The Babywearing Safety Check You've Never Heard Of (But Need To Know)

When done safely and correctly, babywearing can be great for your baby's development. There are seemingly endless options for slings, wraps and carriers. Each different one should come with directions and safety information to follow (if you purchase used, be sure to check the brand's website for safety information). But here's one safety check you've probably never heard of that is super important for your baby's health and development. 

Every Time You Wear Your Baby ...

Newborns most often rest a cheek against your chest when worn while older babies frequently lean their heads back from your chest and turn to look around while worn. Regardless of your baby's age and what type of sling, wrap or structured carrier you use, check which direction your baby's head is most often turned when worn.

If you notice your baby spending significantly more time looking in one direction or with one cheek to your chest more than the other, help encourage your baby to turn the opposite direction.

Why This Babywearing Tip Is Important

Many babies are born with very slight muscle imbalances and some are born with a more noticeable head tilt and neck tightness. This condition, called Torticollis, refers to asymmetric tightness of the neck muscles and it's on the rise. As many as 16% of healthy newborns are estimated to have some degree of Torticollis.

Not only does Torticollis put babies at risk for motor delays, asymmetric use of the arms and hands, visual problems, feeding problems, reflux and other developmental concerns, it is a BIG risk factor for Flat Head Syndrome, or Positional Plagiocephaly.

Research now indicates that as many as 46% of babies experience some degree of Plagiocephaly.

Time spent passively laying in baby gear worsens muscle imbalances and increases the risks of Torticollis and Flat Head Syndrome. Babies NEED equal head-turning - both passively and actively - to stretch and strengthen neck muscles symmetrically. Be sure to read this post to learn how babywearing is different from the baby gear I refer to as Baby Holding Devices. 

How To Encourage Equal Head Turning

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An important babywearing safety check all new parents should know. CanDo Kiddo

For itty bitty babies, it's usually easy to adjust head position. Simply support the back of baby's head as you lean slightly forward to lift baby's head from your chest and turn her head the other direction as you resume your upright position. If you are unable to turn baby's head in the opposite direction, DO NOT FORCE. Try again later. If you are consistently unable to turn baby's head in one direction, notify your pediatrician ASAP to discuss evaluation and treatment for neck tightness.

Often you can use a wrap-style carrier to actually hold a newborn's head in place with a flap of fabric. We did this with our Baby K'tan wrap {affiliate} when we noticed Rowan almost always turned his head left when worn. 

It can get tougher to position an active older baby. One tip is to take advantage of the fact that usually around the time your little one is lifting and turning his own head,  he has a growing interest in mouthing toys. Encourage equal head turning by wrapping a chewing necklace around the strap of your carrier - switching it to the other strap each time you wear. If your little one has a preferred head turning direction, place the beads primarily on the strap on the non-preferred side. This worked great with our Chewbeads and Boba 4G Carrier {affiliates}.

Use teething beads and a baby carrier to prevent and treat Torticollis and Flat Head Syndrome.

To Sum It Up

Babywearing is awesome for bonding with baby, getting more done with hands-free, promoting your baby's healthy development and preventing and treating Torticollis and Flat Head Syndrome. By checking that your baby gets equal head-turning when worn, you can catch any asymmetries early and use simple strategies to help your little one stretch any tight muscles.This will help him find the balanced, healthy body position that is the foundation of healthy development.

If you have concerns about Torticollis, Plagiocephaly or any other aspect of your infant's development, please consult with your pediatrician. If your pediatrician reassures you that everything is fine but you continue to have concerns, get a second opinion. You are your baby's best advocate!

Read a wonderful story of a mother using strategic and intentional babywearing to treat her baby's Torticollis (from Whole Family Strong).

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