Monday, October 7, 2013

Babywearing Myths

So many babywearing myths, so little time.  I could write pages debunking just one of these myths, and at some point I would like to do just that with each one, but for the sake of keeping this post manageable, I will try to be short and sweet and to the point.

Many myths persist around babywearing.  Some come from people that know nothing about babywearinmg, while many circulate among the babywearing community.  All of these myths hurt babywearing and scare off potential babywearers, so I think International Babywearing Week is the perfect time to shed some light on some of these misconceptions.  I will try to cover some of the common ones that many of us have heard and maybe even been guilty of repeating.

1. Babywearing will spoil your baby.
This one is something you can often hear from family and friends that think you are doing something wrong by wearing your baby.  They are worried that your child will always need to be held and carried forever!  The truth is that children that feel their needs are being met trust their parents more to meet their needs, so they actually end up more independent when they are old then babies that do not get their needs responded to in this way.  The whole concept of spoiling a baby by giving them too much love and affection is silly.  Do what feels right to you and your family.
For more info, read Spoiling by Dr. Sears

2. Carriers must fit knee to knee.
This is something I see all the time in the babywearing world.  This guideline was initially for people wrapping to make sure they created a supportive seat.  It has been incorrectly applied to buckle carrier (soft structured carriers) by well intending people trying to help people find more supportive carriers.  The problem with this guideline is that it is unnecessary and practically impossible to apply to buckle carriers.  Unlike wraps that require you to make a seat, buckle carriers have a seat that is structurally sound and safe without the need for this guideline.  The worst part is that this "rule" is often used to tell people their carrier is not good enough and they need a new one, but the window for a carrier actually fitting knee to knee is very short since we all know babies grow every time you blink!  There are many carriers that are still very supportive with toddlers even though they are no longer close to being knee to knee.  Your baby hasn't outgrown their carrier just because it no longer fits knee to knee and it isn't necessary to replace a carrier unless one or both of you are no longer comfortable in it.

3. Narrow seated baby carriers cause hip dysplasia.
This is a VERY controversial issue in the babywearing community and I am sure many people will not agree with me, but narrow seated carriers do not cause hip dysplasia.  First of all, if they did, we would be seeing a nation wide outbreak of babies with hip dysplasia since these are easily the most commonly used carrier in the US for some time now.  Now, this does not mean that the narrow seat in these carriers is ideal, it is much more comfortable and ergonomically ideal to wear a carrier with a wider seat.  But parents are being told that their carrier is dangerous and being made to feel they must stop using it immediately or risk damaging their baby.  These parents may completely stop babywearing because they can't afford a different carrier or spend the next several months not wearing so they can research what kind of carrier is best.  The worse thing is that in the rare case that a child does develop hip dysplasia, these parents are made to feel like they have caused it when in all likely hood, it was an undiagnosed issue that started long before their child was even born.  So yes, a narrow seated carrier could absolutely exacerbate an underlying condition, but it is very unlikely that a baby would spend enough time in one of these carriers to actually cause hip dysplasia.

For more information on this complex issue, read Healthy Hips - Busting Some Myths by Sheffield Sling Surgery

4. Forward facing out is bad for your baby.
Again, this is a very controversial issue.  I actually did a whole blog post on this called The Forward Facing Controversy.  Many people believe wearing baby in a carrier facing away from their parent is a black and white issue and you shouldn't do it ever.  Articles like this one by Boba point out some good reasons why wearing facing out is not ideal.  It is not the best ergonomic positions for either you or your baby and young babies can very easily get overstimulated in this position since they don't have the ability to look away or block stimuli other than to shut down and "fall asleep".  For this reason, I generally tell people not to wear facing out until their baby is older and to watch their baby for signs that they might be done and need to be turned around.  But I have seen new and exited babywearers being told that they are harming their baby by wearing them out and this extreme stance harms babywearing overall.  People carry their babies facing out int heir arms all the time and some babies even enjoy taking it all in!  So there is nothing wrong with letting your baby face out for short periods of time if your baby enjoys it.  It is likely going to be too uncomfortable for you to do it for long periods of time anyway.  Just watch your baby for signs that they are getting overstimulated; fussy, anxious, too excitable, squirmy, or even sleepy.  When they start showing any of these signs, turn them around and let them face you so they can choose if they want to look around or bury their face in your chest.

5. XYZ carrier is a bad carrier, you shouldn't use it.
This one makes me sad every time I see it.  It's usually a myth that comes from a well meaning experience babywearer towards someone that is new to babywearing.  There are definitely carriers out there that are not as comfortable or ergonomically ideal as others, but that doesn't make a carrier bad.  If a mom in your babywearing group posts a photo showing how excited she is to be wearing her sleeping baby, there is no reason to tell her how "horrible" her carrier is.  If she is comfortable and her baby is comfortable, then it works.  If she posts saying that her carrier hurts her back after 15 minutes, then by all means, tell her what brands you think are better.  But I have seen so many people get discourage because the baby carrier their friend loaned them or the one they got at their baby shower "isn't good enough".  Sometimes these people are able to get a "better" carrier, but sometimes they just walk away from babywearing, after all, they have a stroller that works perfectly fine.

6. Babywearing is dangerous.
With the rare exception of bag slings, which are dangerous and have been recalled, babywearing is NOT dangerous!  Unfortunately, this is a myth that gets perpetuated by both people that have no babywearing experience and babywearers alike.  People that don't understand the differences between styles believe all babywearing is dangerous because they lump bag slings in with babywearing in general.  But it is just as harmful to the babywearing community for active, experienced babywearers to paint such black and white lines on controversial issues, telling people that the are harming their baby.  They are sending a clear message that if you aren't doing it "right" then you are doing it "wrong" and could hurt your baby.  Of course, of someone is not safely using a carrier in the way a manufacture designed it to be used, then that is dangerous.  But using a narrow seated carrier should not be treated as a safety issue.

Be A Babywearing Myth Buster

Babywearing is about so much more than the carrier someone is using.  It's about the bond and benefits that babywearing provides to both the care giver and the baby.  Empowering new parents and nurturing their relationship with babywearing should be far more important to the babywearing community then making sure someone is using the most ideal carrier.  If they love babywearing, they will find a way to keep doing it when their old carrier gets less comfortable.  They will ask questions and learn more if they feel welcome, stick around and join in the conversation.  I would rather see a baby facing out in a narrow seated carrier than several feet out in front of their parents, facing out while being pushed in a stroller.  (NOT that I have an issue with strollers... I use them too!)   So I will never judge a parent for what they choose to wear their baby in and will honor them for making the choice to wear at all.

Check out our Golden Rule of Babywearing

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I want to share this with my local babywearing group.