and interact with the world. Their linguistic development is solid as they are always hearing your voice and can ‘participate’ in conversations. They are more likely to be in a quiet, alert state that promotes learning, rather than crying. These are all good things.

However, when your baby has had enough of noises and images, they have the choice to tuck their face against your chest. This lets them control how much stimulation they are getting. (It also allows them to have a lovely nap, which isn’t really possible when facing out.) Your baby can make eye contact with you whenever they wish (in a front carry) or just rest their cheek against your chest or back, and therefore have the double advantage of exploring the world but having constant access to the security of their parent.

Basically, imagine sitting with all YOUR weight supported by your crotch, as opposed to your bum. Now, while you’re dangling there, imagine a constant barrage of sight and sound, with no real way to shield yourself from it.  You can turn your head from side to side, but it doesn’t really help. (There may also be a bunch of strangers getting up in your face, cooing at you and chucking your chin. ) And if you get tired, how are you supposed to comfortably nap without your head bobbing around?

For those parents who say their baby likes seeing things – you’re probably right! And there are many excellent ways to wear your baby that allows them to see more of the world, but still holds them in an optimum position for healthy spinal and hip development – as well as giving them an ‘out’ if they get tired or need a break.

High back carries allow your child to peek over your shoulder and effectively see what you are seeing. Older babies can also be worn in back carries with less fabric – essentially not up to their neck, but mainly covering their bottom/hips/lower back and leaving them a lot of movement (assuming your baby is not a wiggly squirmer who wants to escape!).

High front carries are also something I sometimes do when I’m wearing only one baby. Babies on your front are classically worn (in whatever sort of carrier) so that you can easily kiss the top of their head. I will wear mine higher on occasion, so they can look over my shoulder, around, etc. I also will pull back the two bands of fabric on front, and occasionally pull back the ‘pocket’ they are sitting in so that only their bum is held. This lets them interact easily with the world, and when they are a bit overstimulated or tired, I can easily and quickly bundle them back up.

There are also front carries in wraps that are less ‘restrictive’ on babies, and these are fabulous for older babies with good head control.

Hip carries are also a premier option! Your back can then see what’s going behind and in front of you.

So you see, your baby (and you, and your back!) can have their cake and eat it, too. They can have proper slings that promote healthy physical and emotional development, as well as easily being able to participate in the wider world. One of the benefits of babywearing is having your baby at a good level to hear conversation, view the world (and not just knees or exhaust fumes!), and have a snuggle at the same time. This can all be achieved without putting your baby or your body at risk.

When done properly, babywearing does not hurt. I’ve known people to switch from mainstream carriers (especially when their baby has been facing out) to a more ‘alternative’ carrier and be amazed at how comfortable and supported they feel.

Wear your baby responsibly, because it does really matter.

There are loads of research articles published that discuss this all in more fluent and impressive sounding ways, but I have chosen to link to websites of well known slings as they are slings you may be using, and they all promote healthy babywearing.

I am aware that some companies producing slings offer instructions for wearing your baby facing out, but I do not believe that is supported by medical research.  I think companies want to make money, and they do that by trying to appeal to parents – it’s understandable why parents might think letting their baby face out is the best option, but it is regrettable that companies do not try to educate them on safer options.


Entry filed under: babywearing.

Taking a baby out of a front carry in a wrap. A cheer me up Monday post.

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. saralema  |  March 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Great entry! Facing out in our wrap has never been very comfortable. Reading this helped me realize why.

  • 2. Christy  |  March 14, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    This is a great post! It’s so informative and the info is super important.

  • 3. Crunchy Nurse  |  March 27, 2010 at 2:56 am

    What about when a baby is sitting with his legs crossed in the sling, facing out? I have done that in the Maya wrap for short periods of time. Not my favorite position, but the baby isn’t supported by the crotch. I agree that facing the parent is much more comfortable for the parent.


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