Postpartum exercise programs that include your baby are becoming an increasingly popular trend in today’s society. Some of these programs include wearing your baby in a baby carrier! They can range from low impact to vigorous aerobic movement such as salsa, zumba, ballet, belly dancing, aerobics and programs such as Kanga Training. What better way to get fit and stay connected to your baby, without needing a secondary caregiver! We recommend that you receive your health practitioner’s approval prior to proceeding with any postpartum exercise program. Please also note that pregnancy-related changes in your body persist for at least four to six weeks after giving birth. Therefore, be mindful and pay attention to your body’s cues.
When considering a baby carrier for exercise programs, it needs to be both safe and comfortable. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to wear your selected carrier. Listed below are a few points you should consider when choosing a carrier.
- Babies should always be worn in an upright position with no obstruction to their airways. They should be visible at all times and their heads high enough to easily kiss.
- Babies that are unable to sit unassisted do not have adequate neck control and will require their body, head and neck to be properly supported as their spines are still developing. The ideal position is an ergonomic seated squat where their knees are higher than their bum and their calves are pointing downwards forming a “M” position. Babies should be worn in a tummy to tummy position which allows the natural “C” shape of their spine that they are born with. The carrier needs to provide sufficient head support so that the baby’s head cannot fall to the side or backwards. The carrier needs to be tight enough to secure the baby throughout the workout where there may be sudden movements and jostling. As the Babywearing Institute recommends, when leaning forward, baby should not fall into the fabric of the carrier but rather the wearer and baby need to be one movement.
- Once a baby has adequate head and neck control, it is often tempting to face them outward in a carrier. Each baby will vary on their needs, development and preferences but the most optimal position regardless of age is in the ergonomic seated squat tummy to tummy position. There is no scientific evidence to say that facing out is detrimental to a baby’s development. However, there are some things to consider in regards to both physical and mental comforts for your baby. Most forward facing carriers are not ergonomic in design and provide no real seat for the baby. With baby’s legs angled straight down and not in an ergonomic “M” position, the baby’s weight ends up being carried in their pelvis instead of their bum. The baby’s immature spine absorbs the force and weight of each step during motion and movement. Also, in a front forward position, the baby’s centre of gravity is off balance and they are forced to assume an arched or hollow back position to try and maintain stability. This can be exaggerated by the wearers heavy breathing during the exercise program as the wearer’s stomach presses into the baby’s back. If the baby falls asleep while facing out, there is no way to support their head and their chin may drop towards their chest. This can be both a comfort and safety concern. A carrier is unable to support the relaxed muscles of a sleeping baby’s back when facing outward. An exercise program with a constant array of quick movements and views may cause overstimulation in a baby. Even a curious baby may need time to turn away and process information. In a front forward position, babies do not have this ability to retreat. The effects of overstimulation can last for hours. The wearer is also unable to monitor the baby’s airways. While this is a top priority in babies without neck control, it should also be considered in babies of all ages especially when participating in an activity that engages our concentration.
- To achieve optimal comfort for the wearers during exercise, the carrier should maintain the ergonomic seated squat tummy to tummy position where babies can be worn high and tight and close to the wearer’s core with the baby’s bottom higher than the wearer’s belly button. The ergonomic “M” position is easier for the wearer to bear and balance the weight especially during a long period of time with constant movement. A forward facing position is not the most ideal for the wearer as the baby tends to lean outward with their legs hanging downward. The baby’s weight will pull away from the wearer, forcing the wearer to compensate by absorbing the weight in their lower back causing discomfort and unnaturally tilting their pelvis causing undue pressure on their pelvis floor which may already be weak from child birth. The wearer’s centre of gravity may also be shifted with the uneven weight distribution, compromising their balance which is a safety concern.
Overall, when babywearing during an exercise activity, wearing upright in the ergonomic seated squat tummy to tummy position is the most ideal for both the wearer and the baby. With babies 0-6 months or prior to being able to sit unassisted, a woven wrap or a hybrid stretchy wrap is an excellent choice as baby is held tightly upright with support on both sides of his body as the wrap hugs him securely and without forcing him into any uncomfortable or unnatural position. Woven wraps cling to the contours of both the wearer’s and baby’s body and provide a comfortable and safe environment for baby. They can also be easily adjusted and tightened to accommodate the different builds of the wearers and babies and thus obtain a perfect fit. In fact, woven wraps are the most ideal carrier for any age due to their versatility, but once a baby’s spine has developed further and baby has adequate neck control a Mei Tai carrier or a Buckle carrier in the upright ergonomic seated squat tummy to tummy position can also be an excellent choice when exercising.
Birdies Room is the North American distributor for Didymos woven wraps, Didymos hybrid stretchy wraps, DidyTais and Didy Slings. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.