Babywearing is one of the best ways to bond with your baby. There is no better way to feel the comfort and closeness than when your baby is carried so close to you. It is also a practical way to carry your baby and keep your hands free. The question frequently asked is how long babies can be carried in carriers or wraps. How long is too long?
There is no official time limit for carrying your baby in a carrier, however, there are safety and developmental risks that need to be considered when using a carrier for prolonged periods. Such risks include suffocation, positional asphyxiation, overheating, hip dysplasia and container syndrome. Therefore, the amount of time a baby spends in a carrier should be limited and closely monitored.
Here are some factors to consider when carrying your baby for long periods of time:
PROTECT YOUR BABIES AIRWAY WHEN BABY WEARING
If your baby’s face is covered by the fabric of the carrier or by your body, your baby may not be able to breathe. This can quickly lead to suffocation.
The term known as Positional Asphyxiation occurs when a baby suffocates from being in a position that restricts the breathing movements of the chest or that resulted in its nose or mouth being obstructed. As mentioned, if you are carrying your baby for long periods it is important to check that they are carried correctly and in this case are not slumped over in any way, especially in the forward-facing position.
This slumped posture can mean the rib cage is not able to expand properly, the diaphragm cannot work and breathing becomes difficult. The trachea can also close if the head is hanging forward which can cause asphyxiation.
You can reduce the risk of suffocation and positional asphyxiation by:
- Ensure your baby’s face is always visible and his/her mouth is not obstructed
- Taking regular breaks
- Check your baby regularly
- Ensure your baby is in the correct position
- Ensure you have correctly strapped and tightened your carrier to your body to prevent slouching
Babies who were premature, had low birth weight, are unwell, or are under four months of age are at greater risk of suffocation in baby slings. Talk to your GP or paediatrician before using a sling.
CONSIDER THE WEATHER WHEN BABY WEARING?
During the summer months when we tend to be more outdoors with our babies in carriers and wraps, we need to be aware when temperatures start to peek as this could lead to babies overheating.
When out and about in the hot weather try not to carry baby for too long and take regular breaks. Take your baby out of the carrier for some fresh air and stay in cool shady areas. When in the carrier or wrap ensure constant natural airflow especially to your baby’s face.
ADJUST YOUR BABY FREQUENTLY WHEN WEARING FOR LONG PERIODS
- Adjust your babies position when baby wearing for long periods of time.
- Occasionally change the side that your baby is resting their head on against you.
- Encouraging them to turn their head after an hour will eliminate the risk of any muscle stress.
- Make sure that your baby is in the optimal position by adjusting their legs and hips every now and again. Do this by performing a gentle pelvic scoop where you raise their knees and the pelvis to be more rounded. The best position is for your baby to have a rounded spine and knees that are sitting higher than the bottom.
- Make sure that you are aware of your babies position and if they move into a position that could cause them distress make sure you adjust them in the sling to ensure their safety.
CHOOSE a BABY CARRIER THAT WILL Give YOUR BABY's BODY THE REQUIRED SUPPORT
Choosing a suitable baby carrier is vital if you plan to use your baby carrier for prolonged periods of time. You should ensure that your carrier meets the below requirements.
- Any baby carrier that you are considering should promote hip health.
- A good Baby carrier will support your baby’s head and neck
- Good carriers are designed to secure baby’s spine in a healthy position.
- Carriers should be made to optimally hold and support your baby’s weight.
- Make sure your carrier does not cause you any discomfort and does not put strain on your back.
You’ll need to check the manufacturer’s instructions, to determine if your baby’s age, weight and height are suitable for the sling/carrier.
When choosing a baby carrier, make sure it is ergonomically designed – this term means the baby has lightly spread and raised legs, where their bottom hangs lower than their legs and their back is in the correct C-curve shape. It is important to make sure the carrier reaches the knee pits as the tendons will protect blood flow – so by keeping the pressure point on the top of baby’s bottom, blood flow is unhindered.”Megan Eadie - Certified Babywearing Educator, Ubuntu Baba
USE A CARRIER THAT PROMOTES HIP HEALTH
When carrying your baby for long periods of time, it is vital to ensure that they are secured in the carrier or wrap in the correct hip-healthy position.
There is an abundant amount of evidence that shows that holding an infants legs together for extended periods of time during early infancy can cause hip dysplasia and can even lead to hip dislocations.
These issues are most often seen in babies who have been swaddled tightly with their legs straight out.
Hip dysplasia or dislocation in babies is not painful so it may go undetected until walking age. That is why it is so important to make sure your baby is in the correct M-position when babywearing.Megan Eadie - Certified Babywearing Educator, Ubuntu Baba
The healthiest position to carry your baby is for the hips to be spread naturally apart to either side of the parents’ body, with the thighs supported and the hips and knees bent.
This position has been called the M-position. The hips should be able to move freely, and your baby's legs should not be straight or forced together. Any baby carrier that forces the baby’s legs together and in a straight position for long periods of time could cause hip dysplasia.
Make sure that your baby is in a carrier that is acknowledged by The International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI) as a ""hip-healthy"" product.
WILL MY BABY GET HIP dysplasia from sleeping in a baby carrier?
The risk of developing hip dysplasia increases when an unhealthy position is maintained for prolonged periods.
This is will not be a problem in a hip health carrier as the carrier holds your babes hips in a correct position.
A hip healthy baby carrier is not a static environment and your baby will adjust their position in response to your movements.
Consider your babies age and their developmental milestones?
The first three months of a babies life is sometimes referred to as the 4th trimester as your infant will spend most of their time sleeping or feeding. From then on baby’s need to be carried will decrease gradually.
Approximately one in 10 infants is born with loose hip ligaments from stretching during the birth process. This means that the first 3 months are also the highest risk period of your baby developing hip dysplasia.
It's important to allow your baby sufficient time out of the carrier to develop.
A baby who is learning to sit up, crawl, or walk will sleep and breastfeed significantly less than a newborn, so the need to wear the baby will decrease.”
GIVE YOUR DEVELOPING BABY REGULAR BREAKS OUT OF THE CARRIER
During the day, babies may spend too much time in “containers” such as car seats, rockers, swings, bumbos, walkers and carriers.
Too much time spent in these containers reduces the amount of time for a baby to move freely in order to develop their strength and coordination to learn new skills such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking. This can result in developmental delays.
Follow your baby’s routine and enjoy your time in the carrier. Follow the safety guidelines regarding positioning and check on your baby often to make sure your baby’s airway is not obstructed and that your baby is not getting too hot in the carrier.
Take regular breaks to give your baby some time out of the carrier to have free play time and allow for tummy time, both of which are hugely important for development.