Optimal Positioning – So what does this mean exactly and why is it important?
Optimal positioning is a term used to describe the ideal position that your baby is in when they are in a baby carrier; it is a position that supports their spine, hips and ensures their safety as well. Basically you want the baby carrier to support and replicate their natural position when you are carrying them in arms. As a baby’s anatomy (particularly their hips and spine) goes through tremendous changes in the first year, it is important to for your baby carrier to support them during this time.
This picture shows the changes in a baby’s spine over the first year. Source: Baby Do USA-CZ
When a baby is born, their spine is curved and their back muscles lack the strength to straighten it into the ‘S’ shape that adults have. As they grow, their spine and surrounding muscles work towards the ‘S’ shape of adults.
From newborn with a complete curved spine and limited head and neck control (Total Kyphosis) to a little baby able to hold their head up by their neck (Cervical Lordosis), the next stage is when a baby is able to sit due to the strengthening of their muscles in thoracic area (Thoracic Kyphosis) to the final stage when a baby is able to walk and their lower back finishes the ‘S’ shape of adults (Lumbar Lordosis).
This is why a baby carrier needs to support their back while also ensuring that their natural position is maintained. It is important to note that regardless of the spine development stage your baby is in, when they are asleep they will need the back support as their muscles are relaxed and not holding them in position.
When born, a baby has been in a curled position with their legs and knees tucked up and it can take months for their joints to stretch out. Their hip’s consist of a ball and socked joint. “If the hips are forced into a stretched-out position too early, the ball is at risk of permanently deforming the edges of the cup shaped socket (hip dysplasia) or gradually slipping out of the socket altogether (hip dislocation). The healthiest position for the hips is for the hips to fall or spread (naturally) apart to the side, with the thighs supported and the hips and knees bent.” – hipdysplasia.org
Not recommended Recommended
The risk of hip dysplasia is increased in baby’s under 6 months and if there is any predisposition (eg risk factors including family history, birth complications, womb position, first born, girl). Unsupported and static positions can also add to these risk factors.
Natural movement and supported position is required for the ossification process and the ‘M’ and ‘J’ Positions are the healthiest for a baby’s hips. These are the optimal position that we want a baby to be in in a baby carrier.
What Does Optimal Position Look Like?
The ‘M Position‘ is achieved when their knees are higher than their bum. The seat of the carrier goes knee to knee without under or over extending their hips. Baby’s calves and feet are dangling freely. Baby is sitting on their sit bones and their weight is distributed across their bum and thighs.
The ‘J Position‘ is from the side where a baby’s spine is supported and knees are higher than their bum. This allows for babies chin to be off their chest so their airways are clear. Babies’ pelvis is also tilted forward to achieve this position.
Optimal Position throughout a baby’s first year of life. Source: Baby Do USA-CZ
How to Achieve Optimal Positioning in a Baby Carrier
✔️ your baby is held upright ✔️ Baby has a supported and rounded back by back panel of baby carrier being firm yet allowing natural movement and the fabric molds to their body
✔️ The carrier holds them firm and tight (like a hug)
✔️ chin is off their chest (for clear airways) ✔️ their thighs are supported from knee crease to knee crease without under or over extending their hips ✔️ their knees are higher than their bum to create a ‘M Position’.
✔️ on the side, their spine and legs create a ‘J position’.
Not only is this position ideal for your baby’s anatomy throughout the first year but is also is a lot more comfortable for the wearer. Baby carriers that can be adjusted by width and height of the back panel are perfect for achieving this position.
But don’t despair if your baby carrier doesn’t allow for optimal positioning, as long as your baby is SAFE in whichever baby carrier you have, you both are getting all the benefits of babywearing. To find out more about Babywearing Safety head HERE
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