Carrying Forward Facing

There is a lot of discussion around carrying forward facing / world facing / outward facing. Sometimes this discussion can get quite heated. Whatever the “experts” on the Internet say, it is NOT dangerous to carry forward facing when a child is awake and interacting happily with the carer. However there are many factors to take in to consideration when carrying forward facing.

Fact: It is not essential. Often carers see forward facing as something a child “needs” developmentally. Actually what a child needs is the ability to interact with the carer. This can be hindered by the forward facing position.

Babies go through a developmental stage at around 4-6 months. They push against or arch away from the carer. They twist and turn in the carrier. Often this is interpreted as “needing” to face forwards being “bored” of the carrier or of the carer. Actually the baby is experimenting with new physical skills; discovering that they can twist and turn (essential skill for rolling); discovering that if they push up on their hands they can support their body weight (essential skill for balancing their bodies off the ground); discovering that if they push on one hand they can twist their body in the opposite direction (essential in the development of cross-lateral skills where the two sides of the body work together for crawling and walking). Rather than needing to face away from the carer, they need to interact with the carer, to be encouraged and supported through these physical developments.

At the same time they become aware that there is a world around them, behind them, to the left and right. However, the focal point from which to explore this newly realised world is the carer. They need to be able to safely explore and experience this new normal, but to support their attachment to and confidence in the carer, they need to be able to check back in with the carer to make sure they still exist. The new world can be overwhelming for the child, and the ability to triangulate back to their secure focal point, the carer, is essential for their confidence and well-being. Fact: When forward facing a child cannot turn to the carer for reassurance.

Fact: There are safety considerations. A child must have sufficient head control not to compromise their airways (risk suffocation) in the forward facing position. If the child falls asleep in the forward facing position they will have no head control, so will either need to be moved to a snug carer facing position, or the carer will have to take the responsibility of supporting the child’s airways (keeping them upright and not slumped) manually.

Fact: It is more difficult for a carer to carry a child comfortably forward facing. When carer facing, whether on the carer’s front or back, the child wraps around the carer, the weight of the child is carried in line with the carer. When facing away, the position of the child is driven away from the carer (because unless you have a concave stomach there is nowhere for the child’s bum to go), so there is more distance between carer and child, and the weight of the child pulls away from the carer making them feel heavier.

Fact: To provide a well supported forward facing position for the child the carrier itself requires more structure. We want to see the child well supported with their body weight through their bum, knees higher than hips, rather than their body weight through their developing pelvic bones and their leg weight through their developing hip sockets. There are carriers than have the structure to support this, but engineering a carrier to provide this structure makes for a more complicated to use carrier, and can make adjustment and carrying comfort for slimmer carers more challenging.