In the past wearing your baby in an outward facing carrier has been seen as taboo and rightfully so. Carriers were made with narrow bases so baby’s legs would dangle putting all their body weight on their pubic bone. Then there is the fear of over stimulating your baby by having them face outwards! But the thing is some babies are more curious than others and like to be held facing the world. So how can we wear our babies in such a position? How can an outward facing baby carrier support a baby’s spine and hips ergonomically? How do we prevent over stimulation?
Why would a BABY want to face outwards?
Up to 4 months a baby is best facing their wearer’s chest. Your chest supports their floppy head, the curvature of their new spine and helps to regulate their breathing, heart rate and body temperature. When a baby develops into a 4-6 month old their head control and upper body becomes stronger. Observe the way they move and hold themselves up during tummy time, these same movements can happen in the carrier which can often feel like they are pushing you away. Another development is the length of their field of vision, it gets longer, they can see more! Naturally, they become more curious as their awareness of the world wakes up. However, it is important to be aware that a baby cannot cope with a lot of visual and aural stimulation at this age.
Why would WE want to position our babies to face outwards?
The world is an interesting place! With lots of things to see and watch why would they want to face me? It’s got to be boring, right? Babies are social beings, yes, they get to a point where they become more curious, but they love and learn so much from watching your face and listening to the way you speak. So, the next time you feel this whilst having them in a carrier facing you try making faces with them, blow raspberries make funny noises with your voice, play peekaboo, even copy the noises they make. It’s a gorgeous way of connecting with your baby and yep, you might get some funny looks, but who cares! Blank it out see the value in connecting with your baby!
When can I wear my baby outward facing?
Outward facing checklist:
Your baby is 4-5 months old
You have noticed that they can hold their head and rotate it from side to side
You have noticed that they are reaching out for toys
You find yourself naturally holding them outward facing in your arms
What features do I need to look for in an outward facing carrier?
Some parents enjoy holding their babies in their arms facing outwards, baby is content, and everyone is happy. This is very different to carrying a baby in a carrier in the same position. When holding a baby in your arms there is constant movement in your baby's body whilst holding them, from one arm to the other or arm to shoulder or 2 arms hold to 1 arm hold. However, when you position a baby in a carrier facing outwards the hold is more static making it more important to get the positioning right. This is why manufacturers like Ergobaby recommend outward facing for 15-20 minutes.
A good carrier will:
Support the natural curvature of a baby’s spine
Support baby’s hips from knee in an optimal M shape when the knees are higher than the bottom. The knees do not have to be hugely above the bottom you can have a gentle bend from knee to knee.
Be positioned on the wearer’s body in an ergonomic position that does not give them a back ache.
How do I get a good position in an outward facing carrier?
Cecila and Elise are demonstrating a great outward facing carry in their Ergobaby 360.
1. Before putting baby into the carrier, make sure your carrier is adjusted to support baby in an outward facing position.
2. The carrier needs to support baby from knee to knee.
3. Tilt the baby’s hips forward so that they are not sitting on their pubic bone and their spine is shaped in a J position.
How will wearing my baby outward facing impact my body?
Having your baby’s feet and legs dangling at the front of your body, can pull your centre of gravity forward. This might make you feel a bit clumsy or even give you some discomfort in your lower back. Be mindful when you are moving around, especially when you bend forwards that you don’t topple over.
For optimal comfort when carrying your baby in a carrier, make sure:
The carrier is strapped tight to your body
Your baby’s bottom is positioned above or in line with your belly button so that the back of your baby’s head is close enough to kiss without straining a lip or neck muscle.
How do I read my baby’s cues when they are facing outwards?
When carrying your baby outward facing, you are unable to see their face and read their cues. E.g., the yawn, the watery eyes when they are tired. The screwed-up face when they have a bit of pain in their gut. It is therefore important to be alert in other ways, listen to the sounds they make and how they move their body.
How long before a baby gets overstimulated?
Many manufacturers recommend outward facing carries for 15 to 20 minutes at a time as a general rule. However, use your intuition, be aware of your baby’s cues and consider the following factors:
The environment you are in.
Loud and busy will stimulate your baby and make them tired quickly. A quiet and peaceful walk through the garden will keep them relaxed and calm thus giving you some more time facing outwards.
Knowing when their last sleep was.
If your baby has just had a nap, they will be fresh and ready to face the world outwards. A baby that is closer to nap time will not be able to deal with too much stimulation.
An over-stimulatedbaby will have an effect on the way they feed and settle afterwards.
What happens if my baby falls asleep facing outwards?
If your baby falls asleep whilst outward facing, PLEASE turn them around! Yes, they might wake up, but once they are turned settle them with movement, a pat on the bottom and a gentle song (or shhhhhh). They need your chest to support their spine, neck and (most of all) help to keep their airways clear. There is also nothing better than watching your baby and listening to their little snorts and snuffles as they sleep.
What other options are there to outward facing?
A hip carry is a great option to do with your baby. By positioning the baby on the side of your torso this allows the curvature of their spine and the optimal M shape in their hips to be supported. It is a win-win, baby gets a better view of the world from your side, they can shy away and snuggle into your body when they become tired or want to look away. Best of all you can still see them, socialise with them and read their cues.
To sum it up….
Is wearing your baby outward facing in a carrier bad?
In my opinion, no, not if it is done thoughtfully. As mentioned above, you do need to consider the following points:
The type of carrier and the support it gives
The positioning of baby’s spine and hips
Since you cannot see your baby’s cues, you need to be more aware of other ways they communicate with you.
Being aware of how it makes you move.
Turning your baby around to face you if they fall asleep.
Hip carries are another option for curious babies that want to see the world.
If you are interested in learning more about outward facing carriers and want to find which carrier works for you, book a Soft Structured Carrier Consultation with Sarah.