In order for your baby to face outwards in your carrier the following 3 key things need to happen:
- Your baby needs to be physically strong enough with good head and neck control.
- Your baby needs to be emotionally ready to face the world without your face as a reference point.
- You need to be using a carrier that supports a hip healthy and ergonomic outward position.
Without a doubt this is the question I have been asked the most since training in babywearing to support the Carifit parents with safe and sensible advice. So I have clubbed together with 2 babywearing consultants to get their take on this popular question. Amanda Loveday works for Ergobaby and features in our Carifit programs and Hannah Wallace is the Founder of Wear My Baby and one of the UKs leading consultants.
Many babies aged 4-6 months start to enjoy looking around them. At this age, their neck and upper back muscles are strengthening so that they can support and turn their head. Their eyesight is also improving and so there really is a whole new world for them to look at!
One way of helping your baby to look around is to carry them on your front, facing outwards looking at the world. But there are many conflicting opinions about when and whether this carrying position is suitable and at what age and developmental milestones it becomes appropriate.
How do you tell when your baby is ready to face outwards? Is outward facing comfortable? Is it ergonomic? Is it safe? What should I look out for? What are the alternatives? In this blog we tell you what do you really need to know about outwards facing babywearing.
Signs Baby is Ready to Try Front Outward Facing
As baby’s brain develops and their muscles strengthen, they may begin showing you signs that they want to face the world. It is important to remember there is no rush and inward facing can still offer an outward view for your child. It is also key to remember that when your baby faces inwards they can immediately reference your responses to the world around them. So the noisy siren, the barking dog the chatting person don’t seem so nerve racking because you face them together. Face your baby outwards to soon and their experience can be quite different.
Once your baby can see above the front panel of the carrier when sitting in the carrier, has strong head & neck control (often around 5-6 months), and has a natural curiosity to see and interact with the world, they are ready to try a front-outward carry. Amanda Loveday recommends starting with short durations (5-10 minutes) to prevent over-stimulation and familiar environments. If baby shows signs of over-stimulation (zoned out, catatonic, fussy, tired) or sleepiness, just turn them back around to front-inward, so they can find comfort in their wearer and rest.
Choosing the right Carrier for outward facing
This is absolutely critical to having a safe and successful experience. The first thing to know is that not all baby carriers are suitable for world facing babywearing. There’s a lot of concern about hip support in carriers; for optimum hip support make sure that your carrier holds your baby in a seated position with their knees tucked up higher than their hips.
Check that the fabric of the carrier supports your baby’s bottom and thighs fully across their seated width, from the back of one knee to the back of the other. Some outwards facing carriers allow babies legs to hang down straight – these will usually feel less comfortable. You will feel much more of an uncomfortable pull on your shoulders and back, and your baby will seem heavier. This often leads to parents say that their baby is to big for the carrier or that babywearing hurts their backs. NOT THE CASE, normally it is simply a poor carrier that is poorly fitted to the wearer.
Front Outward Facing Carrying Tips
Follow your baby’s lead as to when it’s time to be done facing out. Situations that are unfamiliar or crowded are going to be more stimulating than an environment your baby is accustomed to.
Hold your baby’s hands, touch her feet, and talk with her reassuringly if you’re both new to facing out.
To make sure baby’s legs are supported and hips are in an optimal position, use the pelvic tuck.
Consider a hip carry as an alternative. Your baby can see, but can also rest her head when she gets tired or overstimulated.
If it’s uncomfortable for you, or if your baby seems uncomfortable. Seek help from a sling library or babywearing consultant to see if adjustments can be made.
When NOT to Wear Baby Outward Facing
Baby still requires an infant insert.
Using an infant insert suggests that baby is under 4 months old and would not be developmentally ready to face outwards. If baby is over 4 months, but still needs the insert as he is on the small side, he may not be able to sit comfortably with his chin above the main panel of the carrier if facing outward. This means baby is not ready for front outward facing.
Baby is under 5 months old and/or does not have strong and consistent head and neck control.
Baby’s airway can become compromised if they do not have the strength to hold up their head steadily for a prolonged period of time. Usually, baby will have this strength at around 5-6 months.
You are wearing baby in carrier that is not designed to support outward facing babywearing.
These carriers are not designed to hold baby ergonomically in the front outward facing carry position. This means that neither you or your baby will be in a safe, supported and comfortable position.
You have been wearing baby facing outward for more than 20-30 minutes.
Babies can easily become overstimulated and overwhelmed, so while in the front outward facing position, if your baby becomes agitated or fussy, we recommend switching back to facing inwards or to try the back or hip positions (if baby is over 6 months).
Baby is sleeping.
There is no front outward facing carry position that is safe for baby to sleep in.
If baby falls asleep in the front outward facing position, it is important to switch to an inward facing carry position, where baby’s head is supported against your body. This should stop baby’s chin from touching her chest and compromising her airway.
Baby is showing signs of overstimulation (zoned out, catatonic, fussy, tired).
In new, busy or crowded environments, it is easy for baby to become overstimulated. Their brains have not yet developed the skill of being able to filter out unnecessary information about their surroundings.
Signs of overstimulation are :
Appearing zoned out
To sum up. Outwards facing babywearing can be an absolute joy for both you and your baby, a real change to see what each other is seeing and explore the world together. Stick to the guidelines above and make sure that you are using a carrier that is designed for world facing adventures. Check-out our carrier here.