Aug 5, 2010  •  In Baby, Korean, Parenting, Personal

Why I Am Scared to “Wear” My Baby

(In addition to the possible suffocation and tailbone issues, that is…)

I have a confession to make. I have never stated this publicly because it is a condition that has plagued me for all my life. I was made constantly fun of as a kid because of this, and I still am very sensitive about this issue.

I have ugly legs.

You may laugh at me and tell me that lots of women think their legs (or any body part for that matter) are ugly. But I believe that I have a legitimate reason; because not only do I have bowlegs, they are also crooked at the knees.

I have never posted a picture of my legs before, but here they are for you to see:

Because of my legs, I almost always wear long pants. When I wear shorts, they are bermuda-length and hit right below the knees. All my dresses and skirts also hit right at, or below the knees as well.

I never wear mini-skirts. I never wear leggings. I don’t even wear skinny jeans because they do nothing but showcase this problem.

I have tried products that reportedly help alleviate the problem, such as the Japanese O-Leg Supporter, with no success. I have even seriously contemplated surgery to straighten my legs, but decided not to when I discovered that I would not be able to walk for months.

My sister doesn’t have this issue. The rest of my family’s legs are fine. So what happened to me?

I firmly believe that my legs are a result of my mother and my grandmother wearing me in a podaegi (a Korean baby wrap) for most of my infant years. Although my sister was worn in a podaegi as well, it was not nearly as much as me as I was regularly carried in a podaegi for the first couple of years of my life, for hours at a time.

Starting in the 1990s, this traditional Korean style of carrying babies in the podaegi has been blamed for bow-leggedness within the Korean population. While I’m sure nutrition has some part to play in the high level of bow-leggedness among Koreans, many Korean mothers now refuse to wear their babies in podaegis in fear that their children (especially girls) will end up with ugly legs (like mine).

I never had any childhood illnesses that may have contributed to my crooked and bow-shaped legs. My family was poor in Korea, but we always had healthy food and my mother fed me well. I have never had any leg pains or issues running/walking. And since the rest of my family’s legs are fine and dandy, I can only conclude that the podaegi contributed to the current state of my legs.

Experts say that the bowleg issue can happen with any baby carrier if you carry the baby for too long in the incorrect position. Newborns have to be carried with their legs bent in the lotus position, because this is the natural position for them for the first few weeks. However, after they start to stretch their legs out, you are supposed to carry them in a way that lets them extend their limbs, instead of confining them.

But what about carriers that wraps the baby’s legs around the torso of the carrier? Like the podaegi or the mei tai, which is growing in popularity here in the states?

There have yet to be any conclusive studies on the possible correlation between bowleggedness/crooked legs and baby carriers. I wonder if a decade or so down the road, there will be a rise in the bowleggedness/crooked legs population due to today’s increasing popularity of baby wraps?

All I know is that I will only be “wearing” my babies very sparingly, and would never use a podaegi or a mei tai. J and I registered for an ERGObaby, but will only use it so that our baby will face the front with her legs dangling out and not wrapped around our torsos, and never for more than an hour at a time.

I know that many baby-wearers who read this may take offense at this post and try to convince me of all the benefits of baby-wearing. However, this is a decision I have decided to make just based on my own experiences. If there is anything I can do to help my baby lower the risk of ending up with legs like mine, I will gladly do it and this decision is just one of them.

34 Responses to “Why I Am Scared to “Wear” My Baby”

  1. LHR says:

    You can’t wear a baby outward facing with the ERGObaby. Only facing you, on your back, or on your hip…all 3 positions involve straddling for the baby.

  2. Geek in Heels says:

    @LHR — Thanks for letting me know…obviously we were misinformed! We will look into other options like the Baby Bjorn, or just forgo a baby carrier altogether.

    • Amy says:

      Bjorn carriers make your baby dangle from the crotch in a position that puts pressure on their spine. There is no evidence other wraps or carriers make you bow legged. Correlation does not equal causation. You should do more research before you post this kind of thing. Also, outward facing carries can be very overwhelming for babies, there is research to support this.

  3. Nodakademic says:

    DUDE. Your legs look like my legs. Seriously. Aside from being shorter than mine, I could look at that picture and think it IS my knees. ‘Cept I’m also knock-kneed, though I’ve been trying to correct it by forcing myself to stand with knees pointed out. Since you were so brave to post your pic, here’s mine:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3208/4555816015_cf6160f8f6_o.jpg

    My mom didn’t wear me – guess it’s just the way I was born. And like you, I don’t think others in my family have this issue. Like you, I tend to shy away from shorts, skinny jeans, and other knee-bearing fashions.

  4. Ashley says:

    Wow – I had no idea there could be any correlation between baby-wearing and bowleggedness. I registered for a Moby Wrap based on decent reviews, and my husband is terrified to use it. I’m looking forward to using it when the baby is really tiny, but I’ll definitely keep this post in mind once he’s bigger, for sure!

  5. sandy says:

    Your legs look just like mine! I’m super short like you (5’0") and I’m very self conscious of my legs. My Mom and Grandma carried me around all the time in the podaegi. Just like babies’ heads can become flat if they lay on one side of their head for too much time, I think wearing a baby for too long can damage their bone formation. Like you, I will sparingly wear my future babies.

    I still wear shorts and shorter skirts but I never stand with my legs straight…I alwasy have one foot forward facing and the other pointed to the side…kiind of like a ballet position.

  6. Miranda says:

    Meh. I’m Korean too, probably not put into a baby carrier when I was little, and I’m still bowlegged. It’s more genetics than anything else.

  7. Donna says:

    Actually – Neddy hated being forward facing. We used both the Bjorn and also this Japanese brand that I will look into for you (or if you want – you can borrow it for the time being). When i had the Bjorn, neddy was always facing out – he loved to see the world :)

    The Japanese brand was cool becuase you could wear it in the front, in the back (which my son always pulled on my hair), or in front like a cradle.

  8. Honey, your legs look just like my stubby Latina legs. It’s called being short.

    Who cares about the baby wrap or whatever. You need some fierce leggings! You need to own your sexy. Your legs look like every other real-proportioned woman out there. Plus, they are healthy and will carry you and your baby for a long time to come. They look pretty great to me.

  9. Sara says:

    Hello :) First time commenting here and only found your blog recently but—-I totally agree. While I’m not pregnant I just don’t think it’s a good idea either. Now add in the possible suffocation due to wrong placement or poor carrier now this? Wow, no thank you. Personally, I think the child should be able to lay on their back/stomach and play rather than be carried everywhere. I also think the child may become a little too co-dependent on being "on" their mother at all times and will have separation issues for nap times on their own or when the parents leave anymore. That’s just my theory, but I don’t understand why it’s so important to carry a child around in the home like some women do. My mom would plant me in the laundry room in my bouncer or on a blanket with my toys so she could watch me when she folded clothes—-I turned out just fine. ;)

  10. Jina of JAC says:

    OMG!!! I just called my mom to ask if I was a podaeggi baby! it explains it all …. :(

  11. Amber says:

    Well, you CAN rig the Ergo so they face forward. Youtube it!

    @ Sara: Sometimes babies are colicky or have other issues that make it painful for them to lay down (like reflux). When mothers are existing on two to three hours of sleep (and not in a solid block like that), if their baby finally finds relief while being "worn" around the house, then they’ll take it. This isn’t necessarily attachment parenting, it’s survival. My daughter would only sleep while being held for SIX WEEKS. It wasn’t for lack of trying, too, she just couldn’t sleep unless my hands (or my husband’s) were on her. Hopefully you won’t have anything like that happen to you, but until that baby is here you have no idea what you’ll do to make them stop hurting, and to let yourself get a rest. It’s really hard to go on 2/3 hours of sleep a day with a baby who can’t get any sleep either!

  12. Amber says:

    I should add that Piper refused to be in wraps, slings or anything until she was two months old, which restricted us even more! I couldn’t even wear her, I had to lay down with her in my arms. Sometimes she’d get into a deep enough sleep that I could put her down in a swing and actually eat something.

  13. Nani says:

    I hate to tell you, but you have the typical Korean legs, short and stubby. (ask my aunt, grandma, cousins etc) they have legs like you. I seemed to have inherited that problem as well. i HATE my legs. but it’s okay because your cute and I doubt you will worry about your legs after baby.

    Onto the carriers you should look at the Beco or Boba (I have this one) I couldn’t do the wrap.. I just felt like she was suffocating so we decided not to keep doing it.

  14. Geek in Heels says:

    To everyone who says it’s genetic or just due to short legs…I should clarify that my mom is only 4’10" and has the same general shape of legs as me….but hers are not crooked at the knees nor bowed. I am the only one in my extended family of over 40+ people who has this problem, and I was carried in a podaegi the most.

    I’ve added an update to the post to better illustrate my point…

  15. Sara says:

    @Amber: I get what you are saying. I think that’s totally different though and I guess I should have clarified, but I’m talking about the mom’s who just carry the baby because they want and "wear" the kiddo. No, I don’t have kids, and yes, I will want to make my child comfortable, but just because "it’s fun" will not be why I squish my child up in a sling/carrier.

  16. Jane says:

    I think it may be genetic – I am Korean but my legs are on the longer and skinnier side (whew!) but I STILL have the same bowleg/knee crooked problem as you. Since my legs are more slender, it makes the crookedness much more pronounced. but oh well, I wear shorts anyway.

  17. Emily says:

    I think what Sara means is that many women prefer to hold their baby, not set them down and go about stuff, to foster a bond or something like that. My mom held me 24/7 and it "trained" me to not allow her to set me down. In turn, she held me more, and her back got super screwed up. My mom’s told me many times to be sure to set the baby down if you can!

  18. Sunny says:

    I am slightly bowlegged too and my mom also carried me around in those podaegi things. Ugh!!

  19. Oh, wow. This is interesting. I guess the jury is still out on whether wearing causes the bow legged-ness. But you can never be too careful, so I will note this post! Thank you. Then I had to go take a closer look at my own short legs! I guess I am slightly bow-legged, too, though I am not Korean and my mother didn’t wear me. If it is genetic, then years of dancing helped a little, I believe.

    We were given a Bjorn and I was thinking it looked cumbersome and wanted the wrap-suffocating-looking-one. But now, I think I’ll just stick to the Bjorn. This post is great in that it helps us think about environmental versus genetic impacts on baby.

    At any rate, I couldn’t see what you were talking about before the edit with the blue line diagram. Your legs look great! No one but you would notice, Jenny!

  20. Lisa says:

    My legs look just like yours only probably worse. I have narrow feet that roll inward a bit too. I am not Korean and I am relatively tall (5’7"). I don’t believe I was carried in any kind of carrier much as a baby. I think it’s just a genetic thing and I’m trying to just get over it, but I still don’t wear shorts or skirts much because of it either.

  21. Jenny – I think your legs look great and you should totally embrace a shorter skirt or leggings if you’d like! I honestly did not notice anything "wrong" with them.

    I like this post though, because I think it is a good example of everything in moderation :)

  22. Stacy says:

    Late as I am, I just had to jump on the comment train. My knees sort of look like this. I am not Korean, but we use similar baby wraps, and I have to say, although it does sound like there's a correlation between the babywearing and your knees, the main factor sounds like the time you spent in the babywrap. I understand wearing babies as a way to keep your babies close, or that sometimes it is the only way to calm them down for a nap while getting things done, however once the sweeties can get up and run around, I think the time for babywearing is over. Letting them run around will, I believe, balance out the skeleton due to the pull of muscles, etc. Keeping them packed up in the babywrap for as long as they kept you will definitely mold babyknees due to the constant pressure from being strapped on mom's back. Just remember to let your babies run around too. Reading your blog has given me a lot to think about, but I am not scared to wear my (future) babies.

    Besides, wearing them too long does, like some of the other commenters said, have that negative reinforcement, training them only to like such-and-such a position.

  23. claudia says:

    Thanks for posting a picture of your legs – I have the exact same legs! My knees have been hurting a lot at night lately. Do yours?

  24. Marco says:

    You have beautiful legs!

    • abi says:

      my guess is the way your mother carried you when you where a baby,your legs is much better than mine,i could never worn any short clothes that will show my ugly legs,im too embarass,when i had my daughter and when she was just start walking i have notice she had the same legs like me, but i been giving her massage everyday to straight her legs up,now that she’s almost 10 years old i can see the different, her legs are now perfect, i just wish my mom did the same thing for me,im really dying to put those short clothes however my ugly legs are stopping me…..

  25. emma says:

    *shrug* they look fine to me.

  26. Filleheureuse says:

    Your legs aren’t too bad. You’re really courageous for posting this photo, not because it’s so terrible but because it’s so hard to let the world see something we are ashamed of. When I look at your legs from the knees down, you would look normal in a dress. Some people with bowed legs do not look “normal” in dresses. You’re fortunate, so focus on that, and don’t worry about how you look. After all, (I’m assuming you’re married) your husband loves you despite your imperfections.

  27. Stacy says:

    I AGREE, WHOLE-HEARTEDLY. I know of a few cases of “carrying your baby on your hip too often”. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

  28. Kaizqueru says:

    Funny I always thought that slightly bowed legs (not so much that they look unstable) that many koreans have is so beautiful. Because it gives you a nice thigh gap. Which I love. I always thought those with a thigh gap because of bowed legs made them look so clean and free. Of course the grass is always greener on the other side. I have narrow hips, no thigh gap whatsoever, and even when I’m at a great weight my thighs rub together a little bit.

  29. Eric B. says:

    Way late to the party. I am 46 years old. I don’t have the ability to post a picture here but I can tell you that my knees are considerably more crooked than yours. I was diagnosed with pigeon-toed, knock knees, and “flat-footed” all when I was a child. Back then they used special shoes with inserts to fix the issues and they did the best they could at the time. Today when I put my legs together, my thighs touch from my crotch to my knees, then the legs bow out, then there is space between my calves, all the way down to my feet. I have been this way for 46 years. Obviously it has effected my athletic abilities but I still get out and do my thing, run, bicycle, and such.

    Let me tell you about a friend of mine. She is a dwarf. She is very short, has to crawl up on bar stools, and gets looked at all the time wherever she goes. Some point and laugh, others whisper in their friend’s ears, but there is always a reaction. But the difference is that she doesn’t have a problem with her height. She can’t change it, and she always felt she would deprive herself of a lot of life’s enjoyment if she dwelled on the fact that she was incredibly short. I think if you spent a day with her, you would forget about her height but more importantly, you would forget about your leg issues.

    I think it’s mindset really. Do you think that if your legs were straight that all of the sudden your life would be oh so much better? That you wouldn’t obsess over some other part of your looks?

    This isn’t about legs, really, is it? It’s about how we, as an individual, accept ourselves as we are. Really, at the end of the day the kind of person you are is going to have nothing to do with the shape of your legs.

    I wish you luck..

  30. Jerny says:

    You have normal looking short people legs o_o I don’t see the problem..
    I think you should put the Vogue magazine down and realize that *THAT* is where your insecurities are coming from. Baby wearing didn’t jack up your legs, just like it didn’t jack up my son’s.
    You just don’t have long legs. And that’s okay. I’m sure you’d still look great in a skirt. :)

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