Parents often ask if Oscha slings can be used for forward facing carries, and it's a very reasonable question. We see lots of images in the media of celebrities using world facing positions. Naturally television, film and adverts want the audience to see the cute, smiling baby's face so they feature them this way. After seeing all these images it's understandable that many people assume forward facing is a natural stage and something that all babies require in a sling when they reach a certain age.
This assumption is often seemingly backed up when baby's go through the 'nosy' stage at around 3 months. They're awake for longer stretches and become aware of life going on around them. They crane their necks to look around, making many parents worry that they hate being carried facing inward and want to see more. While part of this development is due to them taking more notice of their surroundings, it's also about them practicing their new-found head control. In fact, it's not until between 8-12 months that babies can see far enough to focus on objects on the other side of a room. So although young babies do become more interested in the world around them, they still can't actually see very far.
Forward facing carry with 'nosy' little one in Shire Daisy
Is it Safe to Forward Face my Baby in a Sling?
There's a lot of negativity surrounding forward facing and myths about it being bad for baby's hips and spines, unsafe and overstimulating. However, if your baby doesn't have any underlying hip issues, you remember the safety guidelines and change their position regularly then there is nothing dangerous about forward facing. There are some important points to remember:
· It's not suitable until your baby has excellent head control and there is no danger of their head bouncing around when you walk. They also need to be tall enough for their chin to clear the top of the sling, ensuring their face is clear of any fabric or obstruction. So it's usually not a position to consider until your wee one is around 4-6
· If you choose to forward face you should never let your child sleep in this position as it can pose a danger to their airway if their chin flops onto their chest.
· Forward facing isn't recommended for any longer than 20-30 minutes. We'll look at the reasons for this below.
· It can be uncomfortable for the parent or caregiver, so it's best avoided if you have back problems.
Why can't you forward face in an Oscha sling?
Only some brands offer a forward facing option. In this outward facing position the base of the sling must be narrow enough to go between the front of your child's legs and seat them comfortably without overspreading the hips. Oscha carriers are designed to support your baby in a parent-facing, wide-based ergonomic 'M' position. This 'M' shape is created when your sling supports all the way along the baby's leg to their knee pits, and their pelvis is tilted towards you with their knees sitting higher than their bottom.
This spread squat is ideal to support your baby's maturing hips and encourages optimal development and the formation of a deep socket joint.
This parent-facing position also allows your baby to be in a sling for longer periods. Parents are often surprised to learn that forward facing is time limited – there are several reasons why the position is recommended for no longer than 20-30 minutes:
· It's easier to achieve the optimal spread squat position if their tummy is against
your body and they can curl into you. When you turn your baby around, so the spine is against you, not only is it much harder to support the hips and tilt their pelvis, it can also create a curve in the other direction which puts pressure on the baby's spine.
· If your baby becomes overwhelmed in this position they cannot turn their head away or seek comfort from their caregiver, as they would with a parent facing position. So you have to be very mindful of your baby's cues and turn them back round when necessary.
· When your child's spine curves in towards you they're working with your centre of gravity. Turned around and facing out works against your centre of gravity and is an awkward load to carry.
Parent Facing carry with Flock Ocean Baby Wrap
There's no time limit when carrying in a parent-facing position, whether on your front, hip or back. Oscha slings are designed to be used only in these parent-facing positions, which support developing hips and spines. The soft woven wrap fabric moulds around your baby and yourself, making it comfortable for you both for long periods of time.
For most families there's no real need to forward face and many enjoy the benefits offered by parent-facing. It can help develop a baby's communication skills and speech.
Studies* have shown that parents are twice as likely to interact with their child if they are in a parent-facing pram, and twice as likely again if they were being carried.
This interaction all helps shape a child's brain. From their early days babies pick up on facial communication cues – they learn about expressions, emotions and to recognise people. So being held close, and being able to see your face all aids this development.
Are there other options?
Of course, babies do become interested in seeing the world around them and there are lots of ways of facilitating this, not just using a forward facing sling.
In a parent-facing position
You can still give your baby a good view and take advantage of all the benefits of front carrying in a parent-facing position. If you're using a wrap try a slightly different carry, or flip the shoulders of your wrap to move the material away from their face. A ring sling, because of it's one shouldered nature offers a nice open view. You can also try a
different position other than the standard tummy to tummy. Seated sideways or an off-centre position gives more room to look around and is great for babies who are too young for a hip carry.
A hip carry is a great alternative
Here your baby's still supported in a comfortable knee to knee position, the carry doesn't work against your centre of gravity, they can cuddle in while still seeing everything and there's no time limit. You can usually hip carry from around 4 months, but be guided by your baby and when you're comfortable carrying on your hip without a sling. You can hip carry in a wrap, ring sling or any of Oscha's carriers.
Back carrying can be practical and fun
This is another fantastic option to give your baby a great view and it can be lots of fun. When using a carrier it's recommended that you wait until your baby is beginning to sit before trying a back carry. But once they've hit that developmental stage there's no restriction in how long they stay in this position. They can see the world but if they become overwhelmed it's easy to move their head away. They can also sleep while in a back carry –one of the loveliest things when carrying my children was that gentle thump of their head on my shoulder as they drifted off to sleep.
Back Carry in Colsie Coral Sling
So remember there are a lot of options out there. Forward facing is not dangerous and some families enjoy it, but it definitely has its limitations. Its popularity is more to do with societal expectations than a definite developmental need. Every baby becomes more interested in the world around them and we can use our slings in lots of ways to help with this.
Remember that the most important thing to your child is you! Your baby will enjoy seeing you, interacting with you and snuggling in when the world becomes just a little bit too exciting.
Written by Jillyan Graham
Jill is a Baby Carrying Consultant based in the Scottish Borders and is Mum to two girls.
For more info about the work that she does visit: Carry Me Round
Zeedyk, M. S. (2008). What's life in a baby buggy like? Research report
published by the National Literacy Trust , Talk to Your Baby Campaign.
Blaiklock, K. (2013). Talking with children when using prams while shopping.
New Zealand Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 16, 15-28.