The benefits of babywearing are constantly being touted by the moms in my playgroup, but I’m worried too much time in a carrier might be bad for baby’s hip development. Is there any evidence the practice is hurtful or harmful?
The International Hip Dysplasia Institute recognizes that the many benefits of babywearing may out weigh the minor chance of causing problems with an infant’s hips. While there is no evidence for or against baby carriers as a cause of hip dysplasia there is ample evidence that hip dysplasia is influenced by environmental factors including tight, traditional swaddling of the legs for long periods of time.
Up to one in six babies has loose joints as a result of maternal hormones that help ligaments relax during childbirth. Approximately 90 percent of these loose hips recover naturally during the first few months of life as the hips grow and the ligaments tighten. The Institute for Better Bone Health advises keeping the hips in a natural position as much as possible for the first few months of life while the joint is forming and muscle contractures are still present. Babies have their hips and knees bent in the natural position in the womb, and this position favors early hip development. The basic rule of thumb: When babies are carried, the International Hip Dysplasia Institute recommends that the legs be allowed to spread apart with the thighs supported and the hips bent.
—Charles Price, MD, pediatric orthopedist at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Florida and director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.