When you looked forward to being the parent of a newborn, you might have pictured toting your baby around with you. Maybe you imagined snuggling them against your chest while you handled house chores or you envisioned hiking with them on your back, showing them the world. But then come the logistics.
When can I carry my baby in a carrier? When can my baby face out in that carrier? What type of carrier is best? As with pretty much every aspect of caring for a baby, there’s a lot to consider. Fortunately, getting the answers you need doesn’t have to be a challenge.
Use this guide in order to enjoy all of the perks of a baby carrier while making sure you’re keeping your little one safe.
What is babywearing?
First up first, let’s talk about the baby carrier we’re talking about here. This isn’t the carrier car seat that you’ll have to learn how to buckle into your vehicle. Instead, we’re talking about babywearing.
Babywearing is just what it sounds like: you wear your baby on your body (on your chest, to start) using a carrier. That baby carrier could be as simple as a cloth you wrap around you and your baby, but it could also be a more sophisticated carrier with buckles, cinching straps, rings or padding.
The trick, though, is that you don’t want to put your baby into any type of carrier until their little body is ready. You also want to have them facing you until they reach certain milestones. But we’ll get into those details in a bit. First, let’s look at why you might want to use a baby carrier.
What are the benefits of babywearing?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babywearing as a way to prevent your baby from crying. It also soothes them when they do cry. They report that babies who are picked up soon after they start crying tend to cry less and for shorter periods of time. With baby carrying, you can do that and keep your hands free.
The AAP also says that keeping your baby close to you in this way can help you and your infant bond and support your baby’s development and learning. Plus, wearing your infant against your chest with their legs in an M shape can help to prevent hip dysplasia. If you need another reason to give it a try, babywearing can make breastfeeding easier.
When you hold your baby regularly in their earliest months, you help them to feel safe. As they get older, you can give them more space to explore self-soothing. But in their earliest season of life, babies benefit from being held close.
When is it safe to start using a baby carrier?
Expert opinion varies here. While many groups say you can put your newborn in a baby carrier provided that you know how to safely use it, others — like the Australian Parenting Website, which is sponsored by the Australian Government, and the Mayo Clinic — caution against carriers for babies under four months old.
The main thing is to check the weight limit of your baby carrier. To a large extent, you’ll find your answer there if you’re wondering, “When can I carry my baby in a carrier?” Many carriers aren’t safe for babies under 8 pounds.
Additionally, talk to your pediatrician. Certain health conditions, like premature birth or a respiratory condition, may mean you should wait to start carrier use or avoid one altogether.
Once you have the doctor’s go-ahead, the AAP recommends bringing your baby with you to size the carrier appropriately. You can then employ TICKS, a set of safety guidelines from the Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers, to ensure they stay safe in the carrier:
- Tight. Make sure your baby is snug against your chest.
- In view at all times. Position your baby so you can see their face when you look down. No carrier material should block their face.
- Close enough to kiss. You should be able to kiss the top of your baby’s head when they’re in the baby carrier.
- Keep their chin off their chest. Your baby should always have at least a finger’s-width of space between their chin and chest to allow them to breathe normally.
- Supported back. Your baby’s stomach and chest should both touch your chest. Their body should never form a C shape.
When can my baby face outward in a carrier?
In your baby’s earliest months, you should carry them on your chest facing toward you. At a certain point, they can graduate to facing outward and, eventually, to riding on your back. The main takeaway here is that you shouldn’t transition your baby to the next phase until their little body can support it.
So, when can a baby face out in a carrier? When their neck can support their head enough to keep it upright as they see the world, which usually happens within their first four and seven months, according to the AAP. Once your baby can support the weight of their head reliably, you can try carrying them facing outward. If you’re not sure if your child is ready, talk to your pediatrician.
All of this said, even a baby with a strong neck can slump forward while they’re sleeping, which can interfere with their breathing. Always keep an eye on your little one while they’re in the baby carrier.
You should also pay attention to your baby’s preferences. Your baby might tell you they want to face forward. Assuming they have sufficient neck development, you can flip them around when they start to get fidgety or fussy, trying to see more of what’s around them.
The reverse is also true. While a lot of little ones are curious and like to be able to watch the world facing forward, some babies get plenty of stimulation just from seeing their caregiver’s face. If you try facing your baby forward and they get fussy, you can flip them back around for now and try facing outward in another couple of weeks or so.
Because baby carrying can support your infant’s development and make your life easier, it’s a great option to explore. Discuss it with your pediatrician and follow the safety guidelines so you can rest easy as you get used to your baby carrier.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.