When talking with babywearers the phrase “forward facing” can cause instant controversy. For many people who do not wear their children, or only do so on a limited basis, forward facing may seem completely normal. After all, one of the most commonly seen, and registered for carriers, is the Baby Bjorn which is usually shown forward facing. What would be the problem? Many experienced babywearers have concerns over carrying children in a forward facing position for two reasons. #1 It is not the ideal position for a baby’s hips. #2 Baby cannot escape from stimuli because baby cannot turn away to nuzzle into a caregiver.
So what is an intelligent babywearing parent to do? We often teach that we should wear our babies in positions similar to how we hold them. Guess how all five of my kids have wanted to be held at about 3 months of age? Facing forward! We held our babies facing forward all day long because they cried, fussed, and turned if we tried to hold them in any of the traditional burp, nuzzle, or cradle positions. So I say go ahead and wear your baby facing out, but here is how to do it in the most comfortable way possible for you and your baby.
The best time to wear your baby facing out is from 3-6 months of age, depending on your child. As soon as possible I start training my children to be in the hip carry and once they are comfortable in the hip carry it replaces the forward facing carry. But that takes time and I never seem to have patient children. Also, as babies grow a back carry will become more comfortable for the caregiver and more interesting for the baby. But until those things occur the forward facing carry can be useful. Keep in mind that a forward facing carry will be more uncomfortable for the parent because it pulls baby's center of gravity away from you. This is not a carry you want to be your primary carry method.
As far as I can tell from all the information I have read, the concern for baby’s hips is limited and only relevant if baby is in a crotch dangling position for numerous hours each day. To avoid this, use a carrier that will cover your baby’s entire bottom and place him in a sitting position with his knees up, as if he was in a chair. This will give support to his hips. You also want to gently rotate baby’s hips so that he leans back into your chest. In this way baby will not be leaning forward and pulling on your back and shoulders, but comfortably angled back towards you.
Baby should not spend all day facing forward and it’s very unlikely that would ever happen. Babies need to be changed, eat, and sleep, which will put them in different positions. If your baby is facing forward remain in tune with your baby to be sure that baby is not over stimulated. Some common signs of overstimulation in babies include stiffening their body, turning their head away, flexing their limbs, or crying. If this or other signs of overstimulation occur turn your baby into a hip, back, or tummy to tummy position so that baby can choose to nuzzle with a caregiver and escape the stimulation. It is very likely that as a babywearer you are in tune with your child’s needs and this will happen intuitively.
Most carriers can be used forward facing so there is no need to buy a specific forward facing carrier. If you are not sure how to use your carriers in a forward facing position Babywearing International of DC-MD-VA would be glad to help. If you want to find positions that also work for your baby besides forward facing, we can help with that too. Grab your carriers and run over to a babywearing meeting and we will show you just how to put your baby in a position that will suit both of your needs and free your hands up for all those other parenting tasks that are calling your name.
Posted by Carolyn
Editors note: I'll be honest, I hesitated to post this because I know it will cause controversy. However, I will say, I don't personally encourage front facing carries, but I won't condemn those who do choose them. My babies are heavy and it was always uncomfortable for me. I also feared a baby who learned to face out struggling to turn around as I've seen with many parents who used a frontpack and come to our meetings once baby outgrows the frontpack. So, I would say this carry should be a last resort and should be used sparingly.