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Baby Carriers: Always Use in the Car

Baby carriers are extremely popular among new mothers.

About Baby Carriers

A carrier is typically part of a portable car seat system, which also includes a car seat base and stroller base. The carrier snaps into both base systems. They are quite convenient, as a new mother can buckle her baby into the carrier, walk out to the car, snap the carrier into the car seat base, drive to the park, remove the carrier, snap it into the stroller base, and take baby for a walk. But think about what this baby has missed out on!

“Back in the Day…”

Typically her mother would have held baby in her arms and carried her to the car. She would have placed baby in the car seat, then removed her and put her in the stroller. All the while, baby is enjoying mother’s loving touch and using muscles in her trunk and neck while being held.

The portability and convenience of the carrier are appealing to busy parents, but as you can see, there are good reasons to limit the use of carriers. When in a carrier, many babies tilt their head to one side, which is not good for the neck and spine and can put pressure on one area of baby’s head, possibly leading to a flat spot. Of course, brief periods in a carrier are not a problem, but if baby has a lot of travel time in her schedule, it’s important to give her occasional breaks from the seat and to limit the amount of time she spends in other types of baby gear for the remainder of the day.

Too Much Visual Stimulation

Many parents attach toys from the handle of a baby carrier so they dangle down, hanging several inches from the baby’s eyes. Babies can easily get too much visual stimulation, especially newborns. Unfortunately, parents may assume that baby is content and happy and continue to leave her there overstimulated. This can be very frustrating for baby!

It is also important to remember that toys should never be attached to a car seat while in a moving vehicle because this poses a safety hazard. Consider removing the dangling toys every so often, and if you are sitting with your baby, watch her carefully. After she plays with the toys for a while, if she turns her head to the side or shut her eyes, that may be her way of telling you, “I’m all finished here!”

Carriers’ Strain on Mom

Mothers should note that baby carriers can weigh up to 10 pounds, so when combined with the weight of a newborn, this can put a lot of strain on your back, shoulders, and arms. When possible, carry your baby rather than risking injury to yourself. Also, don’t get into the habit of holding your baby on one side only. Rather, alternate arms to avoid placing undue stress on one side of your body.

Anne H. Zachry, PhD, OTR/L
Last Updated
Retro Baby (Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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