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.  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.

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.

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:

 

BAD. See how the legs dangle?

BAD. See how the legs dangle?

GOOD.  Legs are out! The thigh should be supported all the way to the knee joint.

GOOD. Legs are out! The thigh should be supported all the way to the knee joint.

BAD.  Notice how the forces of gravity traction the joint downward.

BAD. Notice how the forces of gravity traction the joint downward.

Good support all the way to the knee joint helps the hip develop properly.

GOOD. Support all the way to the knee joint helps the hip develop properly.

For more information check out The International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

Wow, there’s a lot more to talk about in terms of safety with baby wearing.  It’ll have to go into post #2! (Stay Tuned).

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18 Responses

  • 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

    • Karen says:

      We recently got a kiwipeewee baby carrier and it has solved the problem for us. Basically it is like a bjorn but it has a seat underneath the baby that supports it under its bum. So we can face our son ourward or inward and in both positions he is supported under his bum. Our son only likes to face outward so now we can do that without risking his joint health at all. I’d definitely recommend checking it out

  • Very helpful post. Thanks! May I share this content on my clinic blog, linking back to you as the expert and author?

  • Kay says:

    Hello,

    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

    • Hi Kay,

      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.

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  • GSolar says:

    Bjorn has a new carrier that addresses the infant carrying problem you mention. The One (new carriers name) does hold the legs in the position that you illustrate above.

  • Monu says:

    For those who have a Baby Bjorn and don’t want to spend the money on a new carrier, all you need is a scarf or sash – tie it around the babies bottom to raise legs up to a seated position and tie around your waist. Done!

  • EngineeringParent says:

    I have been hearing about the dangers of certain baby carriers more and more. My wife brought it up the other day after a breastfeeding support group where a local shop came in and discussed why ‘this carrier’ is way better than ‘that carrier’. She said they actually said people should stay far, far away from the baby bjorn carriers. So, as an engineer, I asked, “Did they have any evidence to make such a claim against this company? Did the people site how many children have developed hip dysplasia since the baby bjorn came out with direct links back to it?” She said “No, but they were pretty adamant about it.”

    We own a different carrier than the bjorn (she really like the boba in the tweet coloring, me too!) but I am wondering, as a medical professional, doesn’t it bother you that there aren’t any ACTUAL studies on this seemingly very important issue? As an engineer and scientist in the medical field, I am astounded, to be quite honest. If it is so overwhelming, there should be actual data. Pretty pictures and qualitative discussions about this or that seems unreasonable ammo to, essentially, go to war on a company with, don’t you agree?

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