As a parent and/or caregiver, one of the biggest joys we can get out of raising babies and tiny humans is immersing them into the big wide world around us for the first time. There’s nothing like seeing their little faces light up with wonder at new experiences and surroundings. It’s truly magical!
When going out, scrolling through social media, or on TV, if you see a baby being worn, chances are the baby might be forward-facing (or also known as world-facing). It makes sense that parents and caregivers alike might be excited to face their babies forwards in a baby carrier so they can be fully immersed and an active participant in the world around them.
Not only is it our privilege to introduce our young into the world, it’s also our responsibility to put our babies’ safety first. In this post we are going to talk about how to introduce a world-facing babywearing experience in a safe way that is developmentally appropriate for your child.
First things first, not every carrier supports forward facing. Don’t worry if the carrier you have doesn’t have this option. Your child is not going to be worse-off for not being worn in this way. You are your child’s best teacher! Your baby will learn so much from being close to you, seeing your facial expressions, how you interact with the world around you and don’t ever forget - you are their home. You are what they know best.
Forward facing is an option, it’s just that. It’s not a requirement, it’s an OPTION that some families choose. (If your carrier doesn’t support forward-facing keep reading for some other world-immersing alternatives for baby that may be possible with your carrier!)
“Can I use any carrier for forward-facing?”
Some soft structured carriers have been engineered to allow a safe forward-facing option for your baby. These carriers promote an ergonomic M shape seat (with baby’s knees above their hips) even when baby is facing outwards. It’s always a good idea to include a pelvic tuck when popping baby into the carrier to encourage this M shape position. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for your carrier. Only wear it in this position if the carrier is made to safely do so.
“When can we start?”
The short version of this answer is: when your baby can support their own airways independently for an extended period of time. This requirement is integral to the safety of your child and should not be overlooked. When born, your baby’s airway is about as thin as a straw, without adequate neck and head control, their chin can slump onto their chest which could obstruct their airway. This means that if left in this position for long enough they could unfortunately suffocate. This is why it’s very important that baby isn’t ever left to sleep while forward-facing in a carrier.. A sleeping baby with nowhere to rest their face is more likely to slump forward therefore creating an asphyxiation risk.
“So how do I know my baby is ready?”
The best way to tell if they’re ready is the following questions:
- Can baby sit unsupported or hold a ‘tripod position’ for an extended period of time?
- Is baby older than 4 months old?
- Are you able to pick your baby up from the ground to you without cradling their neck?
If you answered yes to all three questions above, your baby is probably ready to experience forward-facing in a carrier!
If you are not certain, or if your child has some developmental delays or disabilities please clear it with your paediatrician before trying this position.
“Is there a safe time limit for forward-facing?”
The world and everything in it is brand new and very exciting for your baby. Some babies may find this immersion overstimulating. When in a parent-facing position, if baby is feeling overwhelmed, they have the comfort of your chest to nestle into. However, if forward-facing, there is nowhere to retreat. Every child is different and only you know your child best. As a rule of thumb try forward-facing 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This may be the limit for some babies, and some may want to go longer. As mentioned before though, it’s never safe for baby to sleep in this position. So if baby becomes drowsy or starts falling asleep, be sure to face them in towards you as soon as possible.
“What’s the best positioning?”
Just like when baby is facing you in a carrier, the TICKS guidelines are also applicable and encouraged when baby is world facing.
Baby should be:
T - Tight and secure.
I - In view at all times
C - Close enough to kiss
K - Keep chin off chest
S - Supported spine (in a C or J curve).
Following TICKS means that baby is kept nice and high so we can monitor their wellbeing and allows for them to be as comfortable and safe as possible.
“What are the alternatives?”
As baby grows and their weight increases, some people find that this method of carrying becomes less comfortable on the caregiver. If you and your baby want to try something different or if your baby wants a “better view of the world” without forward facing you could try a hip carry (in a supported SSC (Soft Structured Carrier), ring sling, woven wrap etc). A hip carry gives them a different vantage point but still provides a safe retreat if baby needs.
And what kid doesn’t like a piggy-back? Wearing baby on your back is another option for your baby to see the world around them too. (A SSC will allow for a mid-back carry, alternatively you can achieve a higher carry with a Meh Dai, Onbuhimo or Woven Wrap).
To safely hip carry or back carry, it’s strongly recommended that baby be able to support their own airways and meet the same signs of readiness as previously mentioned.
Just like the world around you, the babywearing world is your oyster. There are so many carrying options that allow you to keep your baby close while exploring. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed with all the possibilities or need some extra support finding your best fit, please get in touch with a qualified Babywearing Consultant through the Australian Babywearing Association to help you carry with confidence!
This article was written on behalf of the Australian Babywearing Association by Babywearing Educator Laura Brimblecombe from Cuddled in Cloth @cuddledincloth