Updated: May 26
Do you remember when you were looking to buy a van for your growing family? You fell in love with a white minivan. Then as you were driving around, seemingly every single car on the road was a white minivan. We just had a baby girl a couple of weeks ago, and we love wearing our baby. As neurologically-based chiropractors, we understand the emotional benefits of babywearing. But we also know the real-life struggle of trying to maintain the house,
play with older siblings, cook dinner, and go to the grocery store. So we also understand the ease that babywearing can bring to postnatal life.
The one thing that we can no longer help but see everywhere we go are parents wearing their baby forward-facing. We have witnessed newborns, toddlers, children, grandchildren, boys, girls, first child, or fourth all wearing their baby facing forward!
I have decided to write this blog post to explore five reasons why it is better to wear your baby facing inward than outward.
#1 Having a baby facing outward can inhibit neurologic development
A newborn baby’s most significant responsibility is to adapt to the external world. They need to transition to feeding, digesting, breathing, seeing, etc., all on their own. To make this transition easier, newborns rely on their parents to help them maintain homeostasis.
A mom’s milk supply nourishes the baby grow, as well as immune fighting agents to support the baby’s immature immune system. The act of breastfeeding helps mold a baby’s cranium and helps solidify a baby’s digestive system. Even with all of those benefits, one of the most important is bonding. Babies rely heavily on mom and dad to keep them physically and emotionally regulated. A newborn can focus on an object 8 to 10 inches from their face. This distance is not accidental. That is the exact distance they need to be able to see mom’s face to give him social cues for what to expect. It is also the same distance when breastfeeding and wearing a baby!
Babywearing is vital, especially in the first few months of life. It allows for the baby to be able to see your face, hear your heartbeat, and steal your warmth. These benefits will help baby stay physically, physiologically, socially, and emotionally regulated.
This quote is from ergobaby.com:
"When your baby is in the front-outward facing position, she is cut off from having a clear view of the caregiver’s face. This is especially problematic in the first 6 months, where the interactions with the caregiver’s face are vital for the optimum neurological development of the baby’s brain. Therefore, we absolutely only recommend the forward-facing inward position for the first six months."
#2 Facing outward can give a baby too much stimulation
When a baby is facing outward, they have no way of regulating the sensory input they receive. Whether it’s a moving object, something shiny, a smiling face, nature’s beauty, or a screaming child, it can all be overwhelming. When the body is feeling overwhelmed, it goes into a sympathetic, fight-or-flight reaction. The nervous system goes into protection mode. The body sends blood and energy to the muscles to fight or flee to survive, depending on the situation.
Energy is a limited resource. If the body increases energy in one place, it has to take it from another. So the body decreases energy from parasympathetic, or rest and digest functions like emotional connection, digestion, sleep, and immunity.
This quote is also directly from ergobaby.com:
"Not being able to refer to the caregiver’s face can create unnecessary stress in the baby and if happening repeatedly, may compromise its basic capability to regulate stress reactions, which in the long run can become detrimental to mental and physical health in adulthood."
#3 Baby's have poor head control
Babies are born in the fetal position. Their spine is in a C-shape. During the first months of life, a baby has to open his/her body. One of the most significant changes is being able to lift their head. The expectation for a three-month-old baby is to be able to hold his/her head up in tummy time for 1-2 minutes at a time.
When a baby is facing forward, they don’t have the support they need to control their head and neck. A large portion of a baby’s size comes from its head. If they don’t have the support they need, they will become like bobbleheads. When dad is walking, the baby’s head will bounce up and down.
When a baby is inward-facing (with proper positioning and support), they can rest their head. They can share the responsibility. If a baby is forward-facing, they are 100% responsible for holding their head up, and they can’t do it!
#4 You may be setting your baby up for hip dysplasia
Babies are born with undeveloped hip joints. They do not have the same strength and stability in their hips as an adult, which makes hip dysplasia a big concern up to one year of age. Stretching a baby’s leg out too soon can increase the stress on an undeveloped hip.
Two tests that pediatricians utilize to assess hip dysplasia are Barlow’s and Ortolani’s. To perform Barlow’s test, the doctor will bring the knees together and then push gently towards the baby’s back. If you hear a clunk, that is a sign that the baby may have hip dysplasia, as there is instability in the hip joint.
An additional test is called Ortolani’s. The doctor spreads the knees apart and then brings the femur (thigh bone) forward. If the hip clunks in this position, a hip that was out of place was just corrected.
Therefore, the most dangerous position for your baby’s hips is when the knees are together, and legs have full extension. Unfortunately, this is the position most babies are in when they are front carried.
When wearing your baby, spread their knees apart and bring their knees above their hips. This position gives the baby the most support possible.
#5 Increased pressure on the spine
A newborn’s spine should be in a c shape with their chin tucked down. Wearing a baby forward-facing straightens their spine. This position places the weight of the head and upper body on an immature pelvis and low back, which are not ready to withstand that amount of pressure.
This stress can result in what is known as a subluxation. The added force of gravity on the immature spine causes significant shifts structurally, resulting in stress neurologically. The nerves in the low back and pelvis control things like digestion, bladder control, muscle tone in the legs, and even major hormonal centers that control temperament and growth!
Forcing a baby to “sit up” before they are ready can create a host of problems biomechanically and neurologically, specifically in the low back, similar to babies who are put in seats before they are sitting on their own, or in walkers before they are walking. If a baby cannot do an activity on their own, in most cases, you should not use a device to help them do that activity.
Bonus tip: How to forward carry a baby
The best way to have a baby facing forward in a carrier is to have them on your back! This position gives the children enough support physically. They can rest their head, and their pelvis can be supported, which takes a ton of pressure off of the spine.
A reliable indicator to know if your baby is ready to be forward-facing is if they can sit up on their own and if they have good head control. These signs indicate the baby can support their weight while being able to regulate the sensory information they are taking in!
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share this information with anyone who can benefit.
At Slainte Chiropractic in Jacksonville Beach, FL, we stand for a world where connection, communication, and creation are conceivable!