Should baby have legs in or out of the carrier?Jan 06, 2024
I hear this question a lot in babywearing forums and from new parents - how on earth can you tell if your baby's legs are supposed to be in the carrier or out?
While some of this will depend on the kind of carrier you're using, there are some general guidelines that can be helpful in determining what's best for your baby - when in doubt, always follow the manufacturer's guidelines.
Here's the thing...it takes a long time for newborns to unscrunch!
I hear a lot of concern from parents about how to position their baby’s legs in a carrier without spreading them too wide. If you're sure you've got the carrier adjusted right, baby's legs aren't overextended, and your baby is content, usually you're fine to just wear them legs out from birth.
However, if your baby seems uncomfortable or is only happy when their legs are in the carrier, it's probably a good idea to do some troubleshooting.
Even with legs out of the carrier, baby doesn't need to be straddling you to be in a hip-healthy position - especially if you're using an easily-moldable option like a wrap or ring sling, you can keep baby's legs pretty close together while still having their knees higher than their butt.
There are a couple things to keep in mind here. Remember, while you’ll hear a lot of generalized rules espoused online - babies have different needs and temperaments right from the start, and what’s the right decision for one baby may not work for another.
However, in general, I’ll say this:
- Some carriers are designed to accommodate having legs in the carrier, and some aren’t - it’s crucial that you learn the guidelines for your carrier. Styles that usually accommodate legs in easily are ring slings and wraps. Never perform a legs in carry with an onbuhimo!
- If you decide to have baby’s legs in, ensure that their weight is sitting on their butt, not their feet.
- Once baby’s standing reflex kicks in (usually around 6 weeks), touch or pressure on the bottoms of their feet will trigger their reflex to straighten and stand - which poses a big safety hazard if they’re in a carrier. If you notice this behavior in your child, it’s time to find a legs out option!
- Often, when being worn legs out, baby’s legs look like they’re spread a lot wider than they actually are. As long as you have a carrier with an adjustable base that can cinch narrow enough to not overextend their legs (the panel should support the whole thigh but not extend into the knee pit to push their legs straighter), it’s ok! This is a natural position for your child to assume, and you’ll notice them take this same position when you lift and put them on your hip when they’re a little older.
- If your baby is comfortable and your carrier is adjusted properly, it’s totally fine to wear them legs out from birth. But if your baby seems uncomfortable or reluctant to let go of that froggy position, let their behavior guide you and consider finding a legs in option.
The goal when babywearing is to keep your child in as close to their natural positioning as possible. If you pick your baby up and they automatically scrunch their little legs up, more thank likely that’s the position they’ll be most comfortable in in the carrier. If they straighten their legs, then they’re probably ready to have their legs out.
If your child is premature or has sensory sensitivities, they may react negatively to having anything touch the bottoms of their feet, even soft fabric. Follow your child’s lead and lean into your instincts - you may not be a babywearing expert yet, but you are the expert on your child and can tell when they’re uncomfortable.
Like I said, there are no hard and fast rules here as long as you’re being safe and responsive to your child. When in doubt, please reach out to me for personalized support so you can feel confident in your babywearing!
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