Is your baby getting big enough to experiment with new carry methods? Are you eager to try a forward-facing carry?
Babywearing is a bonding experience for you and your child. It’s also a convenient way to do more around the house while giving your baby the skin-to-skin comfort they crave.
But as your baby gets older, you might find they spend as much time straining to look at the world around you as they do cuddling next to you. So, you may be wondering whether it’s time to allow your baby to face forward in their carrier.
Well, wonder no more! Let’s discuss when it is okay to face your baby forward in their carrier, but also why some parents choose not to at all, and what safety precautions to take when and if you decide to make that leap.
What Are Your Options?
Before diving into the details of facing your baby forward, let’s make sure we know the different ways you can wear your baby. Each of these options allows for a forward-facing carry.
1. Soft-Structured Carriers
These are carriers with a structured seat and padded straps. These kinds require no tying for wrapping. Instead, you secure the straps with plastic buckles.
With the buckles, it’s easy to adjust the tightness of the carrier and the structured seats ensure your baby’s safety.
Baby wraps are long strips of fabric which you tie around your body to hold your baby in different positions. There are two main types, stretchy wraps, and woven wraps.
Stretchy wraps are made from stretchy fabric. They work best for infants since the weight of an older baby can slacken the wrap.
A woven wrap is made out of non-stretchy fabric. It is harder to master than a stretchy wrap but can hold your baby safely on your chest, hip, and back. It can also be used from birth to preschool age if you choose.
3. Mei Tai
Mei Tai’s are soft-structured carrier/wrap hybrids. They have seats like a soft structured carrier, but instead of padded straps that attach with buckles, a Mei Tai has long strips of fabric which you wrap and then tie to secure.
A sling is a single piece of fabric cut to a specific length. Rings are sewn in on one side while the other side is threaded through these rings to form a pouch where your baby sits.
They come in a variety of sizes to make sure every mom and baby get a snug and safe fit.
Cons Of Facing Babies Forward
While having your baby face forward is tempting for many parents, other parents choose never to do it. Below are a few reasons why some parents decide against forward-facing their little one.
1. Less Comfortable For You
When you wear your baby this way, you and your little one no longer share a center of gravity. Your baby now pulls down and out on your shoulders, which is harder on your back, whereas when your baby faces you, their body curves into your own, removing that pressure.
2. Poor Positioning For Your Baby
Forward facing isn’t just uncomfortable for you, but uncomfortable, and possibly even dangerous, for babies as well. The position arches babies’ backs, which causes the baby’s weight to sit wholly at the base of their spine.
It is also harder to keep your baby’s legs in the correct position — with their knees sitting above their hips in an ‘M’ shape. Poor positioning can strain a baby’s hip sockets and may lead to infant hip dysplasia (1).
3. Overstimulation For Your Baby
Facing forward can easily overstimulate your baby, and there will be no relief since there is no place for your baby to nuzzle or bury their face occasionally.
When facing you, your baby can view the world around them while still being able to take a break when it becomes too much.
4. Poor Head and Neck Support
Facing forward does not provide neck or head support for your baby. If a baby does not have adequate head control, a lack of support can cause positional asphyxia when their chin falls toward their chest and cuts off their airway (2).
Even older children may experience this if they fall asleep facing forward in the carrier.
When To Face Baby Forward
Before you carry in this way, make sure your baby has the head and neck support they need to stay safe (3). This usually happens between 4 and 6 months of age.
It is also useful to follow the guidelines of your carrier. Some might have suggestions or weight limits to meet before babies can safely face outward.
How To Forward Carry
Techniques for doing a forward-facing carry will differ based on your carrier. Here are instructions to forward carry with each of the babywearing options we listed at the beginning of this article.
Forward Carry In A Sling
Use a method called the Kangaroo Carry. This style holds your baby facing outward in a pouch, similar to the way a mama kangaroo holds her joey.
To forward carry in a sling:
- Thread your sling and place it over your shoulder.
- Then, open the top rail of your material to create a wide carry basket for your baby.
- Hold both rings and pull on the bottom rail of your sling to tighten the area of fabric sitting against your chest.
- Bring the material down to your mid breast, or even a bit lower, and make sure it is nice and flat against your midsection.
- Tighten the bottom rail again if needed.
- Place your baby with their back snugly against your chest.
- Fold your baby’s feet up in an ‘M’ position, with their feet crossed. Tuck them into the sling and pull the top part of the fabric up over your baby.
- Hold your baby with your spare hand, and use the other hand to tighten the top rail of the sling around your baby.
- If your baby seems to be sitting low, lift them with your spare hand and use the other hand to tighten the middle rail. This tightens your baby’s seat and allows them to sit up higher.
Wrap It Up
Using a wrap might seem complicated, but if you’ve already mastered other kinds of carries, it really isn’t too hard.
To forward carry in a wrap:
- Find the center of your wrap and place it on your stomach, then gather up the fabric thread by thread, making sure not to twist it.
- Take the two tail ends around either side of your waist and cross them at your back.
- Bring the tail ends up and over your shoulders so they are falling toward the floor.
- Check again to make sure none of the fabric is twisted.
- Pull at the section across your stomach to create a pouch for your little one to sit.
- Hold your baby with their back against your chest and their bottom in the pouch you created. Your baby’s knees should be lifted onto their chest, and their feet will not be in the pouch.
- You should notice the base of the pouch is loose. Fix this by tightening the bottom rail thread by thread and then tucking the fabric under your baby’s rear.
- Take the tail ends and bring them over and under your baby’s legs, creating an ‘X’ with the fabric.
- Then bring the tail ends around to your back and tie them to secure the wrap.
- Go back to the front of your carry, and spread out the parts creating the ‘X.’ This makes the seat more comfortable for your baby.
- Do a quick safety check to make sure your baby’s legs are in the correct position.
Forward Carry In A Soft-Structured Carrier
This is as easy as carrying with your baby facing you. But, there are still a few things to consider.
To carry forward in these carriers:
- Put on your carrier by pulling the waist strap through the safety band and securing the buckle.
- Pull any excess webbing through the safety band to make adjusting easier.
- Place the carrier square on your hips and tighten the waist strap so it is comfortable and secure.
- Put the shoulder straps on without your baby to ensure they are even, then remove them to prepare to put your baby in the carrier. Adjust the straps if necessary.
- Place your baby with their back snugly against your chest and position their legs on either side of the carrier.
- Support your baby with one hand while placing the strap on your opposite shoulder and repeat for the other shoulder.
- Buckle the straps together at the back of your neck, and tighten the straps if necessary.
- Check to make sure your baby is in a safe position, and you’re good to go.
Twist and Tuck Forward Carry
A mei tai is a great option if you love the idea of a wrap but want something a little less complicated. This tuck and twist carry is simple and takes a few minutes to complete.
To do the tuck and twist forward carry with your mei tai:
- Lay the mei tai with the front flap facing down and toward you, then tie the bottom straps around your waist.
- While seated, place your baby on your lap facing away from you. Their back should be against your chest.
- Lift your baby’s knees into an ‘M’ position with their feet crossed under them.
- Pull the body of the mei tai up over your baby, and place the shoulder straps up over your shoulders. Make sure not to twist the straps.
- While supporting your baby with one hand, reach back and grab both straps with the other hand.
- Pull the straps down to secure your baby, then reach back with both hands to cross the straps behind you.
- Bounce your baby once or twice while you pull the straps around to the front and tie them to secure your baby in the carry.
Wait, I Have Questions!
We’ve covered a lot already, but you might still have a few questions. Here are answers to some of the most common questions regarding carrying your baby facing forward.
1. Baby’s Head Keeps Leaning Forward
Does your baby’s head keep leaning forward while you carry them facing out? Chances are they do not yet have the neck and head support they need. Turn your baby back to facing you until they develop this kind of support.
This is important because if babies’ chins lean to their chest and stay in that position, it can quickly close their airways and put them in danger.
2. What’s The Correct Leg Position?
Your baby’s legs should sit in an ‘M’ shape with knees above their hip sockets. The legs should also be spread wide to distribute their weight evenly.
In a soft-structured carrier, the seat is usually designed to provide adequate support. However, in a wrap or sling, spread the fabric across your baby’s bottom from knee to knee, and tuck the recommended amount of material under them to maintain support.
3. Can Babies Sleep Facing Forward?
Your baby should never sleep facing outward in their carrier. Even babies with good head control can lean their heads forward while asleep, closing off their airway. This can be dangerous and potentially fatal.
It’s Your Choice, Mama
It depends on what you want for your baby. Some parents choose to carry facing forward while others decide against it.
The decision is yours to make, and the goal of this article is to provide information to help you choose. We hope you feel empowered to make the best choice for you and your baby, and we support you, whatever choice you make.