Is the K’Tan Dangerous?

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Three-week-old chin to chest in the K’Tan.

I’ve seen a few mamas rocking the Baby K’Tan. They used both the x-piece and the band (i.e. all of it, as recommended), and baby was tight: upright, tummy-to-tummy, without an angle that would encourage him to go chin-to-chest and hence cause oxygen desaturation or death. These parents wore the carrier without the straps twisted, and as tightly as a tight t-shirt.

Then there’s the million other people I’ve seen K’Tanning.

The K’Tan is sized. There’s no way to adjust it. So you have to buy the exact right size, while you’re pregnant, to fit postpartum. Plus people overestimate their own size, and “don’t want it to be too small,” as one user told me. Or they buy it to fit both partners. So they size up.

What’s wrong with a too-big K’Tan? It’s a babywearing nightmare. The straps are twisted all over and dig into the parent. The baby’s held too low – definitely not close enough to kiss. Even worse, the cross-straps and the band hold the baby too loosely. Baby slumps. This destroys the natural c-curve of the spine, and sets baby on the road to oxygen desaturation. Baby often goes chin-to-chest: a dangerous situation.

The dangers are multiplied when parents use the cradle carry. Baby’s low, baby’s loose, baby’s often dangerously close to chin-to-chest. And in the cradle carry, or upright, parents may feel like they need to hold baby in, and instinctively brace backwards. This hurts their back. No one wonder they quit babywearing so soon.

Most of the time, parents are unaware they are doing anything wrong. When they show up at babywearing meetings, educators have to be tactful in dealing with the safety issues. When we have a K’Tan sighting in the wild – well, that’s up to you, but it’s hard to intervene unless baby is justifiably in actual danger, and that to me means visibly chin-to-chest.

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Low and loose carrier.

These things are also sold with a 35 lb weight limit (I”m talking to you too, Moby). Everyone knows that even with the best fit, they start to sag and stretch around 15 lbs. Companies, you may have weight-tested it that high. You can’t use it that long, and you know it.

The K’Tan, as generally used, is a dangerous piece of babywearing equipment. It shouldn’t be recommended it to anyone, especially not to new parents who have never worn before and who are unacquainted with newborn physiology. When properly used, it’s a decent carrier. But that happens so seldom because of the sizing issue.

The fact that it’s a gateway carrier makes it a dicey proposition to bash it. But unlike the B’jorn, and other narrow-based carriers, there are legitimate safety concerns with this carrier as popularly used. Don’t shame moms for their babywearing sins, past or present. But make the issues with the K’Tan clear.