Crotch Danglers and Hip Dysplasia: Is It All Just (Crotch) Rot?

Are forward facing carriers really going to ruin your baby's hips?

Okay, in case there’s already some head-scratching going on, let me take a second to clarify some terms:

Crotch Dangler: Any front-facing carrier (FFC) that allows a baby to, well, dangle, so that their legs aren’t angled up and out at the hips.

Hip Dysplasia: A misalignment of the bones of the hip.

So, what’s one got to do with the other?

Well, some people feel that toting your child around in one of these carriers will damage their hips and, because their legs are dangling down, the hip will eventually pop out of the socket. Comments with “danger”, “damage” and “How would you like to be carried around by your crotch?” are thrown around. Which I never understood because there are plenty of things that don’t bother a 18lb baby that I can’t stand – morning breath, swaddling and shitting up their back, just to name a few. Plus, I carried around both my kids in one and they loved it – and believe me, if they didn’t enjoy something, they let you know about it.

So does that mean we all need to buy the $180 baby carrier where your baby’s legs are positioned “correctly” instead of the $30 carrier that we can pop them into when we walk to the store to buy a can of beans?

Here’s what I know. After nine months all balled up the fetal position, it can take a while for a baby’s hip joints to stretch out. During that time (about six months), the ball at the top of the thighbone may not fit snugly in the hip socket – thanks to those wicked-awesome hormones that made the baby super-flexible and easier to pop out of the birth canal. If the baby then spends tons of time with his legs outstretched, the ball can mess with the soft edges of the socket.

Hip dysplasia is hard to detect and there is some concern that a very mild case could be made worse if a baby’s legs are held straight for long periods of time. This is where you start to lose me, because in a carrier they are just hanging as opposed to forced straight like incorrect swaddling (notice I said incorrect there) where the legs are bound tightly together which can be a serious oh-no-you-didn’t. But I couldn’t find a single medical study linking Front-Facing Carriers to an increased risk of hip dysplasia. Even the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (the site that everyone seems to link to when they scream “crotch dangler!!!” online) won’t kick them to the curb, saying: “The Medical Advisory Board of the IHDI does not endorse nor advise against any particular baby carrier…”

Of course companies that make the carriers that hold the baby in more of a sitting position are more than happy to perpetuate this concern because it’s smart marketing. After all, if parents think there’s a chance something will screw with their baby’s hip joints they are going to fork over the extra cash to be on the safe side. I don’t blame them at all.

I did come across this interesting article on Skeptoid, “Will the BabyBjorn endanger your infant’s health?” where a dad dug even deeper on the issue.

These front-facing carriers have their advantages – some are very inexpensive, easy to use, and the baby can face in or out depending on size. Now, if you plan on strapping that weeble to you for the long haul, it may be worth investing in wrap or carrier that can be worn on your chest and your back – less for hip concern and more for variation and comfort for both of you.

If you ask me, I say lug ‘em and hug ‘em however you can. We can start to worry when they come out with “ankle danglers” or “ear danglers” – those sound pretty bad.

[Follow up: I finally got a response from the people from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. They said that “There are no studies attempting to cause dislocations with carriers” but went on to say that hips dangling is the same thing as hips tightly swaddled then listed the swaddling studies. Personally, I don’t feel that this is apples to apples but I’ll let you make that call.]

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  • You can pretty easily rig up and use a scarf to help support your baby’s legs if you have a crotch dangler and want more support.

  • I personally chose not to risk it with my kiddos. I made myself a moby wrap to use as newborns, then I use a Bity Bean ($60) since I live in South Florida. I also use an infantino mei tai ($26 on Amazon). It’s comfy for both my 7month old and my 3 year old!

  • Normally I 100% agree with your posts, but they suspected my daughter of having hip dysplasia at birth, as the doctors felt a click when they moved her legs. I was referred to an excellent pediatric ortho, and luckily my daughter did not end up having the condition, but while I was there I specifically asked him about baby carriers. He told me to get one that keeps the legs spread as anything else can definitely cause hip dysplasia. I would be wary of giving advice stating that it doesn’t matter!

  • The world has so much to explore and one position just won’t cut it.Being close to your child is a natural thing, but my wife has a some hereditary problems with her back, so I decided to get one of this HipSeats. Now I think that I found the solution to all of the “busy baby” things. From forward facing to sideways to facing you, my child is close and able to explore the world.Highly recommended! Here you can find more information –

  • Ergonomic carriers here are cheaper than crotch danglers, but harder to source (although not actually that difficult). I’ve also heard many parents say they had to stop using them due to the discomfort they cause the wearer, whereas I’ve been carrying my over 21lbs baby for 5 hours no problem just today. Another issue with them is that they can’t look away from something they find frightening as effectively, during my journey today there were many times my son would turn to hide his face as he finds loud noises scary, plus it had the added benefit of me being able to wander down the street breastfeeding him.

  • Yet again, I love your take on things. You are my kind of thinker, in that you read, research and have a balanced view on things. Over two pregnancies you have become my barometer for many questions. Also, you are an A+ curser, which makes me happy. Keep it up!

  • This article is a god send. I was gifted a Baby Bjorn and an Infantino and I was scared of the hip dysplasia issue. I looked at the carriers when I picked them up and thought they would be fine, but reading this and the skeptiod article make me feel better. Plus two free carriers, not like I’m not going to say no that!

  • Our 5 month old daughter was diagnosed at birth with hip dysplasia. She has spent 23 hours a day in a corrective harness since she was 2 weeks old (we are just now weaning her out of it). It’s been a really traumatic/stressful situation with follow up visits to the ortho and pediatrician every 2 weeks. I definitely would avoid anything that may contribute to hip dysplasia (even if it’s a small/unlikely chance that it would cause problems).

  • From someone born with hip dysplasia, I can tell you with 100% certainty that if NOT using a "crotch dangler" will avoid causing hip dysplasia, I would go that route. Multiple surgeries, body casts, severe pain throughout adolescence and into adulthood and finally a total hip replacement at 22 years old (and subsequently a new hip replacement every 15-20 years for the rest of my life) are all not worth whatever satisfaction people get by carrying their children this way. Not to mention, all of those things are far more expensive than any carrier you may decide to purchase instead of a crotch dangler. Basically, hip dysplasia is nothing to joke about and if you can avoid causing your child to develop it….why not?

  • Awesome post! I’m pretty sure the only real concern with ‘crotch danglers’ is comfort for carrier and baby so if everyone’s happy in it – awesome. That said, an ergonomic carrier will let you comfortably carry baby for much longer (i.e. into toddler-hood) and for longer periods of time without back pain.

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