Hands-on help is hands-down best for learning to wear your baby. If you lived in a culture in which babywearing was the norm, you probably wouldn’t need to be taught. You would have learned it while learning to speak the language. You would have carried your baby siblings around since you were eight years old. You would have the equipment to hand, and the skills would come naturally.
For those of us born outside of such a culture, experiences vary. Some people take right to it. Some people find it awkward and need coaching. It is VERY common to wear your baby in semi-comfort, until you meet with a more experienced mom who shows you a few simple pulls and cinches, or a slight positioning adjustment, and Voila-babywearing is suddenly as comfortable and convenient as you were told it should be! And Ta-da-your reluctant baby who cries in the carrier now sleeps soundly or rests contentedly in the carrier!
Most states in the US have a few groups, so that travel to one is conceivable. But there are some empty spots in the US where it is quite a drive in any direction to find a group. And the best scene is to have one in your own city so that you can be a regular part of the meetings, contributing, learning and having fun regularly. That’s why my next blog post will be about how it’s really not so hard to Start Your Own Babywearing Group!
Does your baby have a physical condition that makes wrapping impractical? Because of the versatility of wraps, in many cases it will be possible to find a way to wrap up your baby that, rather than being impractical under the circumstances, will make it much easier for you to care for your baby. Before you reject babywearing out of hand, read this story:
Sarah had a friend whose baby was born prematurely with some special medical situations: clubbed feet, Spinal Bifiida, dislocated hips and a delicate immune system. Rather than giving up her plans for wrapping because of the special situation, her friend was able to use a baby wrap to help her handle the special needs. She was lucky to have in her friend a trained babywearing instructor. Since most moms don’t have Sarah to call on, I wanted to share this story for those mamas and papas who might have similar situations and could benefit from their story.
Wrapping up baby Alethea, was helpful to her mama because it allowed her to more easily hold her baby while supporting her heavy leg braces…while recovering from multiple surgeries herself. It supplied her with a way to hold her baby’s hips in the spread position that her doctors had recommended, which was difficult to achieve in arms. It gave her a safe way to carry her baby in public while protecting her delicate immune system from being exposed to a lot of germs. It also allowed her to give her premature baby the extraordinary benefits of being held tummy to tummy while she went about her day.
In wrapping Alethea, her mamma had several physical considerations to account for. The leg casts had to be supported so that they did not pull down on her baby. The casts held Alethea’s legs stiffly in position so that her legs could not be bent into a squat as is normally recommended. And Alethea was born early, making it particularly important to ensure that her airway was not compromised by letting her chin sink against her chest.
With Summer peaking around the corner, a lot of us like to start using shorter wraps–less fabric wrapped around you is bound to be cooler for parent AND baby! So I thought this was timely. I made this video this winter, however, at the Grand Canyon. Because if you find yourself about to wrap up your baby at the Grand Canyon, you might as well have your husband pull out the video camera, right?
Give this Short Double Hammock Carry a try, and let me know how you like it!
I’ve always used 100% cotton wraps. There is a lot of variety available in 100% cotton. But other textiles are popular, and I’m branching out now to find out why:
Bamboo is popular in wraps primarily because of how soft and airy it is. It has a light, silky feel and a lovely sheen but is very strong and durable enough to machine wash (a big perk for parents). What’s more, parents or children with sensitive skin–or those prone to allergies– may find that bamboo’s hypoallergenic and anti-fungal properties and natural UV protection make it the most comfortable carry around. To cap it off, its antibacterial properties make it naturally odor resistant.
Linen, as a fabric, feels fresh and smooth to the touch. In a wrap, the lightweight, breathable fabric is known for cooler wrapping and is often recommended as a Summer wrap for this reason. Because it wicks moisture away, it keeps you and your baby feeling cool and dry. Linen is not very elastic, and perhaps that is why it is popular with parents wrapping heavier babies or bigger kids: as they have less bounce, or give, linen wraps are very sturdy and hold a rock solid wrap job without having to worry about sagging. Linen is also very durable and can be machine washed.
Silk has a beautifully luxurious sheen, and a lovely drape, making for some very classy baby wraps. It is very flexible, molding around you and your baby like a glove, and provides a supportive carry that is also soft and comfortable.
The wrap is so wonderful because it is so versatile. You get a custom carry every time, tailored to you and your baby.
There are countless ways to tie your wrap, but even one basic tying method, such as the Front Cross Carry, can be used to carry your baby in an upright tummy-to-tummy carry, a semi-reclined or sideways carry, a high and safe cradle carry, a low nursing carry, a high-shoulder/burp hold carry, or even a facing-forward carry for short periods (though I recommend against the forward-facing position).
Front Cross Carry - Newborn Burp Hold
To become an expert, pick one carry that works for you. Learn to tie it, to insert your baby, and then learn to snug and tighten every part of the wrap so that it holds your baby just where you want him or her. Each time you do it, you will become better and faster. The wrap will become like an extension of your own body, another set of arms to cradle the one you love.
But if you don’t pull the slack out of the wrap, it won’t do the job perfectly. Your baby will start to feel heavy and you won’t wear him or her for long. Or you won’t be able to nurse hands-free, because you need to use your arms to keep baby high enough to stay latched. Or you’ll use one hand to support baby’s head. Or baby will complain because the carry is too loose.
Don’t fret. You’re learning. Next time, pay more attention to snugging and tightening every part of the wrap and it will be better. And you do it every day, and in no time, you’ve got it down and can do it without pausing in conversation.
How to snug and tighten properly?
When you put the wrap on, make sure you are not twisting it anywhere. This is easiest accomplished by holding onto only the top edge as you bring the wrap around your back. Gravity will hold the bottom edge down for you, and you have no chance of getting it twisted where you can’t see.
Holding only the top edge of the wrap as I bring it around my back keeps it from twisting.
Because your wrap is not twisted, you can see where there is slack–perhaps at the top, near baby’s head–and you can tighten along that very strand of the wrap at the end of the wrap before you tie.
If your wrap is striped, or has a color gradation, you can use the colors to help know which part of the wrap to tighten.
Remember that the bottom edge of the wrap should be holding up your baby’s knees higher than baby’s bottom. Pull any slack through so that the wrap is smooth and tight under the knees and around baby’s bottom and back.
A woven wrap can catch on something sharp or rough and if some threads get pulled or torn, you’ve got a hole in your lovely wrap! Of course the important thing is to ensure that the wrap is still safe to carry a little one in.
Some of the ladies on the Facebook page knew what to do when one member of our community had this problem and I wanted to preserve the answer for others who need it in future:
“You just use a machine to straight stitch long zig zags (like 3 inches long back and forth), then repeat the same thing in a perpendicular pattern.”
After that, just keep an eye on it to make sure your fix has solved the problem and . . . Happy Babywearing!
Half the wrappers around will tell you that a Rucksack Back Carry is the easiest and should be the first one you learn. It’s true that a Rucksack IS easy and very fast, IF you are good at it. But the other half of the wrapping mamas will tell you that it’s impossible, that they gave up, that it took tons of practice, or that baby never feels secure in a Rucksack.
Why such discrepancy? It’s because you have to know how to get a real good seat in a Rucksack, or it just won’t fly. So if that comes easily, or you figure it out early, Rucksack is easy. And if it took you two years to finally have it click, well after that it’s easy, too. I’m hoping this video showing my method for a deep seat will help be that moment that makes it click so that the Rucksack is easy for you.
Rucksack is such a wonderful tool to have in your toolbox! When you do know how to do it, it’s the fastest thing in the world. I invariably do a Rucksack when the cashier at the grocery store asks me how I got my kid back there by myself. “Wanna see?” I offer, and I take my child down from whatever back carry he had been in, and toss him up in a quick, easy, secure, and always impressive Rucksack. Makes babywearing look easy, which it should.
And while my video isn’t about this, I should note that it is also important in a rucksack to pull the top edge of the wrap good and tight so that your little one cannot lean back away from you. There should not be space between his tummy and your back.
Most babies upwards of 6 or 7 months will enjoy having their arms out of the wrap when you wear them, but when they fall asleep, this makes it difficult to ensure that the wrap provides them with head support. Cassidy (10 months) fell asleep on my back in the woods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I had my husband shoot a quick video of how I tuck his arms and shoulders into the wrap.
This shows a Double Hammock Carry but my technique is the same with any back carry: Get hold of baby’s hand and pull baby’s arm up over my shoulder; pull the inner/top edge of the wrap (nearest my neck) down and around baby’s arm and shoulder, then up and back onto my shoulder, letting his arm sink down into the wrap.
If your baby is laying his head against your neck or back as in this video, you don’t need the wrap to hold him or her against you. Sometimes just tucking in the arms pulls baby close enough against you to lean comfortably on you. If you do pull the edge of the wrap over the back of your baby’s head to support it, make sure that baby’s face is clear. Baby will usually lay one side of his face against you, and you pull up whichever side will go over the back of his head, leaving the face clear. Sometimes pulling the wrap up across the baby’s neck will provide support enough to keep his head from hanging.
It should be noted that he stayed asleep throughout (though he doesn’t always) and the squawking you can hear is from his two year old sister who was impatient with daddy for standing still while she was wrapped on him.
Once you pick a carry, there are still so many variations and ways to customize it for comfort or appearance! Here is a video that shows several different ways to do the straps in a rucksack carry:
standard rucksack straps
crossed in front
twist in front
Different people have different experiences. Some find the EllaRoo not as comfy with a heavier kid as thicker German-Style Woven Wraps. Others happily use their EllaRoos exclusively through toddlerhood.
In the babywearing world there is a category of carrier disdainfully referred to, by those in the know, as “crotch-danglers.” It’s not that these disdainful mamas are elitist. No, it is that they know what an unsupportive position this is for a baby, and how much stress it puts on the base of the baby’s spine and they wish all the other mamas in the world knew it, too, before they gave or received one of these Bjorn-style carriers for a baby shower present!
A wraparound carrier should be used to hold baby with the optimum leg positioning as shown in the link. This is best achieved when baby is facing your body, with a wide seat underneath the baby’s bottom and thighs. If you have a carrier that does not allow for this, chuck it! There are lots of better options.
Start with a front carry and move on to back carries once you have a good feel for using your baby wrap.
To keep the fabric from getting twisted when you pull it across your back, grasp only the upper edge of it so that you know gravity will keep it straight for you.
When pulling to tighten the wrap, look to see if a particular strand of the wrap is loose–say the top, around baby’s shoulders– and pull on the corresponding section of the end you are tightening, in this case, the upper portion of the wrap. If you kept it untwisted, you can in this way tighten precisely where needed and you’ll find that this helps keep baby from sinking down in the wrap, helps provide sturdy head support, and keeps baby solidly in an optimum–and comfortable–position.
Wrap your baby high up on your chest. Baby’s bottom should be no lower than your belly button and baby’s head should be close enough to kiss.
Keep baby’s knees raised higher than his bottom whether his legs are tucked into the wrap in a newborn-froggy position, or whether legs are wrapped outside the fabric. This will ensure a good seat in the wrap and proper support of baby’s spine. This means that the bottom edge–or rail–of the wrap will get pulled a little tighter, pulling baby’s knees up and holding them against your torso, while the wrap spread across baby’s bottom will obviously have farther to go, though the wrap should be uniformly taut across all of baby’s body, fitting like a bandage around a wrist.
Each layer of wrap around your baby should be pulled snug before the next layer goes across. Any slack in the wrap means that in a few minutes baby will have sunk down or changed position.
Finally, don’t fret! Practice makes perfect and stressing over it will NOT make it easier. Each time you wrap, you’ll learn more about it, so no attempt is wasted. Try again, later!
Mothers who experience SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, also called Pelvic Girdle Pain) after giving birth may find that some baby carriers that put weight on the hips–such as soft structured carriers like the Ergo–are painful. This does not have to put a damper on your babywearing:
A short wrap (rebozo) can be used like a ring sling or pouch, simply knotted and looped over your head and one arm like a messenger bag. Your baby rides on your front or hip in this manner, and none of the weight is distributed to your hips.
However, you may be even more comfortable with a two-shouldered carry, and one that distributes your baby’s weight evenly across your torso, instead of concentrating it on one shoulder. For such a supportive and comfortable carry without a hip band my first recommendation is a Double Hammock Back Carry because it wraps tightly around your upper torso in its entirety. Try tying it high under your breasts instead of at the waist, or finish it off with a Tibetan tie instead of tying at the waist.
If you want to wear your baby on your front, try a modified Front Cross Carry. By bringing the crosses over both of your baby’s legs, instead of between, you allow the band across your back to stay spread wide and this should result in a very comfy, high, tight front carry good for plenty of cuddles. Here’s a video:
If you have SPD, did this, or something different work for you?
The Hip Cross Carry is easy, fast, and poppable. Great for little babies or toddlers, especially for shorter periods and when there will be a lot of getting in and out, such as when running several errands and switching from wrap to carseat. Or, as in this video, at the playground with a baby:
The hottest thing about baby wearing is your baby. Just as your pregnant belly warmed you up throughout your pregnancy, your little heater–now outside your body–will raise the temperature several degrees anytime his or her body is pressed against you.
Baby carriers that are open on the sides will, naturally enough, allow more air flow and many people think they feel a little cooler. However, those people may not be using the wrap’s versatility to its best advantage here: not many carriers allow you to customize your carry to the weather, but a wraparound baby carrier can!
Use carries with fewer layers like a Rucksack or Kangaroo Carry, which has only one layer across baby, and only rusksack straps or a cross on the wearer’s back. A Front Wrap Cross Carry can be modified to have essentially one layer, by pulling the crosses so that they are bunched up along baby’s sides instead of spread across baby’s back as shown here:
When using a back carry that crosses in the front, try rucksack straps instead for a cooler variation. When your back carry ties around the waist, try tying Tibetan style for a cooler feel.
With other kinds of baby carriers, the fabric is as thick as it is, and you cannot make it thinner by using fewer layers. Padded straps are comfy, but cannot be spread thinly hot weather. And waist straps on other carriers cannot be removed when Summer comes…
“Before I met Toby 3 years ago I was in terrible pain suffering with fibromyalgia infact that bad at times I could barely move if I wanted to go shopping it was a challenge to say the least I even brought an electric scooter to help me get about
“I then got pregnant with William and I was dreading the prospect of having a baby and being in so much pain luckily some of the pain went with being pregnant and I started to enjoy a semi normal life again William was born and he has been very challenging waking every hour in the night would not sleep during the day and would never allow me to put him down
“William is now 17 months and is not your average size baby he is 30lb and wearing some 2/3 year clothes he has always been big for his age and I was having trouble holding him as he was so heavy and he was making the pain in my arms worse
“I then found slings and wow what a difference I could hold my baby and carry on with daily tasks even going to the loo was no longer a challenge it was hard at first though William just did not like being in the sling very much and used to fight with me arch his back tried to get out you name it he did it so I would take him out again
“I persevered and now he loves being up I my back looking at people as we go along the street and in shops he has a better view with what’s about and the best part he holds his arms up when he wants to go in the sling
“I still get asked from some family and friends why do I still carry William on my back and also gosh he is to heavy to be there he will damage your back my answer is he is 17 months old you see other babies his age in a buggy so why not on my back he is to young to walk everywhere also we get some lovely cuddles when we couldn’t if he was in a buggy and no he doesn’t hurt my back his weight is distributed evenly unlike being held in your arms
“What I’m trying to say is that if you have a medical problem yes you can still carry your baby listen to what your body is telling you and never over do things and if you don’t find your perfect carrier in your first purchase don’t be put off there is something out there that will be perfect for you but most of all enjoy”
I love this ending, but here’s an update from this month:
“william is now 19 months and is 33lb oh boy i wish he would stop growing for a bit i was told by my gp a few days ago that i have a bladder prolapse and i should not carry anymore due to williams weight will possibly make things worse i cant just stop carrying my baby we love being close so i have adopted my carry now and can no longer carry on my front but for a few minutes or even half an hour i will wear my baby and listen to what my body is telling me and the first hint of a pain he will be going down
Who out there is babywearing with a disability? I know that babywearing has the potential to make parenting easier, and parents with physical disabilities–as well as parents of children with special needs–can use all the “easier” they can get. But there can be extra challenges to babywearing depending on the disability.
There is such a vast community of babywearers online now, that I am sure we can collect up some stories and create documentation that has the potential to help many others. The “each one teach one” model of spreading help is, in my opinion, still superior to dusty tomes sporting long chains of alphabet credentials…
I have heard mention of several ways that babywearing was used to help with special needs, but was never before now collecting the stories to archive as a reference. I know that parents on crutches and in wheelchairs have found babywearing easier than handling a stroller. I know that parents with only one arm or only partial use of the second arm have found success with a carrier that doesn’t need wrapping or buckling–a pouch or pre-adjusted ringsling can be put on over your head with one arm, and then baby can be lifted into it. I know that wraps have the versatility to be wrapped creatively around babies or children with various kinds of braces or casts. I know that wearing your baby can improve muscle tone in healthy babies as well as those with special conditions. And I know that autistic and otherwise sensitive children of all ages have benefited from the closeness and security of being worn snugly against their parents’ chests, while the benefit of babywearing and kangaroo care to babies born prematurely is well documented.
So please tell us if you have any experience with special needs and babywearing. Tell us what worked, what was difficult, what you wish you could have found a solution for. What was the hardest part, and what was easy? What do you recommend or what help do you need that another member of our community might be able to provide.
We would be her legs. We take her up slot canyons, through coniferous forests and bring her almost face to face with moose. I have pointed out wildflowers and taught her their names as we‘ve hiked to lakes in Glacier National Park. She’s seen the mud pots and geysers of Yellowstone, and yes, she has seen the waterfalls too. In winter, when she was invited up the canyon for a snow day, I wore Lucy on my back as we tromped through snowdrifts that were thigh high!
I was going to make a video of a back carry, but Cassidy wanted to nurse and would not be put off. So there I was standing on the beach nursing with him in my arms, holding a wrap. What could I do? I wrapped him up while he nursed! I thought I was improvising, but watching the video, I realize now that I ended up tying a hip cross carry with my (almost) ten month old in a cradle position.
Tying a wrap around a baby who is already nursing is often the easiest way to learn to nurse in a wrap, because instead of having a hungry baby becoming frantic and making you frantic while trying to learn a new skill, your baby is happily nursing from the beginning, buying you contented time to figure it out!
I would, however, start in a seated position, and not standing in the middle of a beach! I made a video of this with Annabelle when she was very young, in our living room–on the very couch that she was born on, in fact! In this video I had already pretied a front cross carry. I sit down and insert her into it, latch her on, and then get everything tightened up so that it becomes truly hands-free.
Usually while wrapping up my nursing baby, he gets jostled off the breast at some point, and I just stop to help him get latched on gain, then continue.
Patience is important as staying calm will get you a lot farther faster than anything else! If you work at it for a few minutes and it almost works, then baby wants to get down, or needs to burp, or even just because you’ve had enough and don’t want to get frustrated, go ahead and stop. Work on it more the next time. You’ve made progress–take a win!
A note on nursing in the cradle position: Make sure you can see your baby’s face, and that your baby’s nostrils are clear and have access to plenty of fresh air.
You also need to be aware of your baby’s airway which is especially delicate in very young infants. In order to keep the airway clear, be sure that your baby’s neck is not bent forward bringing your baby’s chin to his or her chest as that can fold the tube closed that your baby needs for air. You should be able to fit two adult fingers between chin and chest at any time.
Nicole posted pictures on our Facebook page of her custom Double Hammock Carry. She doesn‘t like how those rucksack straps feel (they dig into her shoulders). So she does the DHC tied Tibetan style. Problem solved!
Any carry that has rucksack straps can be done Tibetan instead. Crossing the straps over your chest like in a Back Wrap Cross Carry can also be done instead of rucksack straps.
These variations can help solve the problems some mamas have with straps cutting off circulation to their arms, or with the straps slipping off their shoulders. Many people love rucksack straps, but every body’s different so try ‘em all and see which style makes you most comfortable.
If you are a pregnant or breastfeeding mom, you want to make sure you are not pinching any milk ducts because a clogged duct will NOT make your life easier. So when wrapping over any part of your chest, spread well, tighten evenly to avoid pressure points, and pay attention to any discomfort!