I had several baby carriers to help me get through this time so while I definitely have a bias as to what I liked and what worked for me and my body, I do think that there are some safety standards a caregiver should think about when choosing a baby carrier for a newborn.
- Airway: Always make sure baby's airway is protected. If baby's chin slumps into her chest, reposition the baby. Grunting and snoring sounds are all signs that baby's airway may not be protected
- Kissable: Check baby's position on your body. Baby should be worn high enough that the top of her head is kissable.
- Visible: Baby face should never be covered by the carrier
- Upright: Think about how you hold a newborn. It's always in a supportive way, tummy to tummy, typically with either a hand or your forearm supporting the baby's bottom. A baby carrier should mimic this same positioning. Ideally you want a newborn to be tummy to tummy with her knees higher than hips so that she's in a seated squat position.
Let's look at Soft Structured (Buckle) Carriers
Now that I've reviewed many of the important tenets of wearing a newborn in a carrier, it's important to choose the right carrier for your baby. Most babies still like to curl up into a little ball (I call it a loaf of bread or hedgehog) and don't typically stretch their limbs for at least 10 days. For that reason, I find that soft structured carriers can be a little bit more difficult to get your baby well positioned. Oftentimes, soft structured carriers' front panels are too long so baby is sitting too low (which breaks the "visible" rule). Additionally, many soft structured carriers front panel is too wide and baby cannot go into an ergonomically correct seated squat position because the carrier's front panel goes beyond the baby's knee joint. If a soft structured carrier's front panel is too wide and cannot be made more narrow for a newborn, you'll need to purchase that carrier's coordinating infant insert. Most of my customers find infant inserts to be burdensome, hot and awkward. So then they look for carriers that don't require an infant insert. Carriers that do not require an infant insert have some sort of design to make the front panel nice and narrow to fit a newborn, 7 lb baby. Lillebaby, Beco 8, Beco Gemini and the Tula Free-to-Grow are all carriers that I've successfully fitted babies in. With the Lillebaby and Beco Gemini, you must be careful as those carriers' front panels are longer and most newborns heads do not "pop" out of the top of the carrier (again, making them not visible). There are some techniques of "boosting" your baby by using a rolled up receiving blanket but I typically don't like using tools that aren't part of the carrier to make it work for a parent/baby.
The Beco 8 and Tula Free-to-Grow are pretty much great options for newborns. The Free-to-Grow's front panel adjusts as your baby grows and can get nice and narrow for a newborn (no infant insert needed!). The front panel can also get shorter thanks to adjusters in front, right at the straps. The Beco 8's front panel also gets nice and narrow eliminating the need for an infant insert but, it does come with a "booster" pillow that will boost baby up so that she is visible. This pillow is very different from a traditional infant insert as you don't have to strap baby into the insert before putting baby into the carrier.
At the end of the day, there may be other baby carrier options that will better position a newborn that is still in that hedgehog position and we'll take a look at those in my next blog post. But if a soft structured carrier is something that you absolutely want to start using ASAP, then please make sure you visit your local baby wearing store that has certified experts or attend a baby wearing meeting in your community. All baby carriers will fit all bodies differently and it's important to get the right fit for you and your new little bundle!