8 Reasons Why You Should Not Forward Face Your Baby in a Carrier

A parent’s job is to keep their children safe and make them feel secure. As a certified babywearing educator and store owner I get a lot of parents who ask if it’s safe to forward face their child in a carrier. While it’s well known that as babies grow up they become more interested in the world and want to face out parents must still understand the physiological and emotional needs of their baby. Here are 8 reasons why I never recommend forward facing a child in a baby carrier.

1. The Spread Squat Position is not Possible Facing Forward in a Narrow Based Carrier.

The ideal baby carrier will be able to support your child and keep him comfortable for long periods of time not just short spurts here and there. Supporting your baby’s natural spine development is crucial during the first year of  life. During the first year their spine is developing  and it’s important to understand the stages in which this happens. Kyphosis is described as the slightly rounded position babies take during the first several weeks following their birth. This continues until they reach stage one known as Neck Lordosis which consists of the top 7 vertebrae. This stage begins as soon as your baby starts to lift his head and it’s complete when baby can hold his head up unassisted and can lean on his forearms. This usually takes place around 4 months of age. During this time your baby’s neck needs to be fully supported and the fabric of your carrier should extend from the back of your baby’s neck all the way under his bum and behind the hollow of each knee.

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Stage two is known as Chest Kyphosis and consists of the 12 chest vertebrae. During this phase your child should be supported from his armpits all the way under his bum and behind the hollow of his knees. Normally kids going through this phase will naturally push their arms out of the carrier and want to look out. If you are thinking of forward facing your child, try moving him to your hip instead. This stage is complete when your child is able to sit up unassisted which is around 6 months of age for most babies.

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Last but definitely not least is stage three, Lumbar Lordosis. This stage begins when your child starts pulling up on furniture and is complete when he is able to walk unassisted. During this phase supporting the lower back is key. Back carries are a great alternative to forward facing during this stage. It takes practice and a good place to start is on the edge of a bed or sofa. That way you and your baby are able to practice in a safe area.

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“Because the human is a physiological premature birth, the skeleton of a newborn is mainly cartilage. The squatting spread position is most favorable. A clue for this is, for example, those populations where babies are carried in a wrap, close to the mother’s body, hip laxations are basically non existent. When the children sit in the wrap, the legs are 90º spread apart (45º from midline) and the knees are raised about 110º-120º. Thereby the pivotal muscles push above the hip ball into the socket, thereby creating a hydrostatic pressure, which in turn supports the hardening of the bone.” -Dr. Ewald Fettweis

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2. Child’s Back is not Supported Properly and Forced into an Unnatural Position.

Forward facing your child in a carrier pushes their back into an unnatural position. It is arched instead of rounded. This may not cause your baby problems right away but could lead to future back problems later in life.

3. Baby May Become Overstimulated.

Baby’s sense of direction starts to develop around 4 months of age. Before that happens they usually like to face their parent or caregiver. This gives them security from the outside world which can be very scary for a small baby. Once their sense of direction develops they start to get interested in how their parents see the world and may want to explore and see out with them. It may be tempting to face your child out at this point but try a hip or back carry instead. That way if they want to fall asleep or hide from the outside world they can easily turn in towards the parent. Problem soloved.

4. Breastfeeding is Impossible.

This one is pretty obvious and needs little explanation. Breastfeeding is impossible when your baby is facing away from you and you’re not able to ready your baby’s hunger cues either.

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5. The Center of Gravity is Too Far Removed From the Babywearer.

Carrying your baby while they are facing out can not only damage your baby’s back, it can also damage the babywearer’s back since your baby’s curved back pulls you forward. This position also negatively affects your pelvic floor.

6. Sleeping is Impossible and/or Uncomfortable.

A good carrier will provide the ideal spread squat position for hours at a time which leads to more restful sleep for your child. This also brings confidence to the new parent and allows them to be hands free to do what they want while their child naps without feeling guilty from leaving their child on the floor or in their crib alone. Did you also know babywearing also counts as “tummy time?”

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7. Baby is Unable to Straddle Their Legs Around Babywearer, Causing Circulation to be Cut Off in Their Legs.

Circulation in the legs can definitely suffer when a child is suspended in a harness carrier for long periods of time. It’s hard to tell how long it takes or a child to loose circulation but the first signs of suspension trauma can happen in as little as three minutes. On average it takes anywhere from 5-20 minutes for this to happen. Of course it’s not fatal or anything extreme but it can be extremely uncomfortable.

8. Unable to Read Your Baby’s Signs.

I love how easy it is to read my daughter’s signals and cues when I’m wearing her in a sling. When she was a small infant I would have her positioned where her fists were near her mouth. Whenever she wanted to nurse she would let me know by chewing on her knuckles. No crying, just simple mother daughter communication. I was able to feed her on demand without the use of a nursing pillow or cover either. Doing this made our lives so much easier.

Unfortunately not all manufacturers of baby carriers are up to speed on safety and baby spine and hip development. They will often advertise forward facing your child in a carrier and make it look very appealing so it’s up to you to make the safe decision for you and your baby. If you are ever unsure on the positioning of your baby in a carrier please see your local babywearing educator or find a babywearing group in your area.

Please browse The Cozy Kangaroo website for safe and ergonomically friendly carriers and email me if you have any questions. Happy babywearing!

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19 thoughts on “8 Reasons Why You Should Not Forward Face Your Baby in a Carrier

    • Thank you so much for commenting! So funny you mentioned the Ergo 360. That was the inspiration behind my blog post. I can see how it would seem to overcome the ergonomic issues for the baby. However, you still run into the issue of baby’s back not being fully supported. It’s a lot better than the narrow based carriers but I still would not recommend forward facing based on the other 7 reasons given in my blog post.

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      • When you read the instructions on the Ergo 360, it tells you how to tilt the baby’s pelvis to get the rounded back you were talking about.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The pelvic tilt takes care of baby’s hips which is great but still causes the child’s back to be forced into an unnatural position. It is a much better alternative than the traditional narrow based carriers you see on the market.

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  1. Thank-you for the article. It was an interesting read. My husband and I in search for a carrier at the moment (I was using the Hug-a-Bub) because my 5mo is not liking the pram. The article points out good points of baby’s back/spine care, but what about the parents? I have a bad back, trying on the carriers at the shops (eg Ergo 360, BabyBjorn), I am feeling it in my back today. What do you suggests for those whose backs are not great?

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    • Taking care of your back is just as important as taking care of your baby’s back. Babywearing is intended to be comfortable for you and your little one. If it’s not, there is a problem. Your child is at a really good age to start trying out soft structured carriers like the Boba, Tula or Ergo. They are all really great but fit totally different. I would recommend trying on different carriers and staying away from stretchy wraps, narrow based carriers (Bjorn) and one shoulder slings (ring sling). Also, placement of the waistbelt is key. If you are having any back pain, try bringing the waistbelt to your belly button instead of your waist and ensure baby is snug against you. That should help.

      Do you have a local babywearing group in your area or a Babywearing International Chapter? Members of these groups are experienced babywearers and should have carriers for you to try out. You can also pay a small to BWI and rent out 1 carrier a month. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

      Thank you for your comment! Check in when you get your new carrier and let me know how it’s going. 🙂

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      • I am a mother with severe back problems and a shoulder screwed together. For the mother above, I reend the Baby K’Tan. Makes a huge difference in being able to shif the weight to your comfort level but still have baby be properly carried. Always remember to pull the material under baby’s bum wide to give the proper “seat.”

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    • Thank you for your comment! In my opinion it would be very difficult for anyone to wear their baby in this position for long periods of time anyway. Someone is going to get uncomfortable and want to change it up, especially with a one shoulder carrier like a ring sling. I’ve known several parents who do this often but it’s normally for short amounts of time. As far as hip and spine go, baby is scrunched into the sling so his hips are not supported and his back is arched back instead of rounded. This doesn’t always result in problems down the road but it is possible if done for long periods of time.

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  2. What about forward facing in a ring sling when the baby’s legs are tucked in in a ball. This allows for the baby’s back to be rounded. Does it still cause problems? I carried my first son like this, and while we couldn’t nurse without rearranging he never had problems sleeping. But I’m curious if it really wasn’t the best idea.

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    • As parents we do what we think is best at the time. I carried my first daughter the exact same way but she protested and we eventually gave up. It wasn’t until later when I learned the risks associated with it and I never tried it again. I would just say listen to your child. They will always be the first to let you know somethings doesn’t feel right. When baby’s legs are stuffed into the carrier it pushes their hips inward which works against their natural hip development. It’s really hard to tell from pictures but if you look closely you will see their back isn’t rounded when they are facing out. In fact they are actually arched against your chest. This type of babywearing doesn’t always result in problems down the road. Personally I know several moms who carry their little ones this way and their kids are doing just fine. You run the risk of having hip/spine problems if you do this for extended periods of time which is quite difficult anyway. Thank you so much for your comment! 🙂

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  3. I absolutely did kangaroo carry with my child who absolutely hated carries that faced into my chest, and he finally liked a sling. I just put the baby into a criss cross applesauce position, distributed the sling fabric in front and back, and he was thrilled. I never was able to nurse in a sling anyway. My babies never wanted to be in a sling longer than an hour before nursing or changing things up. I am a mom who used a ring sling through about six months old, when good head control I used mei tai or Ergo carrier front and back carries.

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  4. If you want a baby facing out how about kangaroos carry in a sling. They are not totally facing forward but can see out and are very supported.

    I always recommend not facing forward but at the end of the day I prefer to see babies physically close to caregivers. We have so many contraptions to hold our babies for us I am always happy to see a little cuddle time even if it’s not ideal.

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  5. Pingback: Theme | Baby Wearing Week | PK Photography

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