Attachment Parenting, Babywearing

Adventures in Babywearing: The Forward Facing Debate

Eloise's first forward carry at about four months. She loved every second of it.
Eloise’s first forward carry at about four months. She loved every second of it.

I’m bound to piss off a few mamas with this one. Ever since Ergo launched the 360, babywearing debates have been popping up around the web about whether or not it is okay to ever have a baby facing forward in a carrier. Even the Ergo website recommends using the forward-facing position for limited time periods and only after the baby is six months old.

Of course I read this after I had started using the forward facing position with Eloise at four months. She was eager to look out at the world and fit nicely when I used the booster from the infant insert. However, after I read the post on Ergo’s site, I began to question my own decision. While Ergo is the only forward-facing carrier I know of that provides a safe carry for the baby’s hips, the recommendation for limited use is based on:

  • A young baby’s need to see the face of his/her caregiver for social cues in order to feel safe
  • A young baby’s need to be able to turn away from stimulation and/or nap against the caregiver when desired
  • The decreased support for the back of the caregiver when a baby faces outward

After I let this information sink in, I decided to still use the forward facing carry with Eloise but with a new-found awareness of whether or not she is overstimulated and needs to be able to turn away from her environment. Before, I would wear her to the grocery store facing outward, thinking she would like to look out at everything. Now I will start her in the inward carry and then turn her outward if she is fussing. That’s my compromise.

Despite my attachment parenting tendencies, there are times when I need the break and facing outward is the only thing that keeps her occupied. I often allow her to face outward while I eat, walk the dogs, and do other household tasks. She never stays in the position for very long, but it is a key element to maintaining my sanity, which is important because a happy mama means a happier baby.

The whole reason I think it is worth sharing all of this is because the babywearing community can get pretty aggressive about NEVER facing a baby outward, even in a carrier that is ergonomically supportive for the baby. What I don’t understand about this is the lack of support it shows for other mamas. I have yet to meet the mom who hasn’t at some point given her kid sugar, used a stroller, or let her kid watch television. Most of us have done at least one thing that might be considered detrimental in some circles but makes our lives better.

In the grand scheme of childrearing, a little quiet time spent outward facing on mom doesn’t seem like the end of the world. And, if you want to judge me for it, then I ask you to look at your own parenting and make sure you’re not serving cupcakes at birthday parties or letting baby sit on your lap while you watch that game on television. And, let’s be honest, if you can’t find a single thing you do with your kids that is questionable, then you are probably not sitting on social media judging other moms right now…

To be fair, no one has been less than kind to me, I have just been weighing the information for my own purposes and wincing a little when reading other moms go off about forward facing carriers. If it is not causing physical harm to the child, I am hard-pressed to believe time spent facing outward is any different than using a stroller, (if anything it is better than a stroller from an attachment parenting perspective). And I know plenty of psychologically healthy children who sat in strollers as young babies.

As with anything, it is important to pay attention to the cues of your individual child. I love woven wraps, but sometimes it is easier to slap on the Ergo, and sometimes my individual child is not in the mood to be facing inward anyway. So wear on, mamas and papas, wear on!