This is a question we address again and again in the library – the tendency of some babies to want to grow eyes in the backs of their heads! Most common between 3-6 months, but can manifest anytime, it’s not confined to carried babies, and it can be constant. Any time you want your baby to feed, nuzzle down, or turn away from stimuli to settle them, they’re craning backwards, upside down and
sideways, wanting to know just what is going on! It is so very common to encounter issues with this that I’ve given it a name – NOSY (Not Only Seeing You) Syndrome.NOSY babies have generally just discovered that there is a world out there behind them, and they would very much like to be a part of it. It is often a factor in ‘turning babies around’ – whether in pushchairs, carrying in arms, or in carriers to assume a Front Facing Out position. But is this the best solution?It is important to consider exactly what your baby wants to see and why they want to see it. The constant that gives the baby the confidence and security to explore the world is you. Your NOSY baby needs to observe the world safely from that constant in the same way that they will later explore it without going too far from your side. Comedian Reid Faylor was joking when he said ‘I think Peekaboo is the cruelest game we play with children. This is because babies lack what is known as ‘object permanence’. So when when you close their eyes, they don’t know you still exist as a mother. The game should really be called it ‘Orphan; Not Orphan”. It’s a joke. But does it have some basis in truth? Object permanence – the idea that something can still exist even when you can’t see it – this only develops between 8-12 months, with prime time for NOSY syndrome being 3-6 months. These young NOSY babies can literally lose sight of reality when faced away from a caregiver.
No-one is suggesting you stop playing peekaboo, or stop ‘turning babies around’ – for some NOSY babies it can be a decent short term option, when handled well, with understanding. But I suggest some other options, to allow your NOSY carried baby to see their world – and the axis on which it spins – you.
Setting the mood
Some babies will only display signs of NOSY syndrome at certain times of day, or in certain situations – such as when they are sleepy, during the evenings, or when you put them in a carrier in a certain way – tucked in, for example, or with their arms in front of their faces. Experiment with times and methods, if you can, and bear in mind that babies object to most things – car seats, nappy changes, cuddles – now and again. Try not to dismiss your carrier out of hand. Keep calm and try again another day.
Upper body freedom
Many of the carriers we have in the library allow for height adjustment, especially wraps and mei tais. Giving babies a little more upper body freedom than they have been used to as a new baby with no head control is often all that is needed to stop the NOSY baby fidgets.
Carrying babies on the hip
Carrying babies on the hip is arguably the most natural position we assume. NOSY syndrome often co-incides with a baby establishing enough upper body strength and head control to be naturally carried on the hip when in arms. It seems natural that we support this position in a carrier as well. Many two shoulder carriers can be adapted to carry on the hip, babies can be
wrapped on the hip and there are many hip carry specialist carriers, from ring slings and pouches to structured hip carriers such as the Scootababy and Ellaroo Mei Hip. Babies carried in the hip can see not only you, but in front and behind – the ultimate for a happy NOSY baby. Importantly, if they need to turn away from the big, wonderful world, they can turn into your body and nuzzle down.
Carrying babies on the back
Carrying NOSY babies high on the back has many of the hip carry benefits. Up high and close to you, they can turn in and away or look up and out, forward facing in the truest sense but secure in your continued presence. Back carrying works best with smaller babies when they can be carried high, as in wraps or mei tais, and peek over your shoulder at everything you do. Carrying on the back sometimes takes practice and should only be attempted when you feel happy with the process.
Why not just ‘turn them around’?
You can do, of course, and with some babies, this is all that will suffice, temporarily. Perhaps your baby is one of these. If you feel that is so, and you have tried the other carrying positions above, then your awareness of the possible problems you could encounter using the position is key. I can’t say it much better than the carefully worded article on Sling Guide –
“There are several disadvantages with the FFO position. Unlike the suggested alternatives, it does not allow the baby to cuddle into the parent when outside stimuli become too much for her, but holds her in a fixed position unable to seek reassurance. Nor does FFO allow the baby to be seated in a position which provides support for his buttocks and thighs. All good carriers should enable the baby to be seated with his legs at 90 degrees to his torso and with the base of the sling supporting his legs to the backs of his knees. But in FFO the baby is held in a position which places his weight on the crotch and the base of the developing spine. It has been suggested this may lead to a greater risk of testicular infection in baby boys, and may be a risk factor for spinal compression and hip dysplasia, but these are concerns on which we would like to see further research.
However, if you envisage yourself in the baby’s place, sitting in a squat position with support for your buttocks and thighs, sounds a much more comfortable proposition than having your weight supported by your crotch. Further objections to FFO are that the fixed
position forces the baby’s back against the sling user’s chest and out of its naturally slightly rounded position, and it fails to provide adequate head support if she falls asleep. FFO is also a carry we cannot recommend for the comfort of the sling wearer, as the position shifts the baby’s centre of gravity downwards and away from the person carrying him, making the baby feel a great deal heavier.”
There are issues, it is important to note, but once you are aware of these it is your choice to make. There are carriers which will support you in any position that you choose.
This Too Shall Pass
NOSY babies don’t always remain so, the majority will move on from the NOSY stage really quite quickly, although it can seem a long time when you can’t feed or carry your baby without the crazy craning! It is very likely that when this stage passes your baby will be happily carried on the front, or back, or hip. When the exploration stage begins, your baby’s NOSY tendencies can be fulfilled as they get down on the floor and exercise their own independence – often, when it is time to come back to you, to feed, sleep, travel or be close, the NOSY baby is more than ready to hunker down and snuggle in – to have a break from being a big clever baby, and go back to being a tucked-in snuggle bug. NOSY syndrome is a hurdle to be overcome, not an end to facing inward or baby carrying itself.
If you still have trouble with your NOSY baby, seek help from your local sling library or carrying consultant. Why not attend a sling meet and share hints and tips with other parents?
With thanks to Sling Guide – The Baby Carrying Resource – By Parents for Parents – http://www.slingguide.co.uk