Baby carriers tend to divide parents into two camps: those who love the hands-free idea, and those who fear potential developmental risks. The facts are, as usual, somewhere in-between.
The concern comes following reports of reputable baby carrier brands being deemed unsafe, although to date, no studies have supported the claims.
Hip dysplasia is the main fear, with the argument being that certain carriers do not support optimal leg positioning, thus increasing the risk of hip development problems. Hip dysplasia specifically refers to the condition where the hip joint bones do not align properly. The result can be painful joints, and a limp, which can extend into teenagehood. Around 2000 babies in the UK develop this dysplasia annually.
As logical as the connection seems, there’s no (direct) evidence supporting carriers to be the culprit—according to Dr Charles Price, the director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI).
But Price does point out that healthy hip positioning is important for normal hip development, especially as young infants have impressionable bone structure: “[W]ith carriers that carry babies in the Spread Squat position – also called the Froggy, Ergonomic-M or Jockey position (pictured above) – hip dysplasia is almost unknown,” he says.
‘The Froggy’ position should look like this:
- Baby’s hips must be positioned at just over a 90+ degree angle, with legs spread around the adult’s body
- There should be a wide base of support under baby’s thighs
- Baby’s bum should be at the same level or a little lower than the knees
The opposite of this ergonomic posture—with legs hanging straight—is deemed the most unhealthy for hips. Slings that keep legs inside the fabric are also considered unfavourable for growth.
While the exact causes of hip dysplasia remain a mystery, and experts’ opinions appear to be avoidant of taking a definitive stance, the best practice seems simple:
Take a look at your little one’s positioning in the carrier, and assess whether or not they’re sitting in a hip-healthy position. The remedy may be a simple adjustment, or possibly, a different carrier.