What does the term ‘an ergonomic carrier’ entail?
So what do we mean by saying "We carry the baby in an ergonomic position" and why we should pursue this position when carrying a baby?
Ergonomic carriers are those which enable the child to adopt the so-called ergonomic position. In such a position the baby’s knees are bent and reach higher than the baby’s bottom thus the baby assumes a sitting-like position with a rounded back. With the back rounded there is no pressure on the Vertebrae as there is sufficient space in between them. Ergonomic carriers ensure a rounded back yet at the same time they have to guarantee a solid support for the baby’s back when being rounded.
A child's head is much bigger as well as heavier taking the proportion of their bodies into account. The rounded back and the bottom in a sitting-like position (the baby’s coccyx is pointing to the carrier’s lap) rest on the entire length of the carrier thus the weight of the baby’s head is evenly distributed into the carrier. Therefore, the head does not exert pressure on the spine as well as the upper part of the body does not present any discomfort to the pelvic area and lumbar region.
The baby’s legs and bottom in an 'M position' ensure ideal blood circulation around the hip joints thus creating perfect environment for the femoral nucleuses to develop in the correct manner. In many cases, carrying babies in an ergonomic carrier or in a scarf has replaced the so-called 'wide wrap-up' technique, broadly recommended by orthopaedists to prevent or cure any positive findings on examination of hip joints in newborns and small babies. The ‘wide wrap-up’ involves placing several cotton nappies in between the baby’s legs so as to keep them wide apart. Such a position of legs strongly resembles the position the baby adopts in a scarf or in an ergonomic carrier.
To assume the correct position of the legs in the carrier, the strip of fabric inbetween the baby’s legs has to reach from a knee to knee. This way the baby receives proper support. The carrier also needs to be shaped in the sitting area at least a little bit so that the baby’s bottom ‘sinks’ into it. Then the edges of the carrier, which reach the knees, enable the baby’s legs to be higher than its bottom. The baby also finds such a position really comfortable since the weight of the legs does not rest on the carrier edges themselves, thus not pressing on the baby’s thighs. At the same time the strip of fabric in between the legs should not be too wide to reach farther than the knee pits (as far as the calves, in fact). The baby would not be able to bend their legs properly or move them freely which would cause uncomfortable pressure in the lumbar region. Moreover, the correct blood circulation in the baby’s legs would be prevented which would bring along an unpleasant sensation.
An ergonomic carrier should, in the first place, be shaped and strengthened to keep a straight position eg.as in rucksacks. Sadly, too many baby carriers of renowned foreign brands do not have sufficient width in between the baby’s legs. Such carriers are called ‘klokanka’ (as it resembles a kangaroo’s pouch). Unfortunately, ergonomic carriers are often wrongly labelled as ‘klokanka’ which can cause much confusion. It is an old thus obsolete term used mainly by those who have not had the opportunity to study the problem profoundly. Such a type of carrier is branded ‘visítko’ (the baby is sort of hanging in it) by the more ‘educated’. The baby cannot adopt a proper position in such a carrier and is basically just hanging down, Thus the entire weight is placed on the baby’s crotch and consequently the upper part of the body exerts pressure into the pelvic area which is not suitable and extremely uncomfortable for the baby. Regrettably still, only few can demonstrate good knowledge as far as using a suitable carrier is concerned. When travelling you can come across unsuitable carriers, which we find really sad as the parents mean well for their baby yet choose the wrong carrier which compromises the baby’s comfort as well as their health. It is not surprising though since the so called ‘visítka’ are available in virtually every single shop with baby goods where the salesperson does not often provide any information or are unaware of the distinctions in different carriers.
We also advise not to carry the baby with its back facing the parent’s chest. The baby cannot thus assume a suitable position regarding its back and legs. Moreover, the baby is exposed to way too many stimuli which they can find quite stressful as they are not able to ‘shelter’ their head by placing it on the parent’s chest. The child will not experience such a stressful situation whilst being carried with its forehead facing the parent’s chest or on the parent’s back.
Ergonomic carriers should be made of a firm material – textile fabric, preferably natural due to being in a contact with the skin (knitted fabric is too elasticated therefore not suitable at all.), Most carrier manufactures therefore use cotton fabric which is breathable, feels pleasant and is easy to care for. All the above mentioned qualities can be found in cotton linen. Anyway, the most efficient in this respect is the material that is firm lengthwise and stretchy crosswise. Scarves for carrying babies are produced from such a material. It is the softest and the most flexible, therefore an adaptable fabric for making carriers. Our company ‘Jožánek’ has its fabric custom-made. Due to this, the material used for Jožánek carriers is more costly which also reflects in the higher price of our carriers. If you find any linen carrier that fits you and your baby well, purchasing it would not be a mistake.
The size of the carrier has to reflect the baby’s size. Otherwise there is no way to achieve the ergonomic position, especially when the carrier is too small. We find it absolutely essential to choose a carrier that fits the baby’s size. There is a wide variety of suitable carriers available in different sizes. Some of these are only one size and can be used only for a certain period of the baby’s life. In spite of this fact you can find that such a carrier would suffice, as you may need to use it solely for a particular interval in your child’s life. Another type of carrier is the so-called growing type, such carriers allow the size of the carrier to be adjusted to the baby’s current size.
However, none of those carriers can be used all the way through, from the newborn till the age of 3 or 4. Some carriers do demonstrate this quality yet with compromises. You will find that those carriers are either suitable for the very small babies or for bigger children. The best solution in this area, which came out recently, represents a carrier with binding shoulder straps. This type of carrier has been inspired by traditional Japanese mei-tai carriers. Unlike the traditional carriers, the modern ones are provided with wider shoulder straps which allow the small baby to be wrapped up all over its body as well, as they provide perfect support from the sides as in scarf carriers. The shoulder straps (either wide or narrow) also make up for the insufficient width of fabric in between the child’s legs especially with bigger children who have grown out of the carrier and the strip of fabric in between their legs does not reach from knee to knee any more. Such carriers allow to carry children up to the age of 2 or even longer. Despite the above mentioned advantages the shoulder straps seem to be a drawback for those who have not had any experience with carriers so far. Yet there is no need to be worried about mounting the baby correctly in the carrier as anyone including fathers or grandmothers are capable of doing so with just a little practice. In contrast to traditional mei-tai, modern mei-tai carriers are shaped in the bottom area to enable the ergonomic position to be achieved. They are also frequently supplied with reinforced shoulder straps as well as a hipster band. The hipster band is usually fitted with a clasp as in classic carriers or it needs to be tied, which is not so common. These carriers are called hybrid carriers. Our company has one such a carrier on offer, type ANETA (BC02).
The carriers suitable for very small babies are labelled as „newborn“. The most important features of these carriers involve a perfect support of the baby’s head while it also prevents the baby falling into the sides. The carriers with binding shoulder straps have been recognized as the best since they allow the baby to be wrapped up tight and all over, as in a scarf.
The choice of suitable carriers is definitely the widest (including the mainstream products) when the baby is capable of holding their head up by themselves, which is roughly around 4 months of age. These carriers can be used minimally up to the age of 12 months or 18 months, sometimes up to 2 years of age. This strongly depends on the type, brand as well as on the fact if it is a growing carrier or not. It is true that babies of this age tend to be carried most. Smaller children seem to be carried much less even though they would benefit extensively. Some mothers use a scarf for carrying the newborns as their sleeping cycle lasts longer , but the mothers breastfeed more frequently. Thus they find the scarf more convenient as they do not have to tie and untie the carrier for every single feeding. After the baby has grown a little older, mothers start looking for something more convenient and faster so they often favour a carrier, which replaces the use of scarf. Some mothers, nevertheless, prefer using both products alternately. Those who have decided to carry especially smaller children find a carrier just a handy means to move the child from one place to another eg. when a child complains about aching legs after having walked for a longer time. Some mothers who are orthodox in this matter may contradict such a ‘favourable’ use of a carrier. The longer the legs children have the more pressure their weight exerts on the carrier edges which the child finds rather uncomfortable after some time. As a consequence they prefer to walk which serves the purpose too. Such an ‘in-between version’ of a carrier is also available in our product range, type JONAS (BC01).
If you have opted to purchase a carrier when your baby is about 8 months or a year old then a bigger type of carrier, labelled as ‘Toddler’ should be bought. Such a carrier is strongly recommended for those who love to go hiking in which case the child is very likely to be carried for longer than 20 minutes. There is also a ‘Preschool’ carrier, these are not very common, though. The toddler carriers are supposed to last until the age of 3-4 years, especially if it is the growing type. Toddler carriers will be on sale in our shop in summer 2019 marked as DAN (BC03). (for pictures and reviews see trial testing on our FB page)
Apart from providing sufficient support under the baby’s bottom and legs, the toddler carriers are more robust, thus the whole area of the baby’s back is propped up. The child’s arms can be easily concealed in the carrier or the child can snuggle up in there for a comfortable sleep and so on. The toddler carrier is supplied with either wider or at least well cushioned shoulder straps as well as with a slightly bigger hipster band so that the baby’s weight will be spread evenly into the carrier. You will find these features especially relevant when carrying a baby of 15-20kg. We suggest to purchase the toddler carrier for those around the age of 15 months.
If you have chosen to carry your baby from the very birth then you should be aware of the fact that one carrier will definitely not do. However, carriers represent a well marketable commodity with mother-carrier communities or on social sites in particular.
If you have decided to purchase a carrier around the age of 4 months of the baby and intend to carry the baby only occasionally then one carrier is very likely to suffice.
If you intend to start using a carrier later (when the child is a little older) eg. for trips where you cannot or do not feel like using a pram for some reason, then you should try out the toddler carrier. Or if you have had a carrier for a smaller child, it is time to purchase a toddler carrier and be ready to experience the difference.
Our company Jožánek offers carriers of all three types. The carrier with binding straps (type mei-tai, marked BC02 in our product range) is considered to be the best option for carrying the baby from newborn. When the child has grown into the size 80 then it seems a good idea to replace the mei-tai by a toddler carrier. However, if you wish to continue carrying your baby in the mei-tai you can do so until the age of 2 and it would still feel comfortable for the both of you.
In case you are determined to start carrying the baby after they have been able to hold their head up by themselves then you can opt for the carrier with binding straps (BC02), in which the proper ergonomic position can be assumed for a longer time than in our classic carrier (BC01) which is fitted with clasps. You can, however, select the clasp carrier which is ‘superfast’ as far as mounting the baby is concerned. It seems a common practice to purchase both types of carrier (on account of promptness or just because there are more people who carry the child). If you find any of those previously mentioned insufficient regarding either comfort or size you can obtain the toddler carrier (BC03), which is sure to last until the baby does not need to be carried anymore.
Author: Jana Gebauerová Havelková, www.jozanek.cz
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