Crotch Dangling: Part 1

The phrase Crotch Dangling has been the subject of debate in the last year or so. It’s become taboo to mention it in many babywearing groups, some considering the phrase akin to a babywearer slur. In the last few years, there has been a marked difference regarding what is considered appropriate and inappropriate language in babywearing communities. Many online groups and forums have officially banned the use of the phrase “Crotch Dangler”, threatening to block anyone who mentions it.

“Crotch-Dangle, Crotch-Dangle, CROTCH-DANGLE!”- A.P., Rebel Babywearer

 The stated rational is that the phrase “Crotch Dangler” is hurtful and alienates new babywearers who own and try to use “crotch danglers”. New babywearers, they assume, require special handling– they are to remain ignorant of the term and it’s implications.  I strongly disagree: when rational people know better, they do better. Cognitive dissonance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

What exactly is a Crotch Dangler? Is it different from Crotch Dangling? What can be done to prevent it?

Many people assume crotch dangling is only in reference to a type of carrier, known as a “crotch dangler”. Carriers that get called this are technically “narrow-base harness carriers”, many brands offer this style of carrier but the classic, Baby Bjorn* is the most well recognized. This style of carrier is, in my opinion, unsafe for infant and adults for many reasons, but some of the flaws can be corrected using a scarf or shawl (Note: the scarf or shawl could very well act as a carrier by itself! BUT use what you want.)

* Even Bjorn has begun considering ergonomics. Check out their new “wide base” product line. No more diaper wedgies!

In fact: “Crotch Dangling” and “Crotch Dangler” are descriptive phrases. Period. They describe: 

  1.  a style of carry 
  2. a carrier that is designed for such a carry and by itself cannot by modified for other carries. 

Crotch Dangler (carrier):

  • Narrow based harness carriers (or Crotch Danglers— it’s easier to say) puts the weight of the baby on their pubic area (i.e. their crotch) and stomach. 
  • The carrier also holds the baby away from the body of the wearer pulling the center of gravity of the adult and baby askew.
  •  The limbs of the infant dangle loose (there is the dangling bit) and depending on the development of the infant, potentially being kicked out (until they lose circulation). 
  • There is little or no head support to prevent chin-to-chest positioning (risking positional asphyxiation). This is covered in much more detail in Part Two.

Crotch Dangling (style of carry): 

  • The weight of baby primary on their pubic area, and to a lesser extent on their stomach. 
  • The infant is held away from adult’s body, either by body shape or physical barrier of a harness
  • The infant’s limbs dangling freely.
  • The infant’s knees are not level with, or higher than, their butt. 
  • There is nothing to prevent chin-to-chest positioning. 

Based on this information Crotch Dangling can occur in a variety of carriers, including a wrap. Crotch Dangling is a pathological STYLE of carry, not necessarily a specific carrier. However, certain carriers are designed exclusively for the pathological style of carrying we call Crotch Dangling, thus are described as Crotch Danglers.

Left: “Playing WOW” with dad.  Right: “from above. He had reflux and this was the only way we could get him to sleep.”
– Moderator Kelsey

When an adult member of a babywearing group asks how their baby looks while in a wrap in which the infant’s: 

  • weight is primarily supported by their pubic area and to a lesser extent on their stomach, 
  • body is held/leaning away from adult’s body,
  • limbs are dangling freely,
  • knees are not level or higher than their butt, 
  • is in the chin-to-chest position, 

Do we as informed and caring babywearers pretend that it’s okay? Do we instead tell them how adorable their baby is, or how pretty their hair is, or what nice carpeting they have* just to avoid helping them do a more comfortable and safe carry for fear that by assisting a peer that the person asking how their baby looks in a carrier will eschew babywearing forever?

*real life responses to photos of people using “narrow-base harness carriers” (that were not being used correctly even as designed, let alone correcting the seat). 

I certainly don’t think so! We would, we should!, make suggestions and help each other. So why is the situation so very different when the carrier used is designed for a pathological carry? It can be corrected for the most part by using a piece of cloth and facing the child towards the body of the adult.

“One of my former cover photos is a crotch dangling shot…before I learned more and invested in a tula!… And I LOVE my Tula. Even more importantly, so does my lo.” — Member

So many of us started babywearing using crotch danglers. I did. When I knew better I did better. Thank goodness I came to babywearing 15 years ago when it was still socially acceptable to have someone approach me and tell me that there were much more comfortable, long-lasting carriers available. (Like the ring sling I purchased soon after, and still use!) Otherwise I may have assumed that once the baby outgrew the Snuggli that I had to go back to using a stroller.

It is possible to avoid Crotch Dangling by ensuring that:

  • the weight of the child is supported by the legs and butt of the child. 
  • the child’s body can easy rest on the body of the wearer (curl into the adult, not away from)
  • the limbs are supported by the carrier or the body of the wearer when at rest.
  • the head of the child is supported by the carrier, or the body of the wearer, with a neutral spine position when at rest. 
  • the child is facing the wearer’s body (front, hip or back carries). 

It is possible to avoid a Crotch Dangler by:

  • avoiding carriers with arm and leg holes, the carrier should form a “seat” when in use.  
  • use the “carrier hack” linked to above to correct the seat of suspected crotch danglers.  

With all this said, go ahead and use a narrow-base harness carriers without any modifications at all. Anyone is free to crotch dangle a front-forward facing baby in a wrap all they want. It’s probably not going to kill anyone, it might injure the adult or the infant, and it most definitely will cause child and adult discomfort… and will probably look silly (all those arms and legs coming out of the front! ahhhh!). BUT it’s up to the individual to make the best choice for themselves.

For the most part: when you know better, you do better. But we aren’t here to force you.

Happy babywearing!

I knew nothing about what carriers were best or the ins and outs of them at the time that either of these pics were taken. The one of me [left] was in early 2010 and the one of my husband [top of post] was early 2013, shortly after that…we got our Ergo [right].” –Member 

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