6 Tips to Avoid Babywearing Injuries.

Parenthood is the one of the most emotional, thrilling, fulfilling ride of your life. Parenthood can also become a PAIN in your neck, back, shoulders, arms. Some of you know exactly what I mean!

With Newborns, after the first 2 nights All Hell Breaks Loose! Newborns demand to be held for hours throughout the day, especially those evening cranky hours. It took us just a few days and a lot of aches and sore muscles to hop on the bandwagon of Babywearing.

We are babywearing converts, and this is a very familial topic for us. We wore our older son until he was 2, and use the same carrier for our younger one, who just turned 18 months.

Babywearing- an act of wearing or carrying your baby in a special carrier- has been seen in many cultures for centuries. Traditionally, a sling fabric is used to carry the baby on hips, back or front while the mother engages in household chores or other work. In the modern world, these carriers are well designed and manufactured keeping safety and ergonomics of the baby and the wearer in mind.

Is it really worth it? I can just hold my baby in arms for a quick grocery trip.

It is so worth it. As the baby grows and gets heavier, your body will thank you for the choice of a baby carrier. And it’s not just me talking, it’s the researchers talking 😉

  • It takes an average 16% more energy to carry your baby in arms compared to using a carrier or a sling for the baby. And carrying the baby in arms seems to be more calorie draining than lactation.1 Whoaaa!!!
  • Carrying a baby in arms increases the load on the knee by 16.7% and some loading on the hips too. Bio-mechanics of hips and knees while carrying a baby in carrier more closely resembles unloaded walking.2
  • The most recent study published in April 2020 showed in-arms carrying showed abnormal postural sways in standing. And as you must have guessed by now, baby carrier carrying showed posture similar to unloaded conditions (without a baby or any other load)3

All you babywearing parents, you are taking a scientific approach and not just for sake of convenience, which in itself is a pretty good reason.

Babywearing is great for babies too. It’s important to follow some baby positioning rules and which brand of carrier meets these needs. The highlight is hip positioning for infants. International Institute of Hip Dysplasia recommends thighs flexed, supported and spread apart. The baby should be in a “M” position, which means, baby’s bottom should be lower than their knees, hips spread out to approximately 900, thighs supported and knees bent. To read more in detail about how to safely position your baby in the carrier, head over to Pink Oatmeal, a pediatric physical therapist’s website.

Improper fitting of the carrier while tot in tow is an invitation for injuries, especially back pain. Positioning considerations for baby and parents/wearer is the key for a successful and pleasant babywearing experience. The most common carriers seen are the soft structured carriers (SSC) like the Ergo 360 (affiliate link) (big fan- going strong for 5 years and 2 kids) and the wraps like Moby Wrap. I like the Moby wrap for initial few weeks when the babies are super tiny. After that I find the SSC convenient to don and doff. Some carrier need an additional infant insert to accommodate the super tiny humans well.

Here are some super important tips to get comfortable with a carrier.

  1. Tighten the wide waistband on your hips making sure it’s parallel to the floor. It should sit horizontal on both hip bones. This ensures you carry the weight of the baby on your hips and not the shoulders and lower back. Asymmetrical waist band angled forward or backwards causes unwanted and abnormal pelvic tilts straining your lower back.
Carrier Waistband positioning

2. Shoulder straps should be wide and padded to distribute even weight. Pull on the straps to make the length equal so baby is centered. An off centered baby will pull on the shoulder asymmetrically and cause neck, shoulder or upper back pain.

3. Wear the baby high on your chest. You should be able to kiss the top of baby’s head without bending over. When a forward facing baby is too low, the weight pulls the shoulders in protraction and increases tension on neck and upper back muscles.

4. Wear the baby close to your body. A loose carrier will cause the baby to lean away from your body which leads to forward tipping of pelvis and straining your lumbar spine leading to low back pain. You should be able to tighten the carrier by equally pulling on the shoulder straps. Be cautious of not tightening the carrier too much to make the baby uncomfortable.

4. Tighten the upper back strap to help retract your shoulders back and assist you with better posture. Loose upper back strap will lead to rounding of shoulders.

5. Switch to back carry when the baby gets heavy, typically around 20 lbs. Always make sure your baby is old enough and has good head and trunk control. Follow the same rules. Baby high and close to your body, symmetrical shoulder straps to center the baby in the bucket seat to avoid excessive curvature in the lower back. Front carrying an older, heavy baby can stress your lumbar spine and pelvic floor muscles. Switch to back carry for better mechanics.

6. Switch babywearing with other family members if it’s too long and you feel tired. When you are fatigued you stick out your belly, flare your ribcage upwards and tip your hips toward the floor putting excessive load on your entire spine.

Research and read reviews for different carriers. It’s best if its easily adjustable for different wearers. Some babies do not like the carrier right away, but enjoy it after few trials. Follow these tips to make it enjoyable for you as well. If back pain continues, reach out to a physical therapist to get to the root cause. Happy parents= Happy Baby= Happy Babywearing!

  1. Wall‐Scheffler, C., Geiger, K. and Steudel‐Numbers, K. (2007), Infant carrying: The role of increased locomotory costs in early tool development. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., 133: 841-846. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20603
  2. Williams L, Standifird T, Madsen M. Effects of infant transportation on lower extremity joint moments: Baby carrier versus carrying in-arms. Gait Posture. 2019;70:168‐174. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2019.02.004
  3. Mannen EM, Havens KL, Kahney A, Nelson-Wong E. Baby-Carrying Method Impacts Caregiver Postural Sway and Pain During Prolonged Standing. Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy. 2020;44(2).

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