Everyone has opinions about babywearing, and as a parent, it’s downright overwhelming trying to decipher the truth in any of them. The important thing to remember is that these statements are just that: opinions. Very few of them are based in facts (even though they may be presented as such). Whether you babywear or not is truly up to you. We know many parents who love it, and other parents who aren’t interested in babywearing — and none of them will “ruin” their children simply because they chose to babywear or not.
For those who are curious and intrigued by the benefits and rewards of babywearing, we’re here to help you do it in a smart, healthy, and enjoyable way. Much of the information circling the internet is based on speculation, anecdotal evidence (one person’s experience), or preliminary research skewed to sound like truth. Before you decide whether babywearing is right for you and your little one, we want you to be informed.
To help you babywear smartly, in this post we address some of the most common myths surrounding babywearing. Whether you choose to babywear or not, you can feel assured that you’re making the decision based on sound information (and your own parental instinct).
Myth 1: Babywearing Is Terrible for Your Back
When used correctly, slings, carriers, and other babywearing gear shouldn’t hurt your back or shoulders. Some moms even find that babywearing strengthens their back muscles over time.
Remember, everyone’s body (and everyone’s baby!) is different, so what works for one mom and baby might not work perfectly for you. When you first start babywearing, test out different carrier options to learn what’s most comfortable for your body. Different types of carriers may be better suited to longer or shorter periods of babywearing.
If you are experiencing back pain that you believe is associated with carrying your baby, assess your method of carrying. Are you using a carrier that’s appropriate for your baby’s age and development stage? Are you wearing the carrier correctly?
Best practice is to position the carrier’s waist belt right around your belly button, and snug enough that baby’s head sits close to your neck and face. Always read the manufacturer’s specifications for your carrier to learn how to use it properly. Some parents even seek out a babywearing educator for personalized guidance in learning to babywear.
Wearing a carrier too low without the straps adjusted can also transfer the weight of your baby to your back and shoulders, instead of allowing some of it to be distributed to your waist and hips — this can contribute to back and shoulder pain, so be sure to adjust your carrier properly.
Keep in mind, back pain can have many causes. Although proper babywearing shouldn’t cause back pain, carrying your baby for long hours can worsen existing back pain. If you feel aches and pains while carrying your baby, check whether the pain is stemming from another common cause, and consider talking to your doctor.
Myth 2: Babywearing Will Hinder Your Child’s Development (Physically or Emotionally)
As parents, we all worry about our children and their ability to learn, grow, and develop at a healthy rate. The truth is, there’s no evidence that babywearing hinders your baby in learning to stand, walk, or become emotionally independent and secure.
Sitting upright in a carrier can help your baby develop head and neck strength, and it even helps to build those little arm muscles when he pushes against mom’s chest or back. The exposure to new faces, sounds, and views while hanging out with mom or dad stimulates the brain — these experiences can help your little one develop more quickly and improve language learning.
Far from spoiling your child, the practice of babywearing can strengthen the bond between baby and parent in a healthy and positive way. The physical skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby increases your oxytocin levels — which, in mothers, contributes to healthy breast milk production. It doesn’t hurt that producing more oxytocin can also relieve anxiety and even help to combat postpartum depression. The benefits of physical closeness and contact aren’t just for mom. Dad can babywear too, helping to build a bond of his own by nurturing baby close to his body, voice, and heartbeat.
Myth 3: You Shouldn’t Babywear in Hot Weather
Babywearing in hot weather is perfectly fine, as long as you use a comfortable carrier, keep hydrated, and stay attuned to your baby.
You’ll likely want to use a carrier made of a lightweight material, and dress yourself in lightweight clothes to keep your own body temperature comfortable. If it’s particularly humid and sweaty, consider bringing a mini spray bottle filled with water to spritz your own face (and perhaps baby’s neck or back) for a cool refresher.
While babywearing in hot weather isn’t inherently dangerous on its own, you should follow common safety guidelines anytime you have your baby outdoors on a hot, sunny day — whether babywearing, or not! This means drinking plenty of water and bringing plenty of formula or breast milk to keep both you and baby well hydrated; ensuring baby’s head and face are shielded from the sun (time to grab a cute hat!); and, if your baby is old enough, applying sunscreen.
Whether you live in a hot and humid climate or you’re just taking a family vacation in Florida, you can rest easy. If you practice proper sun care and protection, your little one won’t overheat simply because you’re wearing her in a carrier on a hot summer day.
Myth 4: Small Moms Shouldn’t Babywear
Babywearing for petite moms is definitely possible! There’s no required height for a parent to babywear successfully. It’s all about having the right gear and using the right techniques.
Test out different carrier types to see what feels best for your body. As we stated above, if you’re using it properly, a carrier shouldn’t cause back or shoulder pain. If you have an appropriate carrier for your baby’s age and size, and you position it correctly on your body (with baby up high, with the top of their head positioned above your shoulder line, and the carrier resting about at your belly button — an easy to remember guideline is that you should be able to tilt your head and kiss your baby on the top of their head), the carrier should distribute the weight comfortably across your torso.
If you’re concerned about being able to carry around the extra weight, start by babywearing for brief spurts at a time, and work your way to up to longer periods.
Myth 5: Large Moms Shouldn’t Babywear
Again, your body doesn’t have to fit a certain mold in order for you to babywear. Babywearing for plus-size moms, just as with petite moms, is all about getting the right carrier for you and your baby. Some parents seek out plus-size carriers, while others opt for adjustable carriers that allow them to arrange the straps to their own bodies (these are also helpful if more than one person plans to use the same carrier).
With a carrier that fits properly and comfortably, many plus-size moms love babywearing for the convenience it brings and the opportunity to foster a close bond with your little one.
Myth 6: Babywearing Can Cause Hip Dysplasia
There is a lot of concern and conflicting information regarding babywearing and hip dysplasia. While there are plenty of resources discussing ideal hip support for babies in a carrier, there is no evidence that babywearing with modern carriers causes hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia is often diagnosed at birth or soon after. While up to 15% of children may be diagnosed with mild hip instability, this generally resolves on its own and has not been shown to be aggravated or worsened by modern baby wearing styles. Hip dysplasia requiring treatment occurs in approximately two to three children per thousand births.
If your baby has hip dysplasia or another pre-existing hip condition, you should ask your pediatrician whether babywearing is recommended for your child. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute offers helpful illustrations to indicate the ideal baby carrier positioning for infants six months and younger when hip health is a medical concern.
The key takeaway? Unless your baby has pre-existing risk factors for a hip condition (ask your doctor), you don’t need to worry that babywearing will lead to hip dysplasia. There is no evidence that babywearing (facing-out or facing-in) will cause this condition.
Myth 7: You Can’t Babywear if You Had a C-Section
Your body will need extra time to recover from a C-Section, but the procedure doesn’t prevent you from babywearing. Take care to start babywearing only when your body is ready, and in a way that supports your body’s healing from the surgery. Ask your doctor when to start babywearing, and take the professional advice seriously; remember, you’re recovering from a surgery and the best thing you can do for your baby is to keep yourself healthy.
When you do feel ready to start babywearing, try out different carriers to see what feels most comfortable and do your research to learn how to babywear safely after a C-Section. Certain carriers may bother your abdominal area, especially where you have a scar. Use a carrier that is positioned high on your body, keeping your baby’s head close to your neck and face, and keep strain off your abdomen.
Your doctor will likely tell you to avoid heavy lifting after the surgery, and this is even more important while babywearing. With baby already adding weight to your front or back, try not to add more strain by lifting a heavy diaper bag, a car seat, or eight grocery bags at once.
If it’s uncomfortable the first time you try it, that’s okay. There’s no universal answer for when to start babywearing after a C-Section. Take a break for a few days, and try again. Every mother is different and the time to recover from a C-Section varies for everyone, so it’s important to listen to your own body. With the right care and time, you’ll be able to tote baby around just like any other mom.
It’s About What Works for You & Your Baby
You can’t stop people from having opinions, but you can keep yourself informed so you know which advice to take seriously and which are really just personal beliefs or misguided assumptions.
When your mother-in-law, brother, neighbor, or coworker shares seemingly harsh and often unsolicited comments on your method of carrying your baby, remember: these people are likely coming from a place of caring about the wellbeing of your little one (even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time). They may think they’re offering helpful information for your baby’s care, but only you can decide what’s best for yourself and your baby — no one else knows you like you do.
There’s no evidence that babywearing is inherently bad or dangerous. In fact, many parents praise the benefits it brings; from soothing baby by having him close to your body, to having your hands free for opening doors or helping your toddler, to the pure joy of pausing for a quick kiss on baby’s head throughout your day. Babywearing can be an accessible and enjoyable experience for every parent.
Want more information on babywearing positions, or help finding the right carrier for you? Check out our Babywearing Guide, where you can browse carriers and get tips for babywearing.