Are Baby Carriers Bad for Hips?
What is Hip Dysplasia
Many of us have had an older pet whom we worried over because of hip dysplasia. But many of us have not considered it in connection with a baby. Do you have a baby? Are you worried about how your baby might be affected by being transported in a baby carrier?
Generally, hip dysplasia is a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s hip joint has not developed properly, and the ball of the thigh bone (called the femur) does not fit firmly into the socket of the pelvis. When a baby has this condition, it is called hip dysplasia. If the ball comes loose from the socket, the baby experiences dislocation. Look here for more details. But this problem is not always present at birth. It can also develop in the newborn over the course of the first year. So you are rightly concerned, as a parent, about the safety of various baby carriers for your child’s hip development. The good news for you is that this concern is also on the minds of baby carrier manufacturers.
What Can Go Wrong in a Healthy Baby After Birth?
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons cautions that “babies whose legs are swaddled tightly with the hips and knees straight are at a notably higher risk for developing DDH (Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips) after birth.” Read here. So it is important for mom and dad to properly swaddle their baby and to carry the child in a way that minimizes risk for hip dysplasia.
When babies are in the womb, their hips and knees are bent and tucked in a fetal position. It takes awhile after birth for the legs to stretch out in a naturally extended fashion. If the stretched-out position is forced too early in a baby’s life, the baby is at risk for deformation of the ball socket cup, leading to dysplasia and dislocation.
When you look at the description for baby carrier products of various manufacturers, they will generally contain a statement about the carrier being designed to promote healthy hip development in babies. While the International Hip Dysplasia Institute does not endorse particular products for you to purchase, you will see that some manufacturers show the IHDI logo on their site, stating that their products are acknowledged as “hip healthy.” Generally, manufacturers will carry a statement something like “promotes healthy hip and spine development.” Ergobaby shows the IHDI emblem at the bottom of its site. Baby Tula does not display the emblem, but when you click on the various items, you will see their health statement. Babybjorn states their acknowledgment by IHDI as “hip healthy.” So, not to worry – it’s on the manufacturers’ minds. Basically, you want your baby to be carried or swaddled, not in an extended leg fashion, but in a frog leg fashion.
My deal is guitars. So I’m not the best drawing artist. But bear with me. On the left side of my picture, you see the extended legs which you don’t want. On the right side of my picture you see the frog legs. That’s what you want. That’s my drawing, and I’m sticking to it!
Carrier Design and Parental Responsibility
When holding their babies in a carrier, like a wrap, a sling, or backpack, parents would do well to ensure that that the carrier fits the baby well enough to keep hips and knees in a flexed position with thighs supported. Carriers are designed to keep baby’s legs apart and around the parent, which is the healthy position (frog leg-like position). But parents should check the position of hips and knees. When swaddling, the legs should have enough room to be spread apart and flexed.
Organizations like the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the International Hip Dysplasia Institute advise parents to be conscious of the position of their babies when carried or swaddled. You may find the information from IHDI in this video helpful.
If you are a little bit pressed for time and want something a little shorter, enjoy this video with a doctor’s swaddling demo. You want to think the same way in terms of baby’s legs in a carrier – flexed!
Well, bye for now. Hope this helps.