What’s the fuss about facing out?

Carrying your baby ‘facing the world’/ ‘facing out’/ ‘facing away’/ ‘front facing’ is something I get asked a lot about, so here’s a little blog to talk about pros and cons, safety, suitable carriers and things to consider.

Many parents wonder about whether they ‘should’ carry their babies facing out when they become curious. Many parents do it and it’s totally fine carry your baby this way. Facing out doesn’t ‘damage’ your baby’s hips or overstimulate them massively as long as you follow the recommendations below. But don’t feel pressured to do it because you’ve seen other parents doing it. It’s not something you ‘have to do’ once your baby hits a certain age or milestone. It’s totally up to you (and to your baby!). There is a lot of ‘fuss’ and debate over facing out. It’s up to you to make an informed choice.

A few things to consider:

  1. You will need a suitable carrier that offers the facing out option. Other types of slings don’t always offer optimum support for the baby when used facing out or simply can’t structurally or safely offer this positioning. In addition, not all carriers offer this positioning. So will need to think about this before you buy any carrier. It’s not just the case of narrowing the base at the waistbelt of any carrier to fit the legs. This could overspread the hips (hello spread-eagle!!) and pinch the thighs. The carrier needs to be narrowed at an angle to preserve the M shape positioning (i.e., supporting your baby from knee-to-knee with the bum sitting lower than the knees. This is to promote healthy hip development but also to help support your baby’s weight more easily and avoiding putting pressure on the knees or inner thigh). There are quite a few carriers on the market that offer this. Here are the ones we have in the library:

Ergobaby Omni (360, Dream or Breeze). This carrier is narrowed using a button system on the front. Also comes in mesh and has a sliders system instead of buttons.

Tula Explore. Similarly to the Omni, it has a button system to narrow the base. Also comes in mesh with the same button system.

Beco Gemini. The base is narrowed using a poppers system, meaning the front panel is flat without a lot of structure. Also comes in mesh.

Beco 8. The Beco Gemini’s big brother. Same poppers system but comes with more snazzy functions.

Ergobaby Embrace. A soft and lightweight carrier made of stretchy wrap-like material. The base is soft and mouldable so no need to for a narrowing system, just move the fabric around the base to fit your baby.

Izmi baby carrier. Lightweight carrier. You can make the base narrower by bringing the velcro tabs to the narrowest setting in the waistbelt. It’s also usually fine to not adjust the setting and carry facing out on the widest setting as the fabric is very mouldable as long as it doesn’t pinch the thighs.

Kahubaby carrier. This carrier has cynching system near the waistbelt. To narrow the base, you pull a small strap. This system also helps to make the base wide enough when carrying facing in.

It’s always worth trying a few carriers on to see what works best for you and your baby, how the weight is supported, the fit and the comfort it brings you.

2. You will need to wait for your baby to have full head control. This happens usually around 5-6 months old. The reasons are for that are: first you need to make sure your baby is tall enough so that the top of the front panel isn’t covering their airways (NB: the demo doll here is still on the small side but it’s the only one I have!), which creates a risk of suffocation. Second, your baby will need to be able to hold their head so that they don’t end up having to rest their head on your chest and overextending their neck muscles backwards or arching their back to fit around your chest (especially when there are boobs in the way!). Although your baby will likely show signs that they want to look around and they might wave their arms around and sometimes show their frustration before they hit 5-6 months, I still recommend that you wait (see ‘alternatives’ below to help with that or my blog about helping curious babies. I even made a video!)

3. Time limit. There are 2 types of time limits recommendations when it comes to carrying facing out.

First, it is recommended you carry them in this position for 30mins max at a time. This is for several reasons: small babies can become overwhelmed by the world; it’s a lot of stimulation and a lot to analyse and take in. When facing you, they pick up on your responses (you describing the world, pointing, reacting to stimuli, smiling at them, reassuring them and making eye contact etc…) but can’t do so when they can’t see you. If they start crying or become distressed, turn them back facing you or hip carry them. In addition, their whole body weight is shifted forward and your centre of gravity also shifts, making them feel heavier. This can pull on your shoulders, so carrying for short amounts of time will help manage this and avoid putting a strain on your body. You can try crossing the straps on your carrier if it allows for that (straps must be detachable) to help carry the weight more easily. Finally, carrying your baby with their back to your front isn’t the most comfy position for both of you, so little at a time!

Second, usually by the time they are 12-14 months old, they become way too heavy to be carried this way so will find that facing out is only for a few months. Again, this is all up to you. You can continue to carry your baby facing you for as long as you want, back carry from 6 months onwards or hip carry. This is also why you won’t find a toddler carrier that offers the facing out position.

4. Safety and positioning are very important when facing out (as well with any other carrying positions).

  • Make sure the airways are clear and visible at all times. The panel should never cover the face. If your baby falls asleep, immediately turn them back facing you as their airways won’t be well supported but also this can put some strain on their neck muscles (ever fallen asleep sitting down chin to chest? not comfy!).
  • Carry facing out when your baby is alert, not ready for a nap and in a happy mood.
  • Avoid giving snacks because it’s hard to monitor baby constantly and you have a choking risk.
  • Try to achieve a good deep seated position so the body weigh is well supported, the hips are not spread apart or the thighs pinched.
  • Keep arms under the shoulder straps for a safety but also for you to be able to carry the weight more easily.
  • If your baby starts crying, bring them back facing out or in a hip carry so they can see you and be reassured. Overstimulation can happen.
  • Monitor your baby! Sling mirrors are super handy! There are little mirrors that are attached to a clip with retractable string in it which you clip on your top/carrier making it easy to monitor your baby (without having to fish your phone out and put it in camera mode all the time!). Also super handy for back carrying and monitoring baby. See pic below. I make and sell them if you fancy one (£6.50 posted, drop me a message if you fancy one and I’ll send you pics of my availability).

5. Addiction. Yeah, you read this right! Some babies get totally addicted to facing out! They can sometimes refuse to face the parent again because they love looking around and can become reluctant to be carried if their visibility is reduced. You can try a hip carry to alternate.

7. Positioning. It’s always a bit tricky to support the M-shape positioning when carrying facing out, meaning it’s tricky to keep the knees higher than the bum in this position in a deep seating position, so this doesn’t promote healthy hip development really well. Hence why we recommend carrying in this position for short amounts of time. There is only a small window to promote healthy hip development. Carrying facing out also isn’t great on your baby’s spine as we can’t keep the natural curvature when their back is to us, so again, just short periods of time.

6. Alternatives. The idea of carrying facing out is to offer your baby more visibility. If you don’t want to carry in this position (and there are absolutely NO obligations to do so!) or if you don’t have a carrier that offers this positioning, you can try a hip carry with your carrier if you are able to cross straps (check out my video) or look at some other sling options like a ringsling, a pouch, a woven wrap, a meh dai, a scootababy carrier and more! Best is to get in touch to book a consultation with myself or your local sling consultant to try out some options. You can try a few tricks like letting your baby have one arm out of the sling to let them have more freedom of movement and visibility, or even a seated-sideways position (here’s a universal video but I also highly recommend you seek out professional help to ensure the positioning is correct), or use some distraction. This video about curious babes goes over lots of options and you can also read my blog about helping curious babies

That’s it, folks! I hope you’re now armed with information to make an educated choice! If you would like to try out some carriers or need any support, just drop me a message!

Love, Mel.

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