This article should have been here much sooner – in fact, it should have been here right at the beginnings of this blog. However, if you know about its existence and you came across this article, I assume that you have already decided on the main point – that you want to wear you baby. You probably also know about the positive aspects of babywearing. But, in this article, I want to cover the other, no less important topic – what are the risks of babywearing? Could all those notorious naggers among our family members, neighbours, random passers-by, clever gentlemen and ladies on the internet, but also among healthcare professionals, be right at something? This question was bothering me for quite some time, too. I searched all the available sources, reliable or non-reliable, and was worried like a dog when I started to tie my 2-weeks-old Emilka in a wrap.

To be clear, this is not a scientific article – nothing to be cited in a scientific journal; I have not done any specific research of medical / psychotherapeutic / anthropological / psychological literature. That would be nearly impossible anyway because there are basically no relevant studies that would confirm that ergonomic babywearing is harmful or beneficial for children. In ˈreal lifeˈ I am a doctor and a postgraduate student, I have read hundreds of scientific articles (I also wrote and published some myself), therefore I know how such an article should look like, where to find relevant and citable sources and how to support my arguments. Not the case of this article at all. What you will read here are partly the facts I learned while studying medicine at university, partly what I read in more or less reliable sources on the internet, and partly (last but not least) my experience I have gained in over a year of basically exclusive babywearing. Simply and clearly, here we go. 🙂

Babywearing is harmful for hip development.

This allegation (sometimes even claimed by healthcare professionals such as orthopedists or physiotherapists) comes from the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of what ˈergonomicˈ wearing means. This is also the only point where really relevant studies with sufficient data can be used for argumentation. Countless scientific works have been published about benefits of the ˈabduction-flexionˈ position (i.e. the ˈMˈ position) of legs, in which the baby’s bum is lower that his/her knees and contributes to the right development of hip joints and prevention of hip dysplasia. You can find the references to these articles at the website of International Hip Dysplasia Institute, for example (not that I am such a fan of this institute to be honest, I will write something on this topic probably some time later). If you are not eager to study scientific literature, you can just use common sense – is the principle of the Frejka pillow or Pavlík harness used for treatment of hip dysplasia so different from positioning the baby’s legs into the ˈMˈ position? The misunderstanding and not-recommendation of babywearing in a wrap or an ergonomic carrier by professionals comes from the usual picture of the traditional carrier/ˈbaby-danglerˈ such as Chicco or typical models of Babybjörn in which the hips really are in a wrong and potentially harmful position, or from the picture of a cradle wrap carry that pushes the thighs of the baby together to the adduction position. You do not have to be afraid about your baby’s hip development in case of the correct vertical carrying, on the contrary – it is beneficial.

Babywearing is harmful for spine development.

Finding relevant data about spine development vs. babywearing is almost impossible – this was my worst nightmare in my babywearing beginnings. The position of healthcare professionals on this matter is either that they warn against vertical wearing (out of ˈpreventiveˈ fear of premature verticalization of a baby without back muscles strengthened enough), or their opinion is very reserved and they recommend babywearing since 6 months of age (see the official statement of the Czech Pediatric Society in which you can also read that there are no studies that would confirm harmfulness of babywearing as to the spine development). The only study that is quite often cited in pro-wearing (but not really scientific) sources is a study by Evelin Kirkilionis, a German biologist, human ecologist and babywearing advocate, on approximately 200 children – she found no difference in frequency of developmental spine disorders between the group of children that were worn during their early childhood and the group of children that were not. Of course, the healthcare professionals cannot build their recommendation and guidelines on the basis of this one unique result. From my point of view – Emilka has always been a ˈverticalˈ baby – she even hated to be carried in the ˈcradleˈ position and was the happiest baby in the world leaning on my shoulder where she could see everything. Therefore, I had to use my common sense again – simply, the newborn is not born with a straight spine and I could not find a reasonable explanation of why I should put her on flat surface to ensure the right development of her spine. If the baby is wrapped properly, even though s/he is not able to holt his/her head up, his/her spine remains in the ˈCˈ shape in the wrap, which is only natural and physiological. Moreover, it is embraced tightly by the wrap and the head is fixated by the upper hem of the wrap. Strengthening of the postural muscles and subsequent ˈverticalizationˈ is, from my experience (and experience of pro-wearing physiotherapists), rather supported by vertical babywearing – the nosy baby first holds his/her head up and later straightens in his/her back, supported by the wrap or carrier – similarly as you can see in the picture below. In my eyes, it is a completely normal, physiological process.

The baby might suffocate while wearing.

A healthy, not pre-term baby will not suffocate while wearing in the classical vertical position, if you will not actively try to do it (baby sacks are a different story, but I will not address this matter this time): A) the baby instinctively turns his/her head so that s/he can breathe without problems (and be sure that if the wearie buries his/her nose in between the boobs s/he does not do it with the intention to self-suffocate), and B) I will explain it easily – have you ever tried to smother someone with a pillow? You have not? Well, me neither. But it looks very similar to what you see in all those crimi thrillers. The lack of air would simply wake you up and you would begin to fight – why would a healthy baby react differently? If you want a bit more scientific explanation, the body works like this – the lack of air means drop of blood oxygen level and rise of blood carbon dioxide. This change initiates an ˈalarmˈ reaction of the organism – and if you think of what little things can make your baby cry, why would it be silent if s/he had troubles breathing?

The baby overheats while wearing.

If we go back to the elementary school to the law of conservation of energy – if the wearer does not overheat, the baby on the wearer’s chest cannot logically have higher temperature than the wearer herself/himself. 😀 OK, let’s be serious right now. It is not that surprising that there are no studies on this topic, so these will be only my hypotheses and impressions again. If a healthy baby feels hot in a wrap, s/he would be unhappy about it and would cry. If a healthy toddler feels hot in a wrap/carrier, s/he would stick his/her arms outside (in case s/he does not have them outside after all from the beginning). Trust your baby, your baby is not stupid! And of course, you can help the thermoregulation during the tropical heat – functional clothes, no clothes, suitable wrap composition, summer versions of carriers, etc.

Babywearing increases the risk of baby’s injury.

Oh yes, I have tripped and fallen with Emilka in a wrap several times – and no, nothing serious has ever happened to her. I bruised my butt that it was blue as a smurf, had an acrobatic fall after which I was happy I did not break all of my limbs and spine, but Emilka was a little bit shocked at most. In my opinion, tripping and falling with a baby in a wrap or a carrier is as risky as that the baby falls out of a stroller or your arms. Moreover, the primal mother’s instinct to protect the baby at all costs works here by 100 per cent – in such situations, the reaction time shortens to absolute minimum compared to ˈnormalˈ. I think that this is something no statistic data can be obtained from; however, I am quite sure that the trauma hospitals are not full of children injured while babywearing (otherwise my colleague traumatologists would tell stories about such cases for sure ;)).

By the way, my mum likes to tell a story about me fidgeting so much in a stroller when I was a little baby that the stroller fell over and I ended up in a blackcurrant bush. 😀

Babywearing slows down the motor development of the baby.

The studies do not exist, what a surprise! However, you can find in many sources that babywearing provides tactile stimulation of the baby by the mother’s movements, similar to hippotherapy, and therefore supports the motor development (just a hypothesis, nothing confirmed). I would not go that far myself – I can only offer my own experience, experience of my friends and fellow babywearers from the internet – which is that the motor development of wearies is the same as of the non-wearies, on average. Emilka who is an exclusive wearie develops exactly according to the charts and diagrams and I know many wearies and non-wearies whose motor development is both significantly faster or slower. Again, if you use your common sense – how should putting a baby in a bassinet (moreover also in a footmuff) or seating and fastening him/her into a stroller help his/her motor development …? Maybe, it could be a bit surprising for some of the naggers who think that babywearing is harmful, but the wearies do not spend 24 hours a day in a wrap or a carrier and they usually have quite a lot of space and time for self-development.

The baby will become dependent on his/her mother because of being worn.

I suppose you hear this again and again – “do not carry him/her all the time, s/he will be dependent on you”, “s/he will not move an inch from you until s/he goes to school”, “you got him/her used to being carried, serves you right”. I will ask the reverse question here – what baby is NOT dependent on his/her mother? Is it really necessary to force the baby to get used to not being in contact with his/her mother while it is the only thing s/he knew before being born? Let’s put it simple, babywearing supports and reinforces the emotional bond between the mother and the baby, the baby feels more secure and sure about presence of his/her mum and when the time is right, s/he is not afraid to go and explore the world on his/her own – because s/he knows that his/her mummy will be there waiting for him/her. I recommend watching the documentary “Děti bez lásky” (i.e. Children without love, you can find it on Youtube, but only in Czech, sorry, guys) about babies brought up in an orphanage and in families – the comparison shows very well how the impaired emotional bond looks like in children living in an institution and, on the other hand, how the content ˈhealthyˈ children living with their loving parents behave. To be clear, I do not want to make some insane interstellar comparison of ˈorphanage vs. familyˈ and ˈstroller vs. babywearingˈ, I wanted to mention this documentary because I think it illustrates very well that the ˈdependentˈ baby who is afraid to leave his/her caretaker is not the one more cherished and ˈspoiledˈ but the one who lacks the affection and love. Why would it be different in the case of wearies?

I am quite sure that there are many more myths about babywearing (“s/he will have ˈOˈ shaped legs”, “your back is going to hurt”, “his/her legs are strangled in the wrap”, etc.) and the already extra-long article would be even longer; I was trying to comment only on the ˈmainˈ and the most frequently heard objections that babywearing parents are used to hear and worry about. Certainly, my article based more on my experience and impressions than scientific facts cannot dispel all the doubts. However, the main thing that helped me to understand and embrace the idea of babywearing in the very beginning that it is the best thing I can do for my baby, is this simple sentence I still repeat to myself from time to time: “The child is not a stupid creature, the child adapts to the situation.” Just trust yourself and trust your babies. 😉

PS. When I was trying to find suitable photos to put in between the paragraphs of this looong text, I realized that in most of our ˈprettyˈ pictures we take with Linda or our husbands Emilka usually looks very miserable – she hates when I stop and pose for the photos. I found such pictures quite unsuitable to be used in an article about babywearing being the best thing in the world… 😀 Anyway, Emilka is, in fact, the most content wearie ever, a happy and always smiling baby! And, because every blog, even the most professional one, needs some kind of ˈhuman touchˈ from time to time, I chose some of our everyday babywearing photos, even some slightly smudged selfies, to show you how Emilka loves to be worn, from her first weeks of life until her 16 months of age now – be it with her mum, daddy, grandma or auntie. 🙂