Is your baby getting big enough that you want to experiment with new baby carrier positions?
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 when your baby can face forward in their carrier.
In this article, we will discuss when it is OK to face your baby forward in their carrier and why some parents choose never to use this position. We’ll also talk about what safety precautions to take when and if you decide to make that leap.
When To Face Baby Forward
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 soon enough, your baby will want to see what’s going on around them. A forward-facing position can offer your child a better view of the world.
But before you carry your baby in a forward-facing position, make sure they have the head and neck support they need to stay safe (1). This usually happens between 4 and 6 months of age.
It is also helpful to follow your carrier’s guidelines. Some might have suggestions or weight limits to meet before babies can safely face outward.
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 having their baby face forward in the carrier.
1. Less Comfortable For You
When you wear your baby this facing outward, you and your little one no longer share a center of gravity. Your baby pulls down and out on your shoulders, which is harder on your back. When your baby faces you, their body curves into your own, removing that pressure.
2. Poor Positioning For Your Baby
The forward-facing position isn’t just uncomfortable for you; it can be uncomfortable, and possibly even dangerous, for your baby. The position arches your baby’s back, which causes their 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 lead to infant hip dysplasia (2).
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.
Even older children may experience this if they fall asleep facing forward in the carrier.
How to Forward Carry
Techniques for doing a forward-facing carry will differ based on your carrier. Here are instructions to forward carry with the most common carrier styles.
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.
This is how to forward carry in a sling:
- Thread your sling, and place it over your shoulder.
- Open the top rail of your sling 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 a froggy 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 it isn’t too hard if you’ve already mastered other kinds of carries.
This is how 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 in.
- 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 ensure your baby’s legs are in the correct position.
Forward Carry in a Soft-Structured Carrier
This is as easy as carrying your baby facing you, but there are still a few things to consider.
This is how to carry forward in a soft structured carrier:
- 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.
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.
This is how to do the tuck-and-twist forward-facing 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.
- Stand, and 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 to lift them higher on your chest while you pull the straps around to the front and tie them to secure your baby in the carry.
What Are Your Options?
Here are some of 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 that 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 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 Tais 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.
4. Ring Slings
A ring sling is a single piece of fabric cut to a specific length. One side has rings sewn in, while the other side is threaded through these rings to form a pouch where your baby sits.
They come in various sizes to ensure every mom and baby get a snug and secure fit.
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 face 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 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, you’ll need to 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. This position puts them at risk of positional asphyxiation.