Can we please stop criticising mums for the way they're carrying their babies?

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

I don't need to tell you that being a parent is already a tough gig, without having the world telling you constantly that you're doing it wrong. We all feel criticised from time to time, but when the spotlight is on you constantly, that glare must become unbearable.

Meghan Markle copped it recently on Twitter for the way she was carrying baby Archie in a baby carrier as she walked her dogs through a forest in Canada.

"To [sic] busy smiling for the cameras to make sure her son is comfortable and safe."

"Did she shove him to a side to get a better picture?"

"She is using that baby carrier all wrong ..."

You get the picture.

And although I don't have quite the public profile of Meghan Markle, I still remember being chased around my local supermarket when my eldest child was a few months old by an elderly gentleman who wanted to tell me that I was ruining my child's spine for life the way I was carrying him in a harness on my chest

(The child in question is now 15-years-old, and his spine is perfectly fine, thank you very much.)

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But the confidence with which complete strangers can hand out criticism and tell us we're carrying our babies all wrong can be enough to spark fear in any of us – especially if we're sleep deprived or unsure of what we're doing (read: pretty much all of us at least some of the time).

The good news is that baby carriers are designed to carry babies, and when used correctly, they are perfectly safe for the baby and the carer, says Perth physiotherapist Taryn Watson.

She says expert opinion is that the correct way to wear a baby in a carrier is to "maintain the normal curvature of the spine, and in a very young baby, that's making sure they have a nice C-shaped curve rather than a straight back."

Watson says a great way to avoid safety "pitfalls" when using a baby carrier is to remember the acronym: TICKS.

  • Tight – the carrier needs to be tight on the wearer
  • In view at all times – the baby's face needs to be able to be seen
  • Close enough to kiss – the baby's head should be close to the carer's face
  • Keep the chin off the chest – to ensure a clear airway
  • Spine supported – the back should be supported at all times.

Other than that, Watson says it's important for both the wearer and the baby to be comfortable.

Alyce Mostert from baby wearing company Cloth And Carry added that 90 per cent of the time when she reviews carriers for people, the advice she has to give is "higher and tighter!"

Taryn Watson says there are carriers appropriate for every age, and many can be adjusted to be suitable.

Carrier types include:

Wrap – a long piece of fabric that wraps around you and baby

Sling – a single piece of fabric that goes over one shoulder to form a pouch that holds your baby in front or on your hip

Meh dai (or bei dai) carrier – a hybrid between a wrap and a soft-structured carrier, that can be tied in various ways

Soft-structured carrier – with padded straps and a thick waistband, these carriers disperse your baby's weight across your hips and shoulders

Baby backpack – for older babies and toddlers only.

In Meghan's case, she was using the Ergobaby Omni 360 All Positions baby carrier.

That's a baby carrier that actually sells itself on the fact that there is no wrong position for baby, and Archie seemed comfortable enough, given that he had fallen asleep when the paparazzi sprung out of the trees and took their photo.

Taryn Watson says baby wearing can be an important part of parenthood, especially in the early stages if you have a child that doesn't like being in their cot. She says that she wore her two children when they were babies.

"I have had two babies who have been difficult to settle, and who have much preferred being held to being in the cot," she says.

"Baby wearing has allowed me to still live my life, interact in social settings, and enjoy my time with my baby (and now my toddler too while my baby is being worn!).

"Without the ability to comfortably wear my children, I would be an anxious mess, trying in vain to settle them in a pram or a cot when all they want is to be held.

"I don't think that the positive psychological impacts of baby wearing can ever be underestimated!"

As for the way Meghan was carrying Archie, Taryn Watson admits that the carrier doesn't appear to be tight enough to support the baby properly.

But she also says that there could be several reasons, including that Meghan had just finished feeding him, or that she had been in a hurry (being chased by paparazzi can do that to a mum!) and had missed a strap in her haste.

"Poor Meghan, she was probably flustered and didn't redo it up correctly, this is just a moment in time. But it is important for  other caregivers to note that this is not how baby wearing should look."