Here is some info I've been gathering for my clients and for my childbirth education classes. Thought you might find it helpful since I didn't see a thread on it recently. :) If anyone has anything that is more up-to-date than what I have here, please let me know! (email@example.com) I want to give my clients the best information possible! Thanks! :)
When done properly, carrying a baby in a soft baby carrier can be safer than carrying a baby in your arms. Your carrier doesn’t have muscles that get tired, and your carrier doesn’t have arms that reflexively reach out to balance you or catch you when you fall. But, as with anything concerning babies, good safety practices are of paramount importance. This article has many safety tips, but no set of guidelines can anticipate every circumstance. You are responsible for your child’s safety as well as your own.
Whatever carrier you choose, learn to use it properly, and always keep safety in mind.
A Few ABSOLUTE RULES
1. Make sure your baby can breathe. Baby carriers allow parents to be hands-free to do other things … but you must always remain active in caring for your child. No baby carrier can ensure that your baby always has an open airway; that’s your job.
a. Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. This rule applies to babies being held in arms, in baby carriers, in infant car seats, or in any other kind of seat or situation. This position can restrict the baby’s ability to breathe. Newborns lack the muscle control to open their airways. They need good back support in carriers so that they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position.
b. Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause her to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering her head and face keeps you from being able to check on her. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on her frequently.
2. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.
3. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.
4. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight. For example, frame backpacks can be useful for hiking with older babies and toddlers but aren’t appropriate for babies who can’t sit unassisted for extended periods. Front packs usually have a weight range of 8 to 20 pounds; smaller babies may slip out of the carrier, and larger babies will almost certainly cause back discomfort for the person using the carrier.
For this reason, it is recommended that baby is always facing you, whether he is on your back or front or hip. It is better for baby's hips and spine to not be dangling by the crotch. :)
~Ginny Mills (Mom to 3-ages dd-5(DIVA), ds-8(ADHD), & dd-18(Asperger's)
Doula/Childbirth & Parenting Educator & B.A. in Psych w/ Early Childhood Ed/Marriage & Family Counseling
Most of this is excellent, but I do not consider legs below bum in a carrier designed for that carry to be an absolute contraindication or safety issue. In a ring sling, YES, knees need to be up. But the Hip Dysplasia Institute drawings are a hypothesis and a suggestion, not fact, rule or evidence. There is in fact no good evidence I've seen anywhere that "crotch danglers" are harmful to development. I don't like them, I don't think they're comfortable, but I do not like people putting them in the "absolute safety guideline" category as the evidence is not there and it makes the other info suspect. For example, bag slings: We have concrete data about oxygen desats in normal babies and reports of of deaths. Please don't dumb that down by putting it in the same category as a crotch dangler worn low, the evidence is just not sufficient to put them on equal footing.
I emailed the Hip Dysplasia people to ask about their evidence to support their widely referred-to drawings, they backtracked quickly saying, "No we don't have evidence that any brand or type of carrier causes hip dysplasia."
Likewise, there is even less reason to think forward facing out, per se, is unhealthy. There are things one can do to make it more pleasant and safe, but it is not inherently harmful, IMO, and if you have actual honest to god research to show otherwise, I'm all ears.
Jenrose, Mama to DD1, born 1993, DD2, born 2005, and DS1, Jan. 2012. Babywearing, cosleeping, homebirthing mom with fibromyalgia and hashimotos. DD2 has a rare chromosome disorder.