The Good and Bad About Car Seats

As parents, we do everything we can to give our children the best start in life. But did you know that the way we carry and transport our babies can have a profound impact on their health? It’s true.

Baby travel systems - car seats are a necessity. The baby is strapped into a plastic basket seat that can be secured to a car seat base or a stroller. Because of their convenience, often the baby is kept in a passive position of the basket seat for long periods of time.

There are two things to consider:  if your little one spends too long laying on their back, it can flatten and deform the shape of their head. This is known as “flat head syndrome” – plagiocephaly.

And secondly, be aware of the hip and leg position in the car seat. For healthy development of babies’ hips, it is essential to allow room for the knees to bend and slightly turn out. This is known as a frog position. This natural frog leg position holds the thigh bone into the socket, encouraging a nice deep cup to develop and strengthen.  

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Most car seats are wide enough to be safe for little ones, though I did measure and chose the widest one I could find when shopping for ours, and I avoid any bulky clothing or tucked blankets that would compromise this healthy hip position.

Although convenient, when not transporting your baby in a car, consider using a different method for carrying your baby. Babies need movement for their brain development and their general health. They also require support for their joints and bones as they grown and harden.  Extended amounts of time in car seats don't nurture these natural processes.  

Need assistance with car seat installation?  Contact us.

Learn about  car seat safety tips

What I Didn't Know About Babywearing

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As a mother to my new baby boy I knew that I wanted to do anything and everything the best way possible. I read books and listened to anyone who would share their experience and well-meant advices. It was overwhelming and confusing at times. One thing for sure is that I had a gut feeling that I wanted to hold and snuggle Noah as much as possible to nourish our relationship with closeness and love.

Did I know, or even hear about, how to carry a baby? Did anyone suggest, tell, or ask me about my baby’s hip health, or about my baby’s spine?  Did anyone ask me if my back and shoulders were okay? No, and no one.

The history/ background

I had purchased a stretchy carrier as many moms do for their newborns; as well, I had a handful of hand-me-down slings, wraps, carriers, and backpacks, all designed for keeping baby close.  It was amazing, and it fit well with my ideology of keeping my baby close and snugged up to me!  As a family, we loved to carry Noah; I loved to wrap him close in a stretchy cotton fabric wrap, and my husband Travis preferred the easy of a harness carrier.  As time went by, I started to struggle with the need to constantly readjust the wrap; Noah was growing fast, and the stretchy cotton was starting to give way as Noah increased in weight.

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On the flip side, Travis was starting to experience pain and deep soreness in his shoulders and back from carrying Noah in the harness carrier.  They say ignorance is bliss, and we just kept carrying Noah, while compromising our own health, as we were certain it was beneficial for Noah and us.  Babywearing really fit into our active, and nature loving, lifestyle.

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 What happened after?

Noah grew!  He grew and grew and grew, into a healthy, active, rambunctious boy.  He was always moving, always exploring, and always ready for adventure.  Noah started walking at ten months, and soon learned to climb, run and jump, always keeping me on my toes.  Shortly afterwards, I started noticing that his legs, particularly his left leg, took on a peculiar shape.  More specifically, his left leg started to develop a slight bend. I have always been open to complimentary medicine; after a few visits with an amazing osteopath Marc A., Noah’s legs seemed to be self-corrected.

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Later in Kindergarten, Noah jumped off the monkey bars at school (again!) and hurt himself.  The symptoms this time were different, he kept wetting his pants, but only while he was active and moving; this fact took us a while to figure out. As it turned out, the force of his jump from the monkey bars had hurt his hips, tilted his pelvis, and twisted his bladder.  Again with assistance from our awesome osteopath, Noah’s hips soon corrected and healed.  I was told that these things just happen.  I was told these things can easily happen even while playing soccer.  I was told that these things just happen to growing little bodies.  Was it true?  I began to wonder though; was Noah’s hip problems related to how I carried him, or was it only a coincidence or a chance?  An accident maybe?

By now, I was starting to research and learn more about healthy hip development in babies.  I had a growing concern that Noah’s hip issues were connected to the poor babywearing positions, and ill-fitting carriers, I used with him when he was little.  My gut kept telling me to keep an eye on his hips, spine and legs as they grow.  My gut urged me to make sure to stay active, healthy, and move barefoot.  My gut kept reminding me that we should visit our beloved friend and osteopath Marc A. every so often.  I knew I wanted the best for my child, as every parent does!

 

A better way to babywearing

When our daughter was born three years later, I longed for a better way to carry my new baby, as I wanted to continue to keep them close to me.   All the while, I was still gaining more knowledge about my babies’ hip health, and I knew there must be a product on the market that was both comfortable, and designed to support the growing process of little bodies. This was key to me as I knew I would be more busy than ever and out and about with my toddler, therefore the comfort and design of the carrier was important.

This is when I met Ingrid, founder of Helina Baby,  still in its developing phase.  With the purchase of my first Helina Carrier, I was also provided with an educational workshop on baby anatomy, hip health and how to better wear my baby to support and benefit her growing body. Since then my babywearing experience has been revolutionized!  I now know that my babies are thriving, supported, and growing healthy.  Wearing the Helina Carrier is easy and comfortable, we go on walks every day and spend our weekends hiking, with the little ones cruising and napping.   

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Why does hip supporting your baby's hip matter?

Your little infant grows!  It’s true!  From an infant to a toddler, then, into a little child, a teen, all the way to adult!  At birth, baby’s joints are made of soft, pliable cartilage in comparison to the strong and solid joints of an adult.  This softer structure in a child means that it is easier, anatomically, for the ball (the femoral head) to slip out of the socket (the acetabulum) and be misaligned or fully dislocated, especially under downward strain.

The baby’s spine develops in stages, starting with ability to hold their head in the first few weeks and progressing with more tone and strength as baby learns to roll, sit, crawl, squat and walk. Not until the walking stage is the spine developed. 

My responsibility as a parent is to assist my children's development in any way possible so that my child has a healthy start in life! When Noah was a baby, I did my best with the knowledge I had. I know better now, and am grateful for my friend Ingrid and baby health educators who have shared their knowledge of hip health, movement nutrition and child development. 

What is the Safest Type of Carrier for Your Baby?

If you were to read the article Common Nursery Products Send Thousands of Children to the Hospital featured in the New York Times, you would be led to believe that all baby carriers are dangerous devices prone to failure. According to the article, 19.5% of injuries requiring hospitalization were baby carrier related, and of those injuries more than half were children under 6 months of age.

 

These findings were collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. We took a look at the source directly to understand the specifics of these findings and we found a common theme among these dysfunctional products: the product failures are related to malfunctions occurring in buckles, buckle straps, aluminum rings, hinges, missing plastic pieces, and in one case, baby positioning. The most common errors are related to moving parts and systems.

If you have a buckle carrier, then it is of the utmost importance that you check the attachment systems consistently and keep the product away from sunlight which may accelerate wear and tear and pets that may chew on the plastic. If you have a ring sling carrier ensure the rings are RoHS compliant and lead and nickel free. The best option for a baby carrier is a woven wrap carrier or a Mei Tai carrier, not to be mistaken for a stretchy wrap carrier, which is made of a t-shirt-like material and does not support a baby as well with :

 

-A woven wrap carrier is a single piece of cloth, about five-meters in length, which then requires a mother or father to construct the pocket to support the baby in addition to tying the support system. The learning curve for this device is fairly extensive comparatively.

 

-A Mei Tai carrier consists of a rectangular piece of fabric attached to three straps, two for your shoulders and one for your waist, used to securely keep the baby on the your body. Since the rectangular pocket is already created for the baby to fit into, all that is required are a few simple knots.

 

While it may appear more convenient to choose buckle systems, it is less safe than a woven wrap carrier or a Mei Tai carrier, and therefore requires more maintenance.   

Not all baby carriers are inherently dangerous. The simplicity of a Mei Tai carrier or a woven wrap ensures that, if tied properly, the child will remain in a proper position in the carrier. There is a nonexistent, or a very small learning curve, to tying a proper knot, and once you learn it you are set for the remainder of your child’s early development. This is a tried and true system that has been used throughout the world in various cultures.

Most importantly we would like to remind of these key benefits for carrying your baby:

- When carrying /wearing your baby, the two of you move through your day together. The baby hears your voice, picks up on your emotions, and trusts you to provide safety and comfort. 

- Wearing your baby provides closeness even when you can not give one hundred percent of your attention, while attending to older children, running errands or working.

- Babywearing is also best for a child's physical development.  Babies need and enjoy motion, similar to being in the womb. 

- Babywearing is very useful for toddlers, too. They will feel more confident when they know they can retreat to the security of the carrier if needed. 

How to tie a Square Knot

Posted on July 6, 2017 and filed under Development & Safety.

Cervical Spine Development

If one can understand the simple process of the developing spine, that knowledge alone can help a parent support their baby when using a carrier.

A baby is born with a primary curve of the spine, and as she grows, the spine develops secondary curves to balance/distribute the weight of the body. In this blog, we will talk about the cervical spine which consists of the first seven vertebrae.

When your baby begins lifting her head, the muscles of the neck become stronger.  The strengthening of the muscles against gravity is what help develop the cervical spine. You'll know when this stage is complete when your baby can rest her forearms on the floor and hold her head up without assistance.

But before completion of this stage, it is of particular importance to ensure that you support your baby's head.

To carry your baby most comfortably and safely, wear your baby facing you, vertically, a baby should never be curled so their chin is forced onto their chest as this can restrict their breathing, her head should be  resting in your heart and her chin off her chest.  It is a sure way to know her airway is open. Although some suggest using a carrier in the cradle position (the manner in which to breastfeed a baby),  it is not the safest way to carry your child.   The cradle position may restrict airflow because it puts a baby in a situation where their chin is close to their chest.  To understand what I mean, do the same.  Bring your chin to touch your chest. 
 Do you see how it restricts your airflow?  The good thing is we can lift our heads up to breathe effortlessly, but a newborn cannot.   Also, this position does not support hip development. 

Vertical positioning not only offers your baby a safer option but it requires your baby to balance his head against gravity which strengthens the neck muscles required for sitting. Vertical positioning also helps with the stimulation of the vestibular system, the system responsible for balance, proprioception, coordination, muscle tone and more.

 

Two day old Liam in  Helina Baby Carrier

Supportive Babywearing

hip health

 Do you see the similarity in the leg position of these two babies? The baby on the right is wearing Pavlik Harness - a medical device used to treat Hip Dysplasia. Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket. To heal the hip joint, the Pavlik Harness is worn by the baby for approx 6-12 weeks full-time and the success rate is quite high. The Pavlik Harness allows the femur (thigh bone) to align with the hip joint and it keeps the joint secure. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to carry a baby in this healing position all of the time?

Posted on November 13, 2016 and filed under Development & Safety, Babywearing, Parenting.