We all want to make sure that we’re carrying our babies in the best and safest possible way. It’s increasingly common to see carriers or wraps labelled as ‘hip healthy’ or ‘ergonomic for baby’s hips’, but what does this actually mean?
Let’s look at what really makes a sling or carrier safe for your baby, and de-mystify some of the confusing information you may have heard about carriers and your baby’s hip health.
The basic requirements of a safe sling or carrier:
Whatever carrier, wrap or sling you like the look of, check that it will provide the following:
Safe, comfortable support for a baby’s spine, head, and airways. Your baby should be held high and snug on your body with their face visible. Best support is achieved for a newborn when your baby is held in an upright position, facing your body.
For your baby’s safety, the most important things to check are that their spine and head are stabilised, and their airways are clear. Your carrier or sling needs to be made to good standards and used correctly to prevent your baby from falling.
The T.I.C.K.S. guidelines are a handy checklist you can use to check for safe positioning in any sling or carrier.
Straightforward to use. What you find easy to use will differ from what other people find easy. If you struggle to fasten or adjust your carrier then it will be harder to get a safe, supportive fit for your baby. Try things out and check that you can get your carrier secure and comfortable by yourself.
What about support for a baby’s hips?
Many slings and carriers are now advertised as ‘hip healthy’, but what does this mean, and how important is it?
When a baby is born, their hip joints are not fully developed and are much softer and more flexible than adult hips. You’ll notice that your baby often holds their legs in a tucked up, ‘froggy legged’ or ‘spread squat’ position with their knees to the sides of their body and higher than their hips. In medical terms this is also referred to as the legs being ‘flexed and abducted’. In these positions the legs and pelvis are aligned to best locate the thigh bone centrally into the hip socket, and support the developing hip joint.
So ‘hip healthy’ refers to when a carrier or wrap supports your baby under their thighs as well as under their bottom, with their knees higher than their hips. When your baby is held in this position, it also tends to make carrying more comfortable for you.
A ‘hip healthy’ carrier is one which has an adjustable seat width so it can be set to fit your baby ergonomically as they grow. Make sure that your carrier or wrap is set wide enough to fully support your baby’s full seated width from the back of one knee, along their thighs and bottom, to the back of the other knee.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip Dysplasia refers to an abnormal development of a baby’s hip joints. Whilst the causes are not fully understood, most babies whose hips develop abnormally will have been born with this tendency already present. This may have been caused by a family history of abnormal hip development, or because of positioning during pregnancy or birth (such as a breech birth). There is also some evidence that swaddling a baby with their legs extended straight rather than tucked up may affect healthy hip development.
Can I harm my baby’s hips by using the wrong carrier?
Probably not! If your baby has no family history of hip abnormalities, and there are no other risk factors or concerns about their hip development, then there is currently no evidence that any carrier will cause problems for your baby’s hip development.
If you want to make sure that you get the optimum support for your baby’s developing hips, then check that your carrier or wrap is adjusted to support your baby’s legs in the ‘flexed and abducted’ position that best aligns the bones of their hips and pelvis. This is more important whilst your baby is very young and their hip joints are still very soft and flexible.