If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to use your baby carrier with your newborn, the answer is twofold. Yes, it is safe to have a newborn in a baby carrier, but only if it’s the right carrier for newborns!
In general, you can wear your baby from day one, but there are important factors and details you should keep in mind for utmost safety.
To begin with, let’s look at the different carriers and if they are safe for newborns.
Wraps are quite basic. They are simply a long piece of fabric that you tie around yourself and your baby. In certain cultures, they have been used by mothers for centuries. Wraps provide a snug nestling place for an infant.
Wraps are great for newborn babies because they support them in a natural and snug position if used properly and tied securely. It’s important that the wrap goes around the baby’s entire body including the neck and head. As long as the head and neck are well supported, you’re golden.
Factors to Keep in Mind When Using A Warp for a Newborn
Most parents start with a stretchy wrap. These wraps create a secure and snug feeling for the baby, but keep in mind that stretch fabric doesn’t last as long as woven fabric – over time it can lose its stretch and become difficult to tie securely.
Stretchy wraps are best for small babies. They are not suitable for heavier babies as they may not provide adequate support.
Tying a wrap to carry a child is tricky and takes practice. When you first attempt it, have someone with you to help you. If there is one in your area, contact a baby wearing consultant to help you. If there isn’t one, you’ll find that most reputable brands come with detailed instructions that can help you. Also, there are a host of videos online on babywearing with videos that are specifically aimed at baby wrapping.
Get someone to help you secure your baby in the wrap until you can do it with confidence on your own.
Slings are also simply a long stretch of fabric, but they have two rings on the one end. You secure the baby in the sling by threading the other end of the material through the two rings. A sling is worn over one shoulder and you carry your child on the opposite hip. Babies can be comfortably carried in a sling for hours. Slings have been used safely for newborns for many years.
Slings are great for newborns. Unlike a wrap, it’s not difficult to get a baby in and out of a sling. Newborns are usually carried more towards the center of the wearer’s front and mothers often start wearing their baby on their hip when they are a bit bigger and have better head control.
Factors to Keep in Mind When Using a Sling for a Newborn
It’s important to make sure that your baby is positioned correctly. The baby should not sling low on your hip. A tiny baby should be carried high and secure on your chest.
When you put your baby in the sling, make sure that his head is visible, his back and neck are supported and that his airway is open. Check that his legs and hips are positioned correctly.
One of the benefits of baby carriers is that they allow you to do get on with other things you have to do. However, don’t let one of those things be cooking! Don’t plan to make supper while wearing your child in a sling, it’s just not worth the risk.
Soft-structured Baby Carriers
Soft-structured baby carriers resemble backpacks. They consist of a panel for the baby’s body to which buckled waistbands and padded shoulder straps are attached. The straps ensure that the baby’s weight is distributed evenly, which makes these carriers comfortable to use.
Some soft-structured baby carriers are suitable for newborn infants, but with certain provisos.
Factors to Keep in Mind When Using a Soft-structured Carrier for a Newborn
Personally, I wouldn’t put a newborn in a soft-structured baby carrier unless the fit is really snug and there is support for my baby’s neck and head. Thing is, you can tighten the straps to get a snug and secure fit, but that does not necessarily translate into secure support for a newborn’s fragile neck.
Babies spend a lot of time sleeping in their first few months. What they need is a comfortable and secure place to sleep. You can carry your newborn in a carrier, but it’s better to wait until he can hold his head firmly, which happens at around 4 months. If you definitely want to get a carrier for your newborn, look for a brand that comes with an infant insert and a headrest.
Mei Tais are similar to soft-structured carriers but they are less structured. They simply consist of a square of fabric for the baby’s body. Wide straps are attached to the four corners – two shoulder straps and two waist straps. This is a sturdy and comfortable carrier for both parent and baby.
Originating from East Asia, the Mei Tai has been used to carry newborns for centuries. The way it is tied to the wearer’s body with a cross at the back ensures that the baby is safe and secure and the wearer is comfortable.
This traditional carrier is perfect for newborns and doesn’t require an insert.
A backpack carrier has a solid structure with fabric that fits onto a metal frame. Backpack carriers are not suitable for newborns. They are designed for toddlers and babies who can sit independently and have solid neck and head control.
For more details on the different types of baby carriers, check out our detailed baby carrier guide!
Correct Position for Carrying a Newborn Baby
There are right and wrong ways to wear your newborn in the baby carrier. Here is what you should keep in mind.
Neck and head supported
This point can’t be stressed enough. If you have ever held a newborn baby, you will have noticed that the baby can’t hold his head firmly. That is because the neck muscles are still developing.
Whatever carrier you decide on, make sure it supports your baby’s neck and head.
Ideally, an infant should face the wearer, in other words, he should be on the front and inward-facing.
According to experts like chiropractors who specialize in the spine and nervous system, this position is the best for the baby’s pelvis and spine. The baby’s legs should be spread out around the wearer’s hip or waist and with the knees higher than the bottom.
If you carry your baby facing inward, you can always see how he is doing and whether he is breathing easily. It is difficult to monitor a small child who is on your back.
Avoid Outward Facing
A newborn baby’s spine is naturally curved in a C shape. When you carry your infant facing outward, his back is stretched in the opposite direction – his back is straightened out and that is not natural for a small infant’s development. Experts warn that this can stress the baby’s spine and lead to abnormal development of the hip joints.
Another drawback of outward-facing babywearing is that the baby can get overstimulated and unhappy. As stated earlier, infants mostly sleep during their first few months and they need to do that in order to develop and grow.
You can use a baby carrier for your newborn. Just make sure that your child’s head and neck are well supported, that he can breathe freely, that he is securely wrapped and that you can have an eye on him at all times.
Per the Canadian government’s baby carrier safety guide, parents should always:
- Keep the baby’s face in view.
- Keep the baby in an upright position.
- Make sure the baby’s face is not pressed into the fabric of the carrier or sling, your body, or clothing.
- Make sure the baby’s chin is not pressed into their chest.
- Make sure the baby’s legs are not bunched up against their stomach, as this can also restrict breathing.
- Wear the baby snug enough to support their back and hold onto the baby when bending over so they don’t fall out of the carrier or sling.
- Check your baby often.
Paul is a passionate dad who founded Upside Dad to share his parenting journey with other new parents. He graduated from Concordia University and worked as a test engineer for over a decade. Paul loves dad jokes and craft beer.
Learn more about Paul and Upside Dad here.