Baby Carriers and Hip Dysplasia: How to Carry Correctly

Healthy baby wearing

Baby wearing is not only a very practical way of carrying your child hands-free, but it’s also lovely and comforting for the child. However there is often lots of discussion about Hip Dysplasia that goes hand in hand with baby wearing. 

Find out more about Hip Dysplasia and how to avoid it when baby wearing...

What is Hip Dysplasia?

As a quick summary it means you baby’s hips are not quite in the right position – the joint becomes misshapen or dislocated and the ball joint of the femur does not fit snugly into the socket of the hip, this can cause issues with walking and arthritis in later life.

Find out more about living with Hip Dysplisia and how to deal with it in our blog article by Katherine from Mamahomelife.

How does baby wearing link to Hip Dysplasia

The International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI) has released statements addressing the dangers of incorrect baby wearing and the links to HIP Dysplasia – But don’t worry, with a few simple checks baby wearing is perfectly healthy and has many benefits to your child.

Baby’s Hips Development

After birth, it takes several months for a child’s joints to stretch out naturally.
During the first few months of life the ball joint of the hip is more likely to be loose within the socket because babies are naturally flexible and because the edges of the socket are made of soft cartilage (like your ear). If the hips are forced into a stretched-out position too early, the ball is at risk of permanently deforming the shape of the socket (hip dysplasia) or gradually slipping out of the socket altogether (hip dislocation). Hip dysplasia or dislocation in babies is not painful so this may go undetected until walking age.

The most unhealthy position for the hips during infancy is when the legs are held in extension with the hips and knees straight and the legs brought together, especially when expose for a long period of time - which is the opposite of the fetal position.

The healthiest position for the hips is for the hips to fall or spread (naturally) apart to the side, with the thighs supported and the hips and knees bent. This position is commonly called the froggy position.

Baby Carriers and healthy hip positioning

Some types of baby carriers and other equipment (including sit-in baby walkers and jumpers) interfere with healthy hip positioning. These devices could inadvertently place hips in an unhealthy position, especially when used for extended periods of time.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to choose a baby carrier that allows healthy hip positioning, in addition to other safety considerations. When babies are carried, the hips should be allowed to spread apart with the thighs supported and the hips bent.

The pictures below show some of the correct and incorrect positions for baby carrying:

Healthy carrier positions:

Unhealthy Hip Position Healthy Hip Position
 Unhealthy Baby Carrying Healthy hip position
Unhealthy hip position healthy hip position

Not Recommended 
Dangling legs in baby carriers may contribute to hip dysplasia.
Hip joint forces promote hip dysplasia in dangling leg style baby carriers.

Thigh is NOT supported to the knee joint. The resulting forces on the hip joint may contribute to hip dysplasia.


Recommended: M-Position
Thighs spread around the mother’s torso and the hips bent so the knees are slightly higher than the buttocks.
Thigh IS supported to the knee joint.

The forces on the hip joint are minimal because the legs are spread, supported, and the hip is in a more stable position.

Healthy sling positions:

Unhealthy Hip Position Healthy Hip Position
 unhealthy sling position Healthy Sling Carrying
Not Recommended (cradle position):
Tightly wrapped baby carriers may contribute to hip dysplasia.
Baby carriers that force the baby’s legs to stay together may contribute to hip dysplasia.

Recommended: M-Position
Baby carriers should support the thigh and allow the legs to spread to prevent hip dysplasia.


Healthy outward-facing positions

There has been a lot of debate about outward facing carriers in the past, with a lot of people avoiding the position due to worries about Hip Dysplasia. It is true in the fact that front facing will carry more risks as it's easy to get the positioning wrong.

But following the same rules as above and you can put your child in a healthy front facing position. Just remember:

  • Create an M (or froggy) position
  • Avoid dangling legs
  • Sit your child on their bum and pull up their knees - to make sure they are sat rather than hanging
  • Avoid long periods of front facing
  • And of course don't face outwards until you child is old enough to support their own head.

Tula's Explorer carrier gives the option to outward face - take a look at their video on how to correctly position baby:

Hip Healthy Baby Carriers at Little Nutkins 

All of our baby carriers have been approved for healthy hip position, but make sure you check positioning and that you baby is in a M-shape with their knees higher than their bum.

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