Monday, April 26, 2010

Ever wonder why our Baby Carriers have no Back or Lumbar Support?

(This article first appeared in our FaceBook notes on March 25, 2010)

We have often been asked why the baby carriers carried in Baby Slings & Carriers do not have a "back support" or a "lumbar support".

What is a lumbar support and what does it do? A lumbar support that comes with some baby carriers simply helps to provide support for your back with a heavy baby. Some baby carriers we see around today all tout the lumbar support as an ergonomic alternative to the normal baby carriers of yester-years (which have two straps, one for each shoulder). These lumbar support baby carriers may come in good quality materials like memory foams so that the wearer's back is straightened and thus some people do feel a little more comfortable with baby loads of up to about 8kg or 9kg (depending on your own physique).

Why then none of our baby carriers have such a lumbar support? The reason is simple. You may notice that almost all our ergonomic baby carriers (mainly soft structured carriers) come with a hip belt (or at least allows you to add one easily). The provision of a hip belt on a backpack helps bring the center of gravity of the load (baby) in the backpack (baby carrier) closer to you and below your waist, thereby shifting the weight below your waist by more than 50%. As such, since there is no more strain on your lower back, there is no more need for you to put a support there. This is true ergonomics.

In other words, baby carriers that are not well-designed still continue to put the stress (weight) on your shoulders. Once your baby gets heavier, you will find that the weight pulls you downward and forward (even more if you allow your baby to outward-face). To maintain your balance, which is a natural reaction, you will tilt yourself backwards, resulting in a strain in your lower back. You then add a lumbar support after the lower back becomes strained. The outcome? Still lower back pains, but perhaps a little more delayed because you had been "forced" by the lumbar support to straighten the back.

So when choosing the right carrier, be sure to understand the physics of weight distribution. How well a baby carrier is able to distribute weight also depends on how well the baby carrier wraps around your baby's natural curves and your hips. Even between ergonomic carriers, there can be some differences. No two carriers are entirely alike. Choose an ergonomic one that fits your needs and physique most, and you can be sure to enjoy this wonderful babywearing journey for a much more comfortable period of time.
 Wearing an older child with good weight distribution in a Manduca Baby Carrier

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