On behalf of the industry, the BCIA offers the following clarification in response to the recent media attention brought to the practice of babywearing:
While BCIA would like to reiterate the advice that keeping baby “close enough to kiss” is an excellent practice for parents of new babies to follow when carrying, we find other components of the information presented problematic. Research on the relationship between hip dysplasia and cradleboards, a traditional carrying method in Native American/First Nations and indigenous northern Scandinavian cultures, is sparse. Some organizations have cited a 40-year-old study that was not conclusive in its findings, nor has it ever been replicated. While recent years have seen renewed interest in the study of hip dysplasia and its relationship to tight swaddling and possibly the position of baby’s legs when in a cradleboard, we are far from a place from which to make solid conclusions. It should be noted also that known recent research has not studied hip development in human infants, but has extrapolated findings from research on rats and dogs.
Those who wish to learn about traditional carrying methods are urged to learn by speaking directly with those whose cultures uphold these traditions, and it is our position that we should not attempt to dictate how these traditions should be changed, or by suggesting that “modern” carrying practices are superior.
The greatest indicator that a child will have hip dysplasia is a family history of the condition. While all children’s hips are examined at well baby checks, special attention is given to those for whom a family history exists. If your child is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, consult with your healthcare team and a babywearing educator together to discuss carrying options.
As an industry, our duty is to recognize that babywearing, in its various names, is first and foremost a rich cultural tradition around the world. It is not a trend, a product for sale or a practice that can only be done one way in order to be correct. Current cultural babywearing practices include the use of rebozos (Mexico), mantas (Peru), podaegi (Korea), amauti and ulipakaak carrying shawls (Inuit), selendang (Indonesia), khanga and kikoy (Africa), bilum (Papua New Guinea), onbuhimo (Japan), hmong and mei tai/bei (Vietnam and China), moss bags and cradleboards (First Nations/Native American and northern Scandinavia), to name only a few.
As educators, we do the practice of babywearing a disservice by focusing on a narrow definition of perfect babywearing, especially if one does not have first hand knowledge of the function of babywearing within a culture. Key safety messaging in its simplest form means ensuring that baby’s airway is open and unobstructed, baby is securely attached to prevent fall hazards, and visible for constant monitoring.
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Signed in support by:
School of Babywearing/Babywearing UK