Baby wearing safely (and why I don’t like the Baby Bjorn)
I don’t like the Baby Bjorn. (I can just hear the cries of all the Bjorn-wearing mothers across the country: “WHAT? How dare you scorn my Bjorn!”) Here’s why:
Hip dysplasia is simply the abnormal formation of the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint (remember that from your 8th grade health class?), which means the ball of the femur (thigh bone) is held into the hip by a soft tissue capsule and many very strong ligaments. When babies are born both the bones and ligaments have not completely developed – this is an advantage for babies as they have increased flexibility to pass through the birth canal. In the first few months after birth the structures that make up the hip joint form rapidly, giving the joint strength and stability.
Have you ever noticed that a newborn has their hips in a frog-legged position? Usually their knees tuck up against their chest with the hips externally rotated (outward facing). This position is beneficial to the hip joint, allowing the structures of the joint to line up properly as all the tissues strengthen and develop.
The way infants are positioned in the womb and in the first few months of life determine whether the hip can form properly. It has long been known that breech positioned babies are more prone to hip dysplasia. Similarly, babies whose legs are forced straight either by swaddling or dangling also have an increased risk of hip dysplasia. Straightening the legs places a lever-like force on the femur, encouraging the hip to pop out of the socket.
Signs of hip dysplasia
The first signs of hip dysplasia are clicking or popping of the hip joint, followed by sway back and/or limitation in range of motion of the joint. Typically pain does not occur for many years, often beginning in adolescence and persisting and worsening as the person ages. Hip dysplasia leads to degeneration of the joint, which can be incredibly painful and crippling.
So why not the Baby Bjorn carrier?
Simply put, the carrier makes the legs dangle, putting excessive force on the hip joint.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that ALL children in the Baby Bjorn will develop hip dysplasia, it means that it greatly increases the risk. (That whole argument “Well my baby was in the Baby Bjorn all day and he’s fine” isn’t a good reason to keep wearing it. It only means that single child wasn’t susceptible or wasn’t in it long enough to develop hip dysplasia.)
There are many excellent carriers other than the Bjorn which are safe, sturdy, and (many claim) way more comfortable anyways. You should note that other carriers that look like the Bjorn (like the Infanto) are just as unsafe, so skip those. Some other great options are the Ergo, Moby, Beco, Boba, and woven wraps like Didymos, Dolcino and Girasol. Check out The Baby Wearer (www.thebabywearer.com) for product reviews. The carrier should hold the legs outward, with support on the entire length of the thigh all the way to the knee joint.
Here are some excellent illustrations by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute that show very clearly what type of carriers are best:
For more information check out The International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
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OtisAugust 29, 2015 at 6:49 pm
Dr Erica please read my story below. I know it is quite lengthy. Looking for opinions from professionals and parents so I can spread my story to help other parents.
On August 22 2015. I had my 7 month old baby girl in the baby bjorn carrier facing me, I was in a store purchasing some items.,I was At the cash register about to pay for my purchase and I dropped my bank card. I bent down to pick up my card and I heard a pop sound coming from my baby’s left leg and she screamed so loud. I could not imagine it was a broken bone, so I checked to see if it was the right side snap that I had come undone and maybe poked her, but the carrier was in place. I took her out of the carrier to comfort her and she stopped crying. And I actually proceeded to pay for my purchase. I felt something was very wrong and proceeded to take her to the car and put her in her car seat and then call my husband. As I tried to put her in the car seat, she started to scream and cry again, I have never heard her cry like that before, so i knew she had to be in a lot of pain. I called 911, told the paramedics what happened, they noticed she was not moving her left leg much and she was taken to emergency. An X-Ray was done and we found out her left femur bone was fractured. She was put in cast and given medicine for pain.
And then the second nightmare began. A lady came in and introduced herself as a social worker with the hospital and wanted me to tell her again how I my daughters injury happened and the doctor came in and informed us they had involved social services because my story of what happened did not match the Injury. He said the femur bone is the strongest bone in the body and the only way he could see such a fracture happening in a baby is if someone intentionally twisted her leg with an intention to harm her. My husband and I were dumb founded that a dr would say such words with such conviction to a mother, not just any mother, to me! We were told my daughter and I were not going home that night and we would have to be admited so they could run other test to make sure there were no signs of previous abuse. I have an older daughter who is 2 years and 4 months, she was with us at the emergency. When my husband wanted to leave with her for the night, they told us they would not let them leave unless we contacted a friend or family member to come to the hospital and follow them home to supervise them because they were not comfortable letting him be alone with my older daughter. At this point it felt like I was in a movie. This cannot he my life.
I called my sister and they let my husband and daughter go home with her and they spent that night at my sisters house. The next day Sunday August 23rd every inch of my daughters body was Xrayed to check for other broken bones, an ultrasound was done on her brain to see if there were was pool of blood in her brain. The results came back clear, there were no signs of other injuries but we had to remain in the hospital till the next day for a blood test and eye test to check if she had ever been shaken. At this point the social worker called us and told us based on the test results so far, my husband could go home alone with my older daughter and did not need third party supervision anymore. On Monday August 24th the blood test was done to check her hormone levels, calcium and Vitamin d to see it she had brittle bones that can easily break. We stayed over in the hospital on monday again because the eye exam was scheduled to be done on Tuesday. After the eye exam on Tuesday August 24th which came back showing she has not been shaken and her eyes were very good, we were finally allowed to go home. The Dr said all the results were clear other than the blood test which will take a couple of days to come back. He said they were no longer concerned about her safety and it was most likely a freak accident but since it is such a rare accident they had to go through the procedures.
I have contacted the manufactures of the carrier and I am trying to reach as many parents as I can to warn about the risk of the carrier and to find out if there has been similar cases. As comforting and convenient as the carrier is, It is not worth the harm it might cause to your precious one. I have had the carrier for more than 2 years. I used it for my older daughter from when she was about 3 weeks till about 10 months. I have been using it for this baby from about 3 weeks as well till the unfortunate day. I can’t tell how the injury happened, if her leg was not positioned properly or if I bent down too fast to go after my bank card. I feel terrible and guilty even though I know it was an accident. I wish I could have been more careful, I wish I left her in the stroller when she was fussing, I wish I did not go out shopping…
My daughter is doing well. As soon as the cast was put on. She stopped the heart wrenching cry that I knew was from pain. The three days we spent in the hospital, she was very fussy, I believe from the heaviness of the cast, and from all the poking and prodding from the hospital staff. The minute we came home, she has been her usual happy herself, watching her sister run around and trying to sit up and move and I have to keep restraining her. Must be very frustrating for her as she only started crawling 2 weeks before the incident.
Please share my story with mums you know and if unfortunately this has happened to you please share yours.
Dr. Erika KrumbeckAugust 31, 2015 at 12:22 am
Otis – I am SO sorry to hear your story. I hope for a speedy recovery and an end to your whole ordeal. Good luck! – Dr. Erika
omni voreJune 22, 2015 at 5:01 am
The whole BabyBjorn thing is a myth. Check Skeptoid for some facts. Hip dysplasia is congenital.
Dr. Erika KrumbeckJune 22, 2015 at 4:15 pm
Hip dysplasia has a congenital component (babies with family members are much more likely to have hip dysplasia), as well as birth positioning component (breech babies are much more likely to have hip dysplasia). But for babies that are more likely to be at risk baby carrier position does affect outcome. Obviously not every baby worn in a Baby Bjorn is going to get hip dysplasia, it simply increases risk. You don’t have to take my word for it – this comes straight from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
Pingback: How to Help Avoid Hip Dysplasia in Babies - Wellness MamaMay 29, 2015 at 4:29 pm
CourtneyOctober 30, 2014 at 6:54 pm
Wondering if anyone knows what options moms like myself have: purchased a babybjorn for like 80 bucks and now I can’t get rid of it. The box is gone and I bought it from Target. Call babybjorn? Call Target. There should be more prevention of the sales of these things if they really are so dangerous. A mom like me sees an expensive carrier and figures it’s expensive because it’s safe…. And only *after* we throw money on it does everyone and their brother decide to say that we are doing permanent damage to our children. Civil lawsuit??
JenniferFebruary 16, 2015 at 9:39 pm
If a momma ready has a leg dangling carrier- she can still wear it by facing the baby towards her and tying a scarf around the baby’s legs and herself. (There are several images online.)
How long do you feel that the hip placement is dangerous?
Ie- once the child is over 1 or 2 years old- do you feel that the carrier still needs to go knee to knee? That obviously necessitates buying a toddler carrier. I didn’t know if their hips were “strong” enough at this point to “dangle” a little- as in if we still wore them in the baby sized ergo carriers or those backpack style hiking carriers.
Dr. Erika KrumbeckFebruary 17, 2015 at 7:01 pm
Sure – if you can get the hips into a good position I have no problem with Mamas using their Bjorns. What a great idea!
The danger with hip dysplasia is greatest in the first few months of life. Unless a child had a breech presentation at birth or has other hip risk factors then I do not believe a child is at risk after age 1. In other words, any carrier is fine after age 1.
mammasmilksSeptember 2, 2014 at 8:52 am
Wonderful website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article?I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!
DROdioFebruary 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm
Yes agreed — we moved off the Bjorn too. The Ergo won for us: http://lifewetravel.com/baby-carrier-face-off-our-quest-to-avoid-hip-dysplasia
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KayMarch 6, 2013 at 4:20 am
I am a mom to a 9 week old who is starting to enjoy looking around. We received the bjorn as a gift and have been using it a few times a week. The bjorn website says that hip displasia is a non-issue because babies have a different center of gravity than adults My baby seems to like the Bjorn, so I would like to continue to use it as long as it is safe. Can you comment on the discrepancy between the conflicting information? Thanks so much! Kay
Dr. Erika KrumbeckMarch 6, 2013 at 10:16 am
I know Bjorn has to support their product. 🙁 But given that the authority on hip dysplasia (International Hip Dysplasia Institute) says “No” – I think that is pretty clear. Sorry!
Another point, though, most Baby Wearing experts strongly discourage the use of forward-facing carriers. I know the little ones love to look around (particularly at that age) – but they also become very quickly over-stimulated. Babies who are forward facing have no where to go to “decompress” when they are over stimulated. Compare this to babies who are faced toward Mom – they are always taking a peek around, then facing Mom again, then looking out again. Babies naturally engage and then disengage to process information (it is an important part of brain development!). This is virtually impossible with forward-facing carriers.
I really recommend using other carriers that face Mom (or Dad, or another caregiver). Check out http://www.thebabywearer.com for more information, and to see a list of lots of excellent carriers.
Katherine Neubauer, ND, FABNODecember 18, 2012 at 11:31 am
Very helpful post. Thanks! May I share this content on my clinic blog, linking back to you as the expert and author?
Dr. Erika KrumbeckDecember 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm
Of course, you can always share my blogs!
Aleshia RickardDecember 16, 2012 at 11:57 am
Nice post! We so agree.
Have you heard of the Onya Baby Carrier yet? It is perfect for the outdoor lifestyle! Check us out, we won 4 gold awards this year for most innovative design. http://www.onyababy.com
Thanks Aleshia Rickard