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An Interview with Dr. Erin Mannen

June 20, 2018

Erin Mannen, PhD, is currently conducting research at University of Arkansas in cooperation with International Hip Dysplasia Institute and Boba so we can better understand babywearing, hip dysplasia and spine development. Here's what she had to say about it...

Boba: Tell us about yourself. You're a biomechanist and a doctor of orthopedic surgery, do you think it gives you an edge in understanding an infant’s muscuskeletal development?

EM: Hi! I’m Erin. I’m a wife to Drew and a mom to Jay (3) and Lucy (1). I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. I am a mechanical engineer by training, but have always focused my work in biomechanics. One of my current interests is in infant biomechanics! The opportunity to work in an Orthopaedic Surgery department at a medical school gives me a unique perspective on infant biomechanics and musculoskeletal development. My medical doctor colleagues’ insight and collaboration help give my research studies a stronger “clinical implication”, resulting in translational research!

Boba: How did you think to team up with Boba?

EM: I want to work with people who share a passion to improve the lives of babies and mothers (and fathers, and grandparents, and caregivers… ). After meeting with you and Robert, it was clear to me that you were right people to partner with to begin this research journey. We all want to better understand how Babywearing impacts a baby’s biomechanics.

Boba: Tell me about the clinical research you are currently running with Boba and the IDHI.

EM: My current research project is exploring the impact of positioning on motion and muscle activity in healthy babies. In short, we know it is important to give babies plenty of opportunity to move and use their muscles, so this study is seeking to understand HOW babies are achieving movement in several common positions. We’ve also teamed up with the International Hip Dysplasia Institute in this study to learn about safe hip positioning. We hope that this study will tell us important information about how babies are moving and using their muscles for the purpose of informing people on how to safely care for their babies. Future studies will focus on babies with specific musculoskeletal problems, with the goal of understanding how/if specific positions may improve or worsen their conditions.

Boba: Does infant positioning matter? How do you and your husband carry your baby?

EM: YES – our preliminary results show that how you position your baby DOES matter for motion and muscle activity, and possibly matters very much. At my household, we use a minimal amounts of baby gear. We use our car seat only in the car, and we opt to wear our baby in a semi-structured, inward-facing carrier that provides appropriate support for their growing bodies. My husband and I share the Babywearing duties, so we appreciate carriers that can adjust to fit us both (6’2” him and 5”1” me!).

Boba: And the big why... Why does all of this matter?

EM: I started on this journey to answer questions that I had about what is BEST for my baby. I hope through this research that I can help other parents (and medical doctors) understand the impact of placing babies in various positions so that we can make informed decisions on the gear and positions that we subject our babies to.