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We love to carry our baby using different baby wearing products...baby carrier (baby bjorn, ergo baby, etc.), the sling (with adjustable rings), etc.

Depending on the age, they will generally be worn in different positions. Generally when their infants their entire lower body is inside and their legs are folded in all sorts of ways. When they are a little older, their legs are kind of spread and straddle the parent's body (or if their facing out they don't straddle anything).

My question is that because they are in these positions for, cumulatively, long periods of time, will this have an effect on their hips, or leg joints, etc.?

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I'll take time to write a proper answer later today but until then please search this site for "Manduca" to find earlier posts I've made on this topic. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Dec 31 '11 at 8:28
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I would also ask for the long term effects on YOUR body from carrying the baby this way! –  morah hochman Dec 31 '11 at 23:52
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I put your question to my physiotherapist wife. Her answer, based on infant anatomy, is that both slings and baby carriers can be used if the baby is adequately supported. That means, specifically:

  • The baby's legs must not be straight down. The baby must be sitting with a significant bend in the hip/leg joint so that it is easy to straddle the parent. The hip angle is not important when the baby is carried in a sling "hammock-style" and the child is well supported in the entire body length.

  • Sitting with angled legs allows the carrier to support the child from knee to knee. The part of the carrier that is between the knees support nearly all the child's weight, so this part must be as wide as possible.

  • The baby must never look forward, away from the parent. The reason is quite simply that the child's legs cannot be angled enough when facing forward. (If you have some kind of special carrier that ensures a good hip angle even in this direction, then go ahead.)

  • Some carrier models have a fairly narrow part between the legs. This allows the legs to dangle more or less straight down, and also allows the baby to be carried face-forward. These models should be avoided, because there is a measurable risk (citation needed!) of problems with the hip joint. The reason is that infants' hips are not fully developed, that only happens during the first year. By letting the legs dangle, you're effectively pulling the thigh bone out of the hip joint, and this is what can lead to physiological problems during childhood and adulthood.

  • As long as the baby has not developed enough muscular strength in the neck to lift the head when lying belly-down on a floor/bed, the head must also be adequately supported. All carriers I've seen handle this well so it's not an important selection criteria but it must be paid attention to while wearing the carrier.

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Wow. That is great information. It's actually surprising information because a lot of the devices for baby wearing probably doesn't provide the 90 degrees that you're listing. Is having the baby's thighs less than 90 degrees from the torso (i.e. having the thigh closer to the torso) an issue? I'm asking because for certain positions with certain devices the baby's legs are folded almost frog-style. There's a position called the kangaroo position where an infant is facing forward in a sling type of carrier and the legs are folded tight to the body. –  milesmeow Jan 1 '12 at 9:31
    
@milesmeow Only the dangly legs are a problem. Being curled up is a natural pose and is not a problem. I'll try to rephrase that point. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 1 '12 at 10:17
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Extended use of carriers does carry some risk of problems, but unless there are existing physical problems, or extremely high use there is little evidence that problems are at all likely.

Having found many contradictory opinions on the subject, we did what I'll suggest you do as well - talk to your pediatrician. Ours told us anything short of "constant use" was not going to cause problems, presuming there were no existing problems with our daughters joints.

Today (well into the toddler/walking/running stage) we still use carriers occasionally, especially when traveling and in the absence of developmental problems, we've been counselled that continued use is fine.

Our pediatrician did say that constant use of the same carrier did carry some potential risk, and while we never approached that level of use, we did ask that special attention was paid to that part of the checkup.

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