Babies do not HAVE to use a facing away position in their sling or carrier. Most babies do not need a facing away position, they generally don’t care about “seeing the world” – it tends to be driven by us as parents. We love to show our babies off to the world & the show the world to our babies, but our babies often want to see us, as much as they want to see around us.
Some babies, as they pass the 4th trimester, start to show more of an interest in the world around them & enter the NOSY baby stage (NOSY = Not Only See You – thanks to West Yorkshire Sling Library for the phrase). As babies spend more time awake, they realise that you are not the centre of the Universe (sorry)! Their distance vision has improved & they start to show more of an interest in what’s going on around them. They can sometimes become frustrated by slings or carriers that restrict their view by having fabric/straps that run close by their face. However, this does not mean that they have to face away from the adult carrying them. The facing away position is often not as comfortable for the carrying adult, which is why the carrier manufacturers suggest maintaining the facing out position for a maximum of 15-20mins, & while babies are in this phase of wanting to see more, they also want to see what you, as one of their important adults, think about what they can see. They will frequently look to you to gauge your reaction to the things around you both, & this can be substantially harder for them to do when facing away from you.
Changing the height of a carriers body panel, so that it supports to the back of baby’s shoulders, rather than nape of the neck, can open up the space & improve baby’s field of vision.
You can often change the height of a carrier by changing where you wear the waistband. Have a look at the photographs below. You can see the difference in where the waistband has been placed & how it makes a difference to the height of the body panel. With the second picture, the baby is able to get their arms out over the top of the body panel & have a little more freedom of movement. By raising the waistband, then holding the baby in the same position, some of the body panel is used up by coming down between the two of you before it comes up the baby’s back, which means it doesn’t reach as far up & can allow more space for them in this stage of development.
Once baby has excellent head & neck control, you may find a hip carry helpful. In the hip
carry position, baby can see around you, but their weight is nicely hugged into you. If they need to rest, they can simply lay their head on you, there’s no time limit associated with a hip carry & if they’re not sure about something they are seeing, they can very easily check in with you.
The Hip Carry position can be great for things like days out, trips to the park, museums, & more – any time baby would like to see around, but you can also chat about what you’re seeing.
Having said all of this, some babies really enjoy a facing away position. In this case, there are some important things to bear in mind.
Your baby should have excellent head & neck control, to be able to stabilise
themselves against the movements of your body,
Your baby needs to be tall enough that the carrier comes no higher than the top of their chest & does not press against their neck.
Make sure that your carrier holds your baby in the best position possible, with their knees at least level with, or preferably higher than, their bottom.
Once your baby is in the carrier, you can lift their thighs & tilt their weight back into your body. This will keep you a little more comfortable, as the baby’s weight won’t be pulling away from you as much.
As with every other type of carrier/carrying position, remain aware & responsive. If your baby seems to have had enough, or appears tired, turn them back around to face you again.
If you would like any help with carrying a baby of this age, or during this stage of development, do come along to any of our advice sessions, or our monthly Sling Meet & we’d be pleased to help. If you’re not local to South London you should be able to find a Babywearing Consultant closer to you, via Sling Pages.
The reason I took over South London Sling Library was because I want to help people. I want people to be able to carry their babies safely & comfortably, for as long as they want or need to. I want babies & their parents to have all of the benefits of babywearing – here are just a few: Happy Babies – Research shows that babies held in a sling or a carrier regularly, cry an average of around 40% less. They are calmed by your heartbeat, movements & rhythm of your breathing. Increased Milk Production – According to research, keeping your baby close to your body during the first few weeks, increases the amount of milk you produce for the duration of your breastfeeding journey. Postnatal Recovery – Simply walking, with your baby held high on your chest, improves your posture & your core strength, without a complicated exercise routine. Sleep – You may find that baby settles more quickly & naps for longer if you carry them in a sling or carrier. It also means you can go out & about while your baby naps. *Bonding & Postnatal Depression – Keeping your baby close can help with bonding & help to reduce symptoms of postnatal depression.
*To find out more about the benefits of babywearing see this post from Dr Rosie Knowles: Carrying Matters.
To try to enable families on a low income to access help with slings or baby carriers, I have launched the Helping Hands Scheme.
If you have a baby of 8 weeks or under & are in receipt of:
Healthy Start Vouchers, or
Income Support, or
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
Child Tax Credit (with a family income of £16,190 or less per year)
Universal Credit (with a family take home pay of £408 or less per month)
If you are 18 or younger, regardless of income or benefits, you can come along to one of our Helping Hands Sessions. (If you are in receipt of one of these, but your baby is older than 8wks, please get in touch & I’ll see what I can do for you.)
Our Helping Hands Sessions run (usually) on the 3rd Monday of the month at our Crystal Palace venue & costs just £5 per family. At the sessions we have a variety of slings & carriers which you can try, mostly donated by us & our previous customers, & when you find one that works well for you, you can take it home – FOR FREE! We will teach you how to use it, & how to be sure that you are safe & secure – all we ask is that when you’ve finished with the carrier, that you either return it to us, or give it to someone else for free AND teach them how to use it safely. You can find out more about the Helping Hands Scheme & your eligibility here.
Most of the carriers in our Helping Hands Scheme are donated by other sling library users. If you have a carrier that you would like to donate, please read the details here & get in touch.
I meet many new parents, with teeny newborns, who when we discuss how long they would like a carrier to last, can’t imagine carrying their baby beyond the first year. Those of us with older babies & children know however, that whatever you imagine, or intend, there are times when even the biggest of babies need to be carried!
Sometimes it’s because their little legs are tired after a long day at Nursery, or they’ve fallen over & need some comfort before running off again! Sometimes it’s because you’re dashing for a bus/train, so you don’t have the buggy, but little legs don’t quite move as fast as you need them to! Sometimes we carry toddlers to keep track of them in a busy environment or a large crowd. Carrying your toddler in this type of situation can also help them have a better view of whatever is going on, for example a day at the Zoo, a Museum trip or a Firework display. Lots of people will hire a carrier to take on holiday with them, either for the airport, the beach, country walks or all of this & more!
There are many, many reasons why we may end up carrying our bigger babies, toddlers or even pre-schoolers, & sometimes a sling or carrier can help! Here are a few of our options for bigger babies & more.
Our brand new Beco Toddler from the wonderful Slumber Roo has some brilliant features. Along with Perfect Fit Adjusters on the shoulder straps, you can wear it with crossed straps or rucksack style straps, which means it fits a huge variety of body shapes. It has a supportive waist belt, with an integral pocket, plus an additional pouch & sleephood which popper on when needed. It also has padding around the legs, to keep baby comfortable. Can be used on for front, back & hip/side carrying. Fits from around 2yrs & up (to 60lbs/27kgs). Our Beco Toddler carrier can be found & reserved here.
TulaBaby Toddler Carrier
The Toddler carrier from TulaBaby has always been popular here at SLSL. It is often hired for holidays & summer trips. Fitting from around 18-24m & up, it too has Perfect Fit Adjusters & leg padding for your little one. This carrier can be used on your front or your back, & fits up to 60lbs/27kgs. You can find & reserve it here.
The Toddler Kinderpack
This carrier has been so popular here over the years that we bought the Infant Sized one too!
It is beautifully adaptable for the carrying adult, & fits a huge variety of shapes & sizes! It has a sneaky sleep hood, which tucks away neatly between the layers of the carrier & rolls up neatly on itself for storage.
The deep seat means your little one stays nice & comfortable from 18-24m up to about 4 yrs old (approx 25-45lbs/11-20kgs). You can find & reserve it here.
The Toddler Connecta
You may be familiar with the baby sized Connecta – this is the same great design, but in a larger size! It starts fitting around 18-24m up to around 3-3.5yrs. It is safety tested to 52lbs/24kgs.
One of the best things about the Connecta Carriers, regardless of their size, is their simplicity. It is beautifully lightweight & compact, which makes it perfect for holidays or as an occasional carrier.
As a follow on from the standard Izmi Baby Carrier, the Toddler version starts fitting from around 9-12m, up to approx 2.5-3yrs (60lbs/27kgs). It has Perfect Fit Adjusters, duel adjust buckles for ease of use & an optional hood & handy pouch, which popper on the top edge of the carrier. This carrier can be easily used in front, back & hip/side carry positions. This carrier is extremely lightweight & compact to carry when not in use. You can find & reserve it here.
All of the above mentioned carriers are designated Toddler carriers, but we also have a selection of carriers & slings that fit from a younger age, & up into toddlerhood. The Boba X, the KiBi, ‘The One‘ from Isara, the Nabaca from Hoppediz, the Manduca XT & the Physio carrier from Je Porte Mon Bebe to name just a few. Many other standard baby carriers, such as the ErgoBaby or Tula’s, will comfortably support a baby to 18-24m.
How do I Get My Mitts on One of These??
If you would like to try a few of our carriers & get some input on what might suit you best, or how to use & adjust the carrier, or learn to get your little one on your back on your own*, then you can book into one of our workshops or 1 to 1’s. Alternatively, if you’re happy with choosing a carrier from the site, then you can simply reserve it online & leave a note on the reservation to let us know where you would like to collect it from (Crystal Palace – Monday’s, Forest Hill – alternate Friday’s, Lewisham – most day’s, by appointment).
People carry their baby for many different reasons – here are just a few of them, in no particular order…..
Reason #1 – Your Baby May Be Calmer and may Sleep More!
Human babies are designed to be carried. When you pick up your newborn, you will notice that they will pick up their knees, bring their arms in and brace their neck. When held against your chest they settle as they can easily smell you, hear your heartbeat and feel the movement of your breathing. We all know that babies settle more quickly when they are held close, especially when we sway or move but, did you know that this even helps to regulate their heart rate and breathing? (Moore, et al. 2016). We also know that babies sleep for longer when they feel safe and sceure, so if they are calm and settled when we hold them, they sleep more deeply and for longer, than they would otherwise (Ferber, et al. 2004; Messmer, et al. 1997.)
Reason #2 – With the Baby in a Sling or a Carrier, You Have Your Hands Free to Look After Yourself, or Your Older Children.
When you have a new baby, you can often spend hours just holding them. They love knowing you’re nearby & the easiest way to be sure of that, is to be in bodily contact with you. Having your newborn in a sling means that you can make a sandwich or a drink for yourself, or your toddler, or whatever it is you need to do; just make sure you don’t overdo it while you should be taking it easy!
Reason #3 – Keeping Your Baby Close Promotes Your Breastfeeding Hormones and Can Allow You to Respond to Baby’s Hunger Cues Before They Need to Cry.
The hormone oxytocin is closely linked to breastfeeding & close contact with your baby. When you & your baby are in close contact, such as when you are carrying them in a sling, levels of oxytocin, in both of you, rise. With this in mind, should we really be surprised to find out that carried babies are up to 5 times more likely to still be breastfed at 5 months of age (Pisacane et al, 2012)? Early hunger cues can be as subtle as beginning to stir from a nap, moving to baby mouthing their hands & ‘head bobbing’ at their Mum’s chest, before they move to the need to cry. Having the baby held close to you in a sling or carrier, means that you are more able to pick up on baby’s early cues & can prepare for & begin a feed before they reach the stage of needing to cry.
Reason #4 – Carrying Your Baby Can Help to Reduce the Risk of Postnatal Depression.
Postnatal depression affects 10-15% of new mum’s, with many more Mums, & new Dad’s, frequently remaining undiagnosed. Babywearing can increase levels of oxytocin, lower stress levels, aid feelings of connection and lower the incidence of postnatal depression. Holding your baby close, even if you feel detached, still promotes the release of oxytocin & can help to encourage the feelings of attachment & love, in both of you.
Reason #5 – Carrying the Baby Can Help to Promote Bonding with All of Baby’s Important People & Care Givers.
Close contact with baby can help to strengthen relationships & connections through the release of oxytocin. The baby may be more willing to accept care from others, rather than just Mum, as they recognise the scent, appearance & voices of other care givers. (Knowles 2016). The bond created by carrying can help the non-birthing parent to feel more confident in their abilities to care for baby. Learning the subtle movements & noises baby makes, & learning their meaning can help parents feel in tune with their child & increase their responsiveness.
Reason #6 – It’s Easier to Use The Bus or The Train with Baby in a Carrier, Than a Pram.
Particularly when living in London, it can be far easier to jump on & off buses/trains with baby in a sling or a carrier, than having to wait for a bus with enough space for your pram, or plan which train/tube station you will use to enable step free access due to your pram.
Reason #7 – A Sling or a Carrier Takes Up Much Less Space in Your Home, Than a Buggy or Pram, When it’s Not in Use.
If, like so many of us, you have a finite amount of space in your home, then you may prefer to have a sling for the early weeks/months & get a buggy later. I often hear people talk about how much their baby hated the pram when they were newborns, so you may decide not to have one taking up space until you need it? You can always get a Granny Trolley to hold your shopping. :o)
Reason #8 – Being Carried Can Even Help Older Babies & Children, Like When They’re Tired or Teething.
Sometimes, even though your baby can walk, they’re can’t move as quickly as you would like them too, or walk as far as you would like them to. To get home from Nursery at the end of the day, or to rest their little legs on a long family day out, a sling or carrier can be very handy indeed. You can also use it to reconnect after a period of separation, such as a day at Nursery – a snuggle on the way home while they tell you about their day, is often just what you both need.
Are you an expectant parent, or has your baby already arrived? Do any of these sound familiar to you? How about you, what’s your favourite thing about carrying your baby?
Feber, et al. 2004. The effect of skin to skin contact (kangaroo care) shortly after birth on the neurobehavioural responses of the term newborn: a randomised, controlled trial. Pediatrics. 113:858-865.
Over the summer, I received a Facebook Message asking for my opinion on what “Essential Equipment” parents-to-be NEED to have before the baby arrives & I really couldn’t make the huge list that I felt was being requested. It’s been rattling round in my brain ever since & here’s what I’ve been able to come up with….
Breasts (or other means of supplying milk, eg, milk donor or formula),
Clothing & nappies (single use or reusables),
Reusable wipes (less wasteful than using cotton wool & water),
A well-fitting sling, that you know how to use safely,
A car seat – if you drive, or regularly use a car.
Now, there are many things that you MAY also wish to also have but, I’m not sure that you NEED.
You MAY like to have a pram or buggy but, I’m not sure that you NEED one. How often do you hear new parents talk about how much their baby “hates” the buggy – so why spend money on one before the baby even arrives? If you need to go out, pop the baby in the sling/baby carrier. Getting some shopping while you’re out – what about a Granny Trolley? They can be really handy, carry more than a pram basket & are massively cheaper than a buggy that’s the size of a small family car! As the baby gets bigger, you can get a buggy/pram if you would like one but, you don’t NEED one before the baby arrives, particularly if you’re short of space!
You MAY like to have a cot bed but, I’m not sure that you NEED one. If you follow the guidelines for safe co-sleeping (as seen here with Infant Sleep Information Source), then you may not need a full-sized cot. Some people co-sleep full time, others use a Moses basket or co-sleeper cot part time. If you are short of money, or space then buying a full-sized cot/cot bed may be completely unnecessary before the baby arrives.
You MAY like to have a Moses basket or ‘infant seat/recliner/bouncy chair’ but, I’m not sure that you NEED one. This one often comes about due to people saying you NEED somewhere to “put the baby”. Let’s face it, babies often don’t like to be put down. This is where your well-fitting sling comes in. It enables you to keep your baby close, where they’re designed to be, & yet have your hands free to be able to do the things you need to do. Babies have an expectation of close contact with you, they are comforted by your smell, the sound of your heartbeat, & the movement created by your breathing & moving around. By keeping them close you are meeting this expectation &, for the baby, all is right with the world.
You MAY like to have Toys but, I’m not sure that you NEED them. We bought a few toys, teddies & a wooden a-framed baby gym for our eldest, before she was born & when she arrived, she had absolutely no interest in them whatsoever! Newborn babies love to look at your face (when they’re awake). Researchers have shown that newborns prefer faces over alternative views every time & their eyesight only allows them to focus for a distance of about 20-30cms, or approximately from your arms to your face. Once they are awake more often, & can see slightly further, they are easily entertained by being with you & taking part in your day/seeing what you’re doing. There’s plenty of time over the first few months to work out which toys your baby may enjoy but, you don’t need to have them all before the baby arrives – toys will take over your home soon enough!
You MAY like to have a Baby Monitor but, I’m not sure that you NEED one. It has been shown that the safest place for baby to sleep (including daytime naps), is in the same room as you, therefore you may not need a baby monitor. Again, a sling or baby carrier may help you out – baby can nap but, you can still do the things you need to do. People are often concerned that letting their baby nap in a sling will create ‘bad habits’ but, research suggests that creating positive sleep associations when baby is small, means that when they are ready to sleep alone, it may be an easier transition.
You MAY like to have a Nappy changing table/station but, I’m not sure that you NEED one. The safest place to change your baby is on floor with you sitting next to them, as there is no chance that they can roll off during that split second when you take your eyes off them. Having a foldable & washable changing mat that you can roll out onto the floor also saves you a ton of space! However, you also need to be aware of your limitations & some people find that they are unable to get up & down to & from the floor several times a day. If you do invest in a changing station, you must be sure to never leave your baby unattended during a nappy change.
So, I guess what it comes down to is, when you see one of these “100 Must Have’s” style lists – take them all with a pinch of salt & weigh up whether or not you need to buy things BEFORE the baby arrives, or if you can afford to wait & see whether or not they will be useful for you. Not only may you save some money by working out that you may not need something but, by not buying unnecessary stuff, you’re saving it from ending up in landfill.
(If you need advice, or help with a sling or baby carrier, you can find your local Sling Library or Babywearing Consultant via Sling Pages.)
Being born isn’t an easy process (it’s called ‘labour’ for a reason!), but our bodies have some really clever tricks up their sleeves to help make it all easier. It’s all about the hormones! More accurately, one of the most important players is the hormone Oxytocin. The Oxytocin system is triggered during normal childbirth and breastfeeding, and through skin-to-skin and close physical contact. Oxytocin has a wonderful calming effect on the brain; both parent and child will feel safer and more relaxed, blood pressure and other physiological stress-responses fall. The body and mind of both you and your baby learn to associate these positive feelings with being close to each other; the biological basis of this most fundamental and important relationship[i][ii].
The positive effects of Oxytocin in your body are both wide-reaching (from regulating your baby’s temperature to facilitating a successful breastfeeding relationship and reducing any symptoms of post-natal depression) and long-term (from helping with the formation of healthy relationships to life-long protective health benefits for breastfeeding mothers).
The way to tap into this biological miracle cure is simply to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby for a few hours a day[iii]. Babywearing is an obvious way to help facilitate prolonged skin-to-skin contact during the first months[iv][v]; using a soft wrap or sling is a very popular way to keep your baby close whilst allowing you to be mobile and hands-free to do other things, if you want to!
How your child’s carrying needs change
Many people set out wanting to find ‘the best’ carrier or sling for their family. They may even have found one that suits their immediate needs perfectly, but then things change. A baby’s normal growth trajectory has it doubling in size in the first 6 months, tripling in size in a year[i], all whilst acquiring an enormous list of new physical and cognitive abilities too! So what works ‘best’ now will almost certainly not be ‘best’ at all stages and in all situations.
Here’s a run-down of the main stages of baby development and how this may affect your child’s carrying needs and preferences.
Stages of baby development:
Age range: 0-4 months – the 4th trimester
Physical stages: Spine is soft, C-shaped curve, major organs are adapting to life outside the womb, movements are disorganised
Psychological stages: brain lacks connections and vision is poor – baby can only see about 30cm in front of them
Most newborn babies love experiencing a feeling of safe containment that mimics the experience of being in the womb, and that Oxytocin-inducing skin-to-skin contact is hugely important during this time. Your baby will have minimal strength and control over their body and so will need full support for their head and spine. Position them facing you (chest to chest), with their face visible and head high on the flat part of your chest ‘close enough to kiss’. Upright positioning is often easiest to get feeling safe and supportive. Being held safely upright on your chest helps soothe symptoms of reflux or colic, and is a safer place for daytime naps than lying flat in a room on their own[i].
There are many slings and carriers suitable for use from newborn; some will be optimised for this stage and therefore have a more limited longevity; others may last longer, but require adaptions or inserts in order to be suitable for a newborn, which may be less convenient to use. A soft stretchy wrap or sling may feel most natural as a way to facilitate skin-to skin contact.
Whatever you are using to carry your newborn, take extra care to monitor your baby at all times whilst in the sling, wrap or carrier. The following T.I.C.K.S. safety guidelines are a great checklist which use can use to check for safe, supportive, comfortable positioning in any sling or carrier[ii].
2. Moving forward (and sideways!)
Age range: 3-8 months
Physical stages: baby is developing spinal strength from the top down, learning to support and turn their head, then roll and think about supporting the weight of their own torso
Psychological stages: baby can now see the world! They are engaging with faces, smiling and responding to voices and expressions
Wow! What a busy phase for development this is! We’re going to place more focus here as this stage can be a challenge for everyone involved.
If the first months are for nurturing strong internal organs for independent breathing and digestion, these next months really put your baby’s new internal powerhouse to work. Your baby’s brain is putting out all sorts of connections; the left and right sides of their brain are starting to talk to each other and they can now see for longer distances so there really is a whole new world both inside and out for them to experience and assimilate. Their spinal muscles are strengthening and they’re starting to be able to control and coordinate their movements.
You notice them practicing these new muscle movements; first by constantly turning their head and looking at everything (working muscles needed for secure head control and to calibrate depth perception), then by turning, pushing or twisting as the spine strength develops further down their spine to their shoulders and upper torso (practicing reaching and rolling, and hand-eye coordination).
Many parents notice their baby’s behaviour change dramatically; your baby may well be expressing themselves more loudly and demonstrating frustration; they can sense their own potential, but still don’t quite have the ability to act on it. This is all very commonly expressed by reactions to how they are being carried, and many parents find that this stage feels surprisingly challenging.
Whilst your newborn may well have loved snuggling in their cosy wrap; your 3-6 month old will be letting you know that their needs have changed. It may seem like ‘they don’t like the sling’; they may push against your chest or against the carrier itself; they may twist and crane their neck and they may make bigger stretching movements with their whole body.
Don’t give up on carrying – your baby needs you more than ever! They may well be feeling frustrated, but not necessarily with you or with your sling. Carrying at this stage gives your baby fantastic opportunities to strengthen the muscles developing in their neck, back and core; it’ll give them a great vantage point to start engaging with the world, and it will allow them a vital safe resting place where they can absorb and process all that new information.
At this stage make sure that your baby’s lower legs are free to move when they are in a sling or carrier. Once they are able to stabilise their head against the movements of your body they no longer need support up to the top of their spine; up to the top of their shoulders will be sufficient. Make sure your baby has access to their hands; they’ll find this reassuring and start to coordinate hand-to-mouth movements in preparation for eating solids. You may find that they want an arm or two completely free to move; they may be strong enough to manage this, but be aware of how well your baby can support their upper body. They may still need head support, especially when sleeping, even if while awake they want to feel their face and arms being less contained.
Are Outwards Facing Carrying Positions Safe?
A specific babywearing need that may be expressed by parents or babies around the 3-6 month stage is to be able to carry a baby facing away from their parent. Whilst most babies will express movements described above and be very content facing their parent at this stage, a minority of babies may at times show a preference for outwards facing carry positions. A phase of preferring to face outwards usually coincides with a baby having improved distance vision and awareness of their surroundings but a lack of upper back and neck control needed to engage fully with their environment. This phase usually passes once the baby is able to express themselves more effectively, and/or the next physical milestone (usually rolling or sitting unaided) has been reached.
Some parents and professionals express concern about the safety and/or suitability of outwards facing carrying positions. Experts recommend [ref] that for optimal hip stability, a carrier should support a baby’s thighs with the knees held higher than the hips and only the lower legs hanging down (the ‘M’ position). This is especially important during the first 6 months of development and for children with a family history of hip dysplasia or similar problems. It’s also the naturally most comfortable position that a healthy baby will normally adopt when they are being carried upright in their parent’s arms, and aids optimum positioning of the pelvis and spine.
Outwards facing carrying positions in many carriers will not support a baby’s thighs to the level recommended and will allow their weight to hang down and away from the parent’s centre of gravity. You’ll notice this hanging weight sitting more heavily on your shoulders, with this effect often exaggerated in carriers without additional lumbar supports. Babies best fit against their parents when facing towards the parent’s body, which will also make longer periods of carrying more comfortable.
Long periods in an outwards facing position can be overwhelming or overstimulating for some babies as they cannot can see their parent and turn away from strange situations if they are not comfortable. An inwards facing position on the front, back or hip allows baby to more easily sleep with their head supported.
If you’d really like to try an outwards facing carry position, then be reassured that the limited research currently available suggest that short periods of outwards facing carrying using an appropriate carrier is unlikely to cause your baby actual physical harm (unless there is a genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia). To maximise your comfort when carrying in this position, try it using a carrier that has a separately fastening waist – to give sufficient lumbar support for you – and that supports your baby’s thighs so that their legs are not dangling. Do ensure that your baby is able to fully support their own head comfortably – this varies from baby to baby but is usually by about 3-5 months. Don’t use these positions with heavier babies or for longer periods of carrying and do change to an inwards facing position if baby needs to sleep or seems at all unsettled or uncomfortable.
Psychological stages: increased social awareness, language development, exploring their world
Ok, you’ve all made it past that frustrating 3-6 month stage and you’re out the other side. This is a very fun and exciting stage for you and your baby. They can (finally, hooray!) have a clear and increasingly predictable impact on the physical and social world around them. If they want something, they can move towards it, pick it up, reliably hold on to it and start experimenting with it. They’ll also be sharing their experiences with you; they’ll ask for things by pointing and vocalising, they’ll show you things they’ve found and done, and they’ll be watching for your expressions and responses.
Once your baby can sit – or at least strongly support their torso to the hips – unaided, then they are ready to be carried on your back in a range of suitable wraps and carriers. Back carrying allows your baby to see the world over your shoulder and at your height. It allows for you to support their increasing weight in a different way on your body (though back carrying isn’t always more comfortable, having it as an option can be a nice change). And it can allow you more freedom of movement to get a lot more done. Whilst for some situations and families, back carrying therefore feels like a very natural and practical progression at this stage, it’s not right for everyone. Your baby is still going through a big jump in social awareness and whilst they can point and get your attention when on your back, it’s not as easy for you to see and respond to each other when you can’t be face to face. You may both feel that front or hip carrying feels more appropriate, and that’s ok too. Do what fits the situation you’re in, and what feels safe and comfortable for you both.
You may find that the babywearing solution that worked for the first months no longer feels as suitable or comfortable now. However, your baby isn’t yet walking independently for long periods and so biologically you will still need to lift and carry them! There will be a sling or carrier that will allow you to do this comfortably and safely, though you may need to try a few different options and get some advice to find the right one o suit your family’s needs. It’s also worth knowing that, whilst some people do like the feeling of a well-padded carrier against their shoulders or body; simply adding extra structure or padding to a carrier does not necessarily make it feel more supportive, however heavy your baby. Less structured carriers and wraps mould around you and your baby, offering more custom-fitting and adaptable support which will suit some parents better.
4. Onwards and upwards
Age range: 12 months+
Physical stages: toddling, walking, even more teething
Psychological stages: testing boundaries, emotional, social and language development – there’s a lot going on!
Once your not-so-little one is walking you’ll still find that a sling or carrier can be a parenting essential. They may be able to walk independently, but your child will not have the stamina to go very fast or far, or to get through a whole day without needing a nap. They’ll be going through huge cognitive changes too and will need lots of reassurance to give them the confidence to make the most of their expanding awareness and increasing independence. After a long day walking and learning and socialising sometimes having a big hug is just what you need, and as a parent you’ll find that at this stage your child may want lifting up more than ever!
This is also a stage for testing boundaries and you may notice your child refusing to go in a previously-loved sling or carrier. This is very normal (you may notice the same behaviour with a car seat, buggy, high chair, bath, etc.) – they have new independent walking abilities to practice and fascinating new worlds to explore! Even if your child does have ‘sling strike’ phases around the 15-20 month stage, they will often want to go back to being carried once the novelty of walking has worn off and they start getting tired.
You may not be carrying your child for as much of the day as you were when they were newborn, but they are much heavier now. Luckily there are lots of slings and carriers that will help you to carry your growing toddler in a way that’s comfortable and supportive for you both, including toddler-specific carriers that can offer excellent longevity. One that allows you to easily let your child up and down for periods of walking will also be very practical at this stage.
Start your baby wearing journey
Just hold your baby
From that first rush of Oxytocin as your baby is born, help ease yourselves through the transition into your new life together by getting as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. You can do this simply by holding your baby in your arms or relaxing with them on your chest (you’ll be grateful for the rest!), but you may want to have a sling or carrier ready to use from day 1 to help you to get your hands free.
Do your research
It can be difficult to choose a sling or carrier before your baby arrives; after all you don’t know what their shape, size, abilities or preferences are going to be, and if you’ve got a growing bump then it’s hard to know what might fit your changing body best too. There’s a lot of information to read online, and it can be useful to start to get an idea of the product options available.
However, not everything written online is useful and nothing beats your own personal experience. What you think will look easy and comfortable online may turn out to be the wrong for your body or your needs. The best way to really get your head around the options available and to see what might really suit you is to try things out in person.
Get advice and try things on!
There are lots of ways to get person-to-person help with babywearing and with finding the right product for you. Options include trying products on at Baby Shows, peer-to-peer support at Sling Meets[ii]; more experienced help with trying out different options at Sling Libraries and Hire Services[iii]; and qualified carrying consultants running workshops or private classes[iv].
It’s really worth exploring the support in your area as getting personal advice and hands-on experience saves you wasting time and money on products that turn out to be unsuitable for your family’s changing needs. Plus once you know where to get help, you can always go back to explore different options as your family’s carrying needs grow and change.
[i] Moberg, K. U. (2009), The Oxytocin Factor, London: Pinter & Martin Ltd.
[ii] Moberg, K. U. (2013), The Hormone of Closeness, London: Pinter & Martin Ltd.
[iii] Moberg, K. U. (2013), The Hormone of Closeness, London: Pinter & Martin Ltd.
[iv] Gregson, S. and Blacker, J. (2011), Kangaroo care in pre-term or low birthweight babies in a postnatal ward,British Journal of Midwifery. September 2011; Vol. 19, No. 9, P. 56
[v] World Health Organisation (2003), Kangaroo Mother Care: A Practical Guide, Available from: whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2003/9241590351.pdf
It’s well and truly autumn and we’re all feeling it! Whether we’re using a sling or not, we’re having to think a lot more about what we dress our babies – and ourselves – in when we go out, and whether we’ll need to take any extra coverings or accessories with us when we leave the house.
Here at the South London Sling Library we’ve been getting lots of questions about how to keep everyone comfortable when using slings and carriers in cold weather. So we’ve put together a few thoughts for you on Carrying in the Cold (or Slinging in the Snow or (baby)Wearing in the Wind and Wet) to help you out!
Don’t let the changing weather put you off getting out! Fresh air can be a miracle cure for a grizzly baby or a restless toddler and helps to keep everyone healthier and happier. And using a sling or carrier offers real practical benefits in cold or wet weather…
The great thing about using a carrier that holds your child close to your body is that you get to share each other’s warmth – carrying a baby is like having your own snuggly hotwater bottle!
AND… using a carrier allows you to boldly go where no buggy can! On foot you can get across uneven or slippery ground safely (do wear appropriate footwear though!); the carrier also gives you your hands free to support yourself or a bigger child, or hold an umbrella!
First things first – the safety and comfort of your baby is important!
Babies and small children can get hot or cold much more easily than adults do and the smaller the baby the more careful we need to be with extremes of temperature. In cold weather a baby could get too cold, but with all the layers they might have on a baby might also get too hot!
Check if your baby is getting too cold or too warm: If you’re worried that your baby may be getting too cold or warm, the best way to check (without a thermometer) is to pop a couple of fingers down the back of their neck – they should feel warm and comfortable, not cool, cold, hot or clammy. A baby with a sweaty back is probably the most reliable sign that they don’t need so many layers!
You can also check their face, hands and feet for colour and touch temperature. And their behaviour may also give you a sign – hot babies often fuss or get agitated; cold babies may be less responsive.
But there are still lots of questions to answer…. Do I carry my baby under or over my coat? Should they wear a snow suit? Do I really need an expensive babywearing cover or coat? How does all this work for back carries/wraps/toddlers etc.? We’ve had lots of experience with various options and talked to lots of you about what you think too! Here’s what we’ve found….
Do I carry my baby under or over my coat?
For front and hip carries it’s usually most comfortable and practical to carry your baby in their sling or carrier close to your body, with your own coat, cardigan or a cover over the top. This will allow you to share body heat (your baby will get much more warmth from you than from any coat or blanket!) and also gives you the best weight distribution for comfortable carrying. Trying to use a sling or carrier over bulky coats tends to result in the carrier not fitting as well against either of you.
When carrying under your coat think about: how you like your carrier straps – if you prefer spreading Wrap, Ring Sling or Mei Tai straps over your shoulders then you may not be able to do this under a coat. Don’t over-dress your baby – see below!
For back and toddler carrying it may be more practical to carry them over your coat, especially if they want to be up and down a lot. Soft Structured Carriers can work really well for this as they don’t have dangly ties keep off the floor and you can leave the carrier fastened around your waist while it’s not in use.
Fully covered back carries can be more awkward than front or hip carries, even when using special babywearing coats. Unless your toddler is going to be napping then you don’t want to be taking your coat off every time they fancy hopping down for a bit!
When carrying over your coat think about: which carry positions and sling/carrier you’re going to be using, and how much of the time your child will need to be carried. You may need to weigh up optimum comfort/fit of your carrier versus ease of getting your child up and down.
Or when needs must why not try both!
Which carriers work best in autumn and winter weather?
This will depend on you, your child, the weather and what you need your carrier to do – basically (as with everything slingy – and parenty!) it all depends on you!
Things to think about when choosing your carrier for wintery carrying:
Warmth: Though most of the heat within a carrier comes from you and your baby, some carriers allow more/less airflow than others. Wraparound slings can hold in a lot more heat than those with less fabric, and can really help to keep you all snuggly warm!
Long straps: You may prefer to avoid carriers with long straps that may get wet or muddy on the floor, or that might be less practical to manipulate when it’s windy! Soft Structured Carriers can solve this really successfully, as can slings that can be put on before you leave the house and not need to be re-tied while out, such as Stretchy Wraps, Ring Slings and Pouches. Some methods of using a Woven Wrap or Wrap-Tai can also allow you to pre-tie in this way.
Wide Shoulder Straps: As noted above, you may find it less easy to spread wider shoulder straps both under or over a coat and so your wrap or ring sling may fit differently to normal.
Washing and Drying Carriers: If your carrier is likely to get wet or muddy, then you’ll want one that can be washed easily or at the very least will stand up well to getting soggy. If you use your carrier a lot then you’d probably prefer to use one that will dry quickly.
Your baby/toddler’s needs and preferences: The age and stage or your baby will make a big difference to what works. Take into account how long they’ll need to be in the carrier for, when/whether they’ll need to get out for walks, feeds, changes etc. Also think about how your child feels about being able to see and move. Some babywearing coats or covers can make a baby feel more restricted than normal; for these children you may need to use a carrier over your coats and go for something that would be more practical for this.
What do I dress myself and my baby in?
This will obviously depend on the weather! The usual guide is that your baby should wear one layer more than you would feel comfortable in. Thinner, breathable layers may be more comfortable than one thick layer, and this can also help with keeping good weight distribution and fit in a carrier. This applies to both you and your baby – layering long sleeved tops and jumpers can be easier and comfier under slings than a bulky coat.
Carrying under your coat: If carrying your baby under your coat, simply dress yourself and your baby in whatever indoor clothes are appropriate, then put on the sling and then your coat over the top. Your baby won’t need to wear their own coat too. The great thing about this is that you don’t need to wake a baby up to put a coat on/off – they can nap comfortabley in the sling without needing to be disturbed.
Keep extremities layered up: your torsos may be snuggly warm under all those tops and carriers, but those bits sticking out may need more help keeping warm!
Hats: For small babies make sure that they also have a hat on as this will often be the most exposed part of their body. If back carrying, a hat that fastens under your child’s chin will help to stop it getting lost! You may also want to wear a scarf or snuggly collar to keep your neck warm.
Leg and Arm Warmers: We love our Hugalugs leg warmers to keep baby and toddler legs and arms warm too – they’re great for layering under or over clothes and add a layer where you need it (i.e. the bits of the baby that are sticking out of the carrier!) plus they can be easily taken off if your baby gets too warm. Here at the SLSL several of our team also use Hugalugs as arm warmers – we’ve found that we need fewer layers on our torsos when carrying a Hot-Water-Bottle-Baby, but our arms still get cold so arm warmers are a great solution!
Footwear: Make sure your baby’s feet are warm – extra socks (securely held on by Sock-Ons if needed!) and snuggly wooly booties can be a great way to keep little toes toasty!
Snowsuits and Coats for Babies: If carrying your baby over your own coat, then they will need to be dressed appropriately for the weather. They’ll be getting less of your body heat and so an all-in-one snowsuit can be a great option. Bulky padded suits can affect how well a baby fits in a carrier, wrap or sling, and so some parents favour Fleece suits – these are less bulky but still very warm. And you can still add extra layers underneath including socks, legwarmers etc. In wet weather you may prefer for your baby to wear a raincoat or all in one waterproof to keep them dry; large brimmed rain hats that tie under the chin can be very practical too!
Don’t Overdress Your Baby! Though it may be cold, in the UK the weather generally isn’t Arctic and a baby held close to your body with their extremities protected isn’t going to suffer from exposure to the cold. Some babies (and adults) get hotter than others and so do let yourself take off layers if you feel that your baby is too warm. We’ve had babies arrive at the sling library in December dressed in just a vest and nappy, but perfectly snug under 3 layers of wrap and their Mum’s coat!
Do I need a purpose made cover or babywearing coat? What are the options available? Can I make something myself?
Now this is a whole new topic by itself! In our thoughts above we’ve not assumed any particular coat or cover as there are so many options out there. In short; no, you don’t need a specially made coat or cover, but you may find that there’s a product that makes you and your baby much more comfortable for wintery carrying. There are even clever inserts to fit your existing coat or jacket, and various DIY solutions that might work for you too!
If you’ve got any questions about getting the most out of slings and carriers in different weather conditions, get in touch by emailing email@example.com or pop along to a Workshop or Private Consultation and we’ll be happy to help! xx
A little post-bank-holiday silliness going on at SLSL HQ this evening!
When people ask why I set up the Sling Library there is a sensible answer, which involves meeting the needs of local parents and how much I enjoy the chance to meet and help so many families…. and then there is this…..
For your regular treatment of exposure to high quality, comfortable slings and baby carriers, fully supervised by a professional carrying consultant, pop along to one of our drop-in Open Sessions (which may feature many of the slings pictured above)!
If you’re not in or near South London, then have a look at this great page from Babywearing UK that allows you to search a map of local sling and baby carrier help in the UK: Babywearing UK: Local Support
Do you have children who are close in age? You may have thought about carrying one or other of them (many slings and carriers are suitable for comfortably carrying a very wide range of aged babies and toddlers), but have you considered the possibility of carrying them both at once? This is known as ‘tandem carrying’; it can be surprisingly comfortable and easy, and has lots of practical benefits too.
When a new sibling comes along – or even if your children are multiples of the same age and simply competing for your attention – being able to carry either or both of them can really help them both to feel reassured by your presence and to help ease any feelings of displacement or jealousy. Carrying one or both of your children means that you don’t need a bigger buggy (or any buggy at all) and can get about more easily. And when they’re being carried they get to feel close to you whilst you can get on with your busy day!
So what are the possibilities?!
The rest of this post will investigate some of the options for tandem carrying and explain what you need to consider when carrying two!
I’m now lucky enough to be looking after the lovely 6 month Baby A once a week when I have my day off with my just-turned-3-year-old Izzy. Baby A loves being carried and Izzy is more than happy to walk for a good chunk of the day, but long days out in London are still a bit much for her and so we often find we’re carrying her home. I’m not a fan of fighting buggies on and off public transport and have just one or two slings around that I could use(!) so between the two of them I’m expecting to be doing a lot of carrying!
I’ve carried them each individually in various slings and carriers, but what are the best ways to get about in London with two small people and no buggy?
I’m hoping to test out lots of options over the next few months and let you know how I get on!
Any questions about tandem carrying, please just ask by commenting below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Who will you want to be able to take off first? If you’d like to be able to take each child off you independently, then make sure you use a suitable carry combination (like my FCC and SSC combination below).
Where will the buckles and/or knots of your carriers fit on your body? Think about what’s around your waist, and where you’ll fasten chest straps to sit nicely on you and not interfere with either child.
How will you transport your stuff? Pack efficiently!
For our first frosty day out together I used a Long 4.7m Woven Wrap to carry Baby A on my front to get to the Science Museum (via bus, train and tube). While at the museum we moved to a back carry for Baby A so that Izzy and I could really engage with the activities (with Baby A watching and joining in over my shoulder!) Then after lunch and while on the way home the day got too much for Izzy and so I popped her on my back in a Toddler sized Wompat Soft Strucured Carrier (SSC) and they both napped for the rest of the way home! Plus they kept me snuggly warm too!
This method of carrying two is very comfy – I used a Front Cross Carry (FCC) to tie the woven wrap, tying on Baby A first and making sure that the wrap knot ended up on my front under her bottom. This carry style allows me to pop her in and out without untying the wrap. When I needed to I then put Izzy on my back in the SSC with the shoulder straps sitting on top of the wrap on my shoulders and the chest belt clipped to lie clear of Baby A’s head. This worked really well as I could take off either child independently if needed without disturbing the other one 🙂
Carrying all our stuff: I’ve been asked this a few times – on this trip I put all the nappies, changes of clothes, picnic, milk and everything else I imagined we might need into a (super stylish) granny trolley that I pulled along with us. I had my valuables in a shoulder bag with a cross-body style strap (an orange one that you can see in the photo above). I think next time I’d just have a bag and not the trolley and will pack MUCH more efficiently as I had waaay too much stuff that just didn’t get used!
Later that day we all went on the school run, and Izzy decided to go on walking strike (I think she’s still getting used to sharing me with Baby A and wanted to make her presence felt!) this time I was carrying Baby A on my front in a Wrap-Tai – a mei tai with unpadded, spreadable ‘wrap’ straps – and so I popped Izzy in the Wompat SSC on my back again over the top. Again, this combination was very comfy and supportive and without needing the trolley I found it very easy to get about with them both 🙂
Here are a couple of photos of a wrap-tai/SSC combination for tandem carrying:
Bulk around the waist – many supportive slings and carriers fasten around the waist so this area can get bulky when using more than one carrier. Not all SSCs have a large padded waist strap, and buckles can be more slim-line than knots.
You can use a Wrap-Tai for ‘poppable’ front carries.
Support for longer periods of carrying vs. comfort and pressure points when choosing a carrier.
Carrying two children is great exercise if you’ve got comfortable carriers that support good posture and protect your shoulders and back!
This week I stuck with using an SSC on the back for Izzy, but experimented with another Soft Structured Carrier (a Catbird Pikkolo, which has no padding at the waist), a woven wrap and a half buckle mei tai for Baby A, rediscovering how it’s possible to use a mei tai with wrap straps as a “poppable” carrier (i.e. one that you can fasten and then pop baby in and out of without undoing or re-tying).
I quite enjoyed the reduced bulk with having a second buckle-waisted carrier compared to having the bigger knot of a woven wrap added into the mix. However the woven wrap still does (for me) offer the most supportive carry for front carrying Baby A for longer periods of tandem carrying.
Today we did a bit less tandem carrying as Baby A wasn’t feeling her best and so she spent almost all day in the sling (we’d worked our way through lots of other options for carrying her on her own while at home) …. though still with more than an hour of tandem carrying – WAAAAY more than I really expected to be doing to be honest – I think I’m getting fab weekly exercise! 😀
You don’t always need to experiment – when there’s a lot going on be practical and stick to what you know!
Different Woven Wrap tying methods offer different advantages; you may need to weight up comfort vs. convenience.
There are lots of ways to keep everyone warm when tandem carrying.
We had a busy day and so I stuck with what I knew this week – using the Wompat for Izzy and a long woven wrap, a full mei tai and a half buckle mei tai for Baby A. I used both a FCC and a Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) with the woven wrap – the FWCC is less convenient for popping Baby A out of without needing to disturb Izzy, but I sometimes find it feels more supportive for longer carrying (e.g. when I know Baby A needs to nap) as the weight is distributed into my torso more than with a FCC. And we did get the chance to demonstrate lots of other carriers at a fun NCT group too!
Coats and Jumpers
Another thing to consider when carrying is how to keep everyone warm. Now having two other bodies against you can get very warm indeed, but you want to make sure that little arms and legs aren’t cold and that everyone’s comfortable. I find it too hot to have my own coat on under all the children, so today I just had on a hoody jumper over myself and Baby A. Izzy had her own coat on in the carrier worn on top of my jumper = 3 snuggly girls!
You may also have spotted Baby A’s favoured travelling toy – a Heimess wooden dummy clip (we sell a range of these at Sling Library Open Sessions) holding a Sophie the Giraffe and clipped on to the sling or our clothes to keep it within reach!
Different carriers can distribute the weight differently on your body – think about whether the weight is distributed to your shoulders, torso and hips in different slings so that you can find a combination that doesn’t put all of the pressure in one place.
Good weight distribution in suitable slings and carriers will protect your back and shoulders, but the extra weight will put more strain on your knee and hip joints. You may need to walk more slowly than normal and take care climbing hills and stairs!
Your children may not nap at the same time – when carrying it can be tricky when one is asleep, especially if it’s the bigger one.
What to do if your toddler want you to carry them AND their scooter!
I decided to try something new for carrying Izzy this week and so for our big long walk through Belair and Dulwich parks I carried Baby A in my trusty half buckle mei tai with wrap straps and took a gorgeous wrap conversion podaegi for Izzy.
A podaegi (or pod) is a similar idea to a mei tai in that it has a fabric body and long shoulder straps that you tie around you, but it has no waist straps. This means that it can be tied to avoid your waist completely (great for carrying when pregnant), and that it can reduce the bulk of fastening around the waist when tandem carrying. It’s also easier to use for back carries than a woven wrap, but almost as adjustable for different sized babies and toddlers and so a great option for flexible back carrying 🙂
I found that using the pod was very comfy and for me helped relieve pressure on my hip joints, which (with my knees) has been the only place that I’ve really been feeling the weight of carrying two. I did feel the weight more on my shoulders after an hour of walking home, though I think that this was more to do with the combination of Izzy falling asleep (which always makes her feel much heavier), Baby A being wide awake and trying to reach out and grab things at the front (so her weight distribution wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t able to readjust the carry that she was in because of Izzy asleep on the back), and the fact that I was having to carry the remains of our picnic lunch and Izzy’s abandoned scooter….. and I thought I’d managed to pack light today!
For the school run I tried using a supportive Stretchy Wrap (a ByKay Original Wrap in this case) on the front for Baby A and had a buckle carrier ready for Izzy if needed. We were tired from our long walk and so I drove to school. When I do this I put the sling I want to use for front caryring on before we leave the house so that when we get to school I can just pop Baby A out of the car and into the sling very easily. A Stretchy Wrap is very easy to use for tandem carrying as you can easily pop your baby in and out of a front carry without disturbing whatever sling or carrier you have on the back.
Tandem Carrying Combinations used this week:
None! Two adults shared carrying, each using a Soft Structured Carrier on the front.
Thoughts to Consider:
You won’t always feel able to tandem carry; if you’re tired or unwell then it’s not always worth pushing yourself and your body too far if you don’t feel that you can manage.
Two adults can share the load!
This week I found that some days just aren’t great for tandem carrying at all, and it’s not always worth pushing yourself and your body too far if you don’t feel that you can manage.
Today I was tired (after a busy weekend demonstrating carriers at The Baby Show in Birmingham), not completely well and physically really not up to carrying both Izzy and Baby A so decided to give myself a day off carrying them both. I still clocked up a good chunk of the day comfortabley carrying Baby A for a day out and for the school run, but reserved some much-needed energy by not carrying Izzy as well.
We were off on the bus up to central London for lunch out and a quick wizz around the British Museum. I carried Baby A snugly on my front (under a fab babywearing hoodie top to keep warm) in my own Spaghetti Slings buckle carrier, which we also used as an impromptu baby-restraint when there weren’t any baby seats when we went for lunch!
Because I was lucky enough to have another helpful adult with me, Izzy (who was also grizzling from a bit of a cold) got to be on someone’s front too in the Sling Library’s Tula Toddler carrier, which was just what she needed after falling asleep on her aunt’s lap on the bus!
And according to the carrying adult – who doesn’t have children and hadn’t carried a baby let alone a big 3 year old before – the Tula was very comfy for her too!
Long Woven Wrap FCC (front) + Short Woven Wrap Ruck (back)
Thoughts to Consider:
The biggest child doesn’t always need to be on your back. Carriers that offer both front and back carrying can make swapping around much easier.
You may find different carrying positioning comfortable for either child when you’re also carrying the other (compared to when carrying each on their own).
How easy is it going to be getting a child on your back in a certain carrier when you’ve already got one on your front? Is it easier to put the back child on first?
When your two carry-ees are in the mood, and you’re not in a rush to get anywhere it can be great fun experimenting with lots of different options!
Definitely finding my favourites now and with an ever-demanding big toddler taking up more of my mental energy it’s becoming an effort to try different things!
Today we used our half buckle and Wompat combination yet again for a trip to Blackheath (involving a public transport mis-calculation which meant that we had to walk for almost an hour across the Heath), though did swap around with who was on the back and who on the front. I actually found it more comfortable than usual carrying Izzy on the front when I had Baby A on my back. This is because Izzy is very tall and so usually when she’s being carried in a position that gives good weight distribution to support my back she’s held quite high and I can’t see where I’m going! With Baby A to help balance the weight from behind I found that I was able to position the Wompat lower on my hips whilst it still being comfy on my back and so I could happily see over Izzy’s head 🙂
In the afternoon we were lucky enough to have a babywearing photoshoot! Baby A got to model a wide range of my favourite slings and carriers, and we got shots with our trusty Half-buckle/Wompat combination, as well as trying out a tandem carry using 2 woven wraps. For this I used a long woven wrap in a Front Cross Carry to pop Baby A into, and then used a short woven wrap in a Ruck Tied Under Bum to carry Izzy on my back. Izzy and I definitely find it easier getting her up quickly in a buckle carrier or mei tai than in a wrap now her legs are getting so long, especially when I’m trying to fit her around Baby A!
If your bigger child wants to walk, and your smaller child is getting bigger too then it may be more comfy to carry your smallest on your back for longer periods (and front carry your biggest for shorter periods when needed).
This week we had a new 4.7m Woven Wrap to try out and decided to visit the Horniman Museum. Izzy wanted to make her own way around the trains and buses so I popped Baby A on my back using a comfortable Double Hammock Back carry and off we went! With Baby A on my back Izzy and I could negotiate public trasnport easily and enjoy interacting with the exhibits at the Museum.
After lunch we headed home and Izzy did start to fancy a bit of help getting back and so popped in a Soft Structured Carrier on my front for some of the journey. For this I did need to make sure that I didn’t catch Baby A’s face when buckling the chest strap of the SSC behind me.
Some More Options We Did and Didn’t Try…
Though we did have more days together not fully posted above, Izzy, Baby A and I didn’t get to try all of the options out there! One factor was that Izzy at age 3-4 doesn’t need carrying for long periods of the day and can walk for quite a while when she feels like it. She’s also less patient with letting me experiment than she was when she was younger.
With smaller age gaps or a younger eldest child (Izzy’s about 2.5 years older than Baby A) and with multiples you may find that there are more occasions where you might need to tandem carry, and you may find other solutions that work for you.
Here are a few more ideas for tandem carrying (or transporting) options that you might like to consider:
Want to Try Tandem Carrying Yourself?
If you’d like any advice about carrying two (whether twins or siblings of different ages), then we’ve got a lot of experience helping with this so do get in touch by emailing email@example.com or see our website for lots of information about slings and carriers: www.southlondonslings.co.uk 😀 xx
Ok, so I know this might sound a bit odd, but run with me for a minute. I use the analogy of baby carriers and slings being like shoes an awful lot, and I’m realising that there’s even more to the comparison than I first thought….
This all started way back when I was first trying to justify “needing” more than one carrier…. well ok I admit it…. by the time it got to the justifying stage I already had more than one, but I could still find reasons to have more!
For most people a baby carrier might appear on their list of baby essentials, but it wouldn’t cross the mind of many parents that you might want or even need more than one. But increasing numbers of parents are discovering the benefits of using comfortable baby carriers and slings, and once ‘babywearing’ (as it’s now often known) become part of your family life, then it’s easy to find new ways to make use of the huge range of different carrying options out there.
Now am I really suggesting that anyone actually ‘needs’ more than one carrier; it’s just something to carry your baby in surely? You only need one bed for your baby, right? Well, strictly speaking, this may be true (for example if you ‘co-sleep’ with your baby sharing your own bed until they are old enough for their own full size bed), but in practice most babies start off sleeping at least some of the night in a moses basket, and you may have a carry cot for when out and about too. As they grow your baby moves onto a larger cot suitable for the next couple of years, and then maybe onto a single adult bed after that.
A newborn baby is very very different to a 3 or 4 year old and different shaped and sized products suit best at different stages. The same applies to baby carriers….. and also car seats, and chairs, and baths, and clothes, and shoes. Especially the bit about shoes!
Different slings/shoes for different situations
Not only do you need different shoes for different stages of development, but you’ll also need different pairs at the same stage for different jobs, and you’ll need to make sure that they’re properly fitted and supportive in order to be comfortable and to promote healthy foot development. This doesn’t just apply to babies and children though does it? You wouldn’t wear wellies to the beach or to a wedding party, just as you wouldn’t wear flip flops to the office or when walking in the snow. Different shoes for different jobs; and it’s easy to find new situations where a different pair would offer better support, comfort and functionality (or even make the louder fashion statement). All of this is exactly the same as for baby carriers.
Many parents don’t realise that it’s completely possible (and historically and evolutionarily normal) for parents to carry their babies and toddlers on a regular basis. Luckily, there’s now a huge range of slings and baby carriers on the market to suit every shape, size and budget and that will enable you to do this both safely and comfortably.
Good fit makes a sling/shoe comfortable & supportive
If you’ve found that your baby feels “too heavy” for a carrier then this isn’t a sign that you can no longer carry them. What it tells me that you’ve not yet found a carrier that’s well fitted and suitable for your needs. A bigger baby cannot yet walk and will definitely want you to carry them! Most parents of babies this age will find that they carry their baby in their arms or on their hip a lot of the time, and this doesn’t stop even as they get much bigger and start walking.
Carriers are like shoes – they need to fit you and your baby well in order to be comfortable. A well-fitting sling or carrier should support your baby’s weight close to your centre of gravity, evenly distributing it so that you don’t feel pressure points or need to adjust your posture to compensate for their weight.
You should be able to comfortably maintain a neutral posture while carrying, which protects your spine and pelvic floor and allows you to carry a child for extended periods of time without discomfort. Just like shoes that hurt your feet, an uncomfortable sling is a sign that either it’s the wrong shape or size for you or your child, or that it’s not properly fitted.
Worries about poor sling/shoe fit affecting development
Parents always find things to worry about where their children are concerned! I want to briefly reassure you about the potential effects of sling (or shoe) choice.
There is evidence that wearing rigid, flat-soled shoes affects how a toddler’s foot develops with long lasting consequences for foot and postural health.
There isn’t currently any peer-reviewed research looking at the developmental effects of sling fit or positioning and so there’s currently no evidence that a healthy child would be harmed by using any particular type of carrier or carrying position (see also our page on Outwards Facing Carry Positions). However, some people have raised concerns about how different carriers or positions may or may not support a child’s developing hips, head and spine.
I take a pragmatic view on both issues; I buy flexible, well fitted shoes for my children and promote barefoot time as much as possible to support healthy foot and postural development. But when it rains (and when my daughter insists) I will put my children in wellies, which are probably one of the least supportive or appropriate styles of shoe for a developing foot!
The same applies to carriers; I aim to promote and use the most optimally supportive carriers and positions wherever possible, but don’t think that anyone need feel guilty for occasionally using less ‘optimal’ solutions when needed. Especially if it’s for short periods of time, or for a specific stage that your baby is going through.
Most people find situations for a second sling/pair of shoes
Ok, so it makes sense that a carrier needs to fit in order to be comfortable. But why might you want more than one?
Well you might want a supportive back or multi-way carrier for using on long walks or holidays, when negotiating public transport, or when you need to carry for longer periods like nap-times. You might want a quick-to-use one shoulder sling to pop your bigger baby in so they can sit on your hip while you keep your hands free to cook the dinner.
Earlier on lots of parents favour a soft stretchy sling that supports their newborn snugly on their front, promoting healthy development and successful breastfeeding. And you don’t want a chunky backpack carrier when you’re trying to look your best for a special occasion; a glamorous ring sling can make carrying your baby look fabulous (it’s not called ‘babywearing’ for nothing)!
Slings/shoes don’t have to be ‘expensive’
In 2012 the average family in the UK spent £427 on buggies (actually not too far off the average UK woman’s annual spend on shoes!), up 20% in 3 years, and it’s easy to spend more than £800 on the popular top end travel systems. Baby products are only ‘expensive’ if they don’t get enough use to justify the cost (same with shoes!)
+ + = £££
For under £500 you could get enough top quality slings and baby carriers to meet all of your needs and still get a decent buggy too! And you might even have enough left over to find a sling to match your favourite glam outfit…. unless you’ve spent it all on shoes!
Slings/shoes can be addictive!
With so many attractive and comfortable options out there, slings can be addictive, with some mums buying dozens (I told you they were like shoes)!
But you really don’t need that many, especially when it’s easy to hire a carrier from a Sling Library and get a chance to try them out for yourself before buying the right sling (or slings) for you…
… now if only there was a Shoe Library too!
For further information about hiring slings and getting the right fit with your carrier, just get in touch with the South London Sling Library by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org