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Babywearing - Is It For Me?

By Louise Yow, Principal Physiotherapist & Rynette Tan, Babywearing Consultant

Babywearing is a practice from olden times that has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. It has regained popularity amongst parents due to the convenience of allowing caregivers to be handsfree, thereby allowing them to attend to other daily matters.

It also enables closeness to the child, and facilitates bonding and attachment.

Some common question that potential babywearers ask us includes:

  1. Why should I carry in a carrier and not just carry in my arms
  2. Will I get back aches carrying my child?
  3. Is babywearing good for my child?
  4. Who can babywear?

Let's visit these questions and their answers below.

Why babywearing is better than carrying in arms

When carrying in arms you are using your arm muscles mainly to take on your child’s weight.

Arm muscles are smaller and usually used in connection with other muscles to achieve a task such as pushing, pulling, taking a book etc. When you use a baby carrier instead, the baby is carried close to the body so you will utilize the back/spine muscles to help to take on the weight.

The whole spine musculature and bones are meant for weight bearing, so there’s more to spread out the weight of the baby compared to arms only.

Babywearing enables you to you have more options, such as carrying on the

  • front
  • side and 
  • back

This means you have more options to change to when you are physically tired of carrying in one position.

This is meaningful and significant - this means that if your body is unable to carry in one position, there are many ways to change to find one way that is suitable and allows you to rest.

For example

  • If you hurt yourself and have a wound at the front, you can carry your child at the back or the other side hip carry to avoid pressing on the wound. 
  • If you find it tiring on your muscles to carry in front, you can carry your child on the back if your muscles are stronger to carry in that way.

There are options and tweaking that can be done to find what’s most comfortable and suitable for the parent.

Kids can be squirmy and especially when they are looking around their surroundings to see the fascinating world, they can move around even more. By carrying in-arms, they are essentially only resting/sitting on your arm. If they suddenly decide to lean back, they could fall off (and this can be very dangerous for children) and sustain

With babywearing, there would be fabric or a carrier panel that supports the child at the back, thereby minimizing the risk that they would fall out.

Will I get back aches carrying my child?

A well adjusted carrier that fits your build and frame should not cause back aches.

Of course, other factors such as your natural fitness, how long you carry your child for and how heavy the child is are also determining factors of whether you feel any strain after carrying your child.

As a general guide, the average healthy parent carrying a child less than 8 kg should not feel any forms of

when using a well-fitted carrier for at least 1 hour.

There are some exercises you can do to prepare your body to take on the task of carrying better. (Refer to exercises for babywearing).

Is babywearing good for my child?

Carried babies have strong emotional development as they learn to develop a sense of security and trust through secure attachment.

As they are also more directly exposed to adult conversation and parents’ facial expressions, babies who are worn often have improved speech development.

Additionally, babywearing helps to improve reflux and colic as being in an upright position with gentle pressure on their tummies can help to soothe a child in discomfort. 

In terms of physical development, babywearing can help to improve a baby’s core strength by allowing baby to exercise his/her neck, head and back muscles.

It also prevents flat head syndrome, which is common in babies that are placed on the back a lot. 

Who can babywear?

Baby wearing is for anyone and everyone who is healthy and has no mechanical injuries or pains, any they include:

  • mothers
  • fathers
  • grandparents
  • siblings
  • aunties
  • carers
  • etc

Baby wearing is suitable for a large number of individuals as long they are healthy and safe.

What about mothers who just gave birth? Can they start babywearing right after delivery?

Babywearing is great for bonding with the newborn, and most mothers who had their babies vaginally can babywear right from the very start.

However, pregnancy does take a toll on a mother’s body so caution should always be exercised when babywearing right after birth. If unsure, always seek clearance from your obstetrician prior to babywearing.

If a mother has not recovered fully from the pregnancy and has pelvic floor issues such as stress incontinence, babywearing can exacerbate the condition due to the downward pressure on the pelvic floor while carrying.

For mothers who underwent a caesarean section, babywearing too early could put a stress on the wound which would be painful and potentially dangerous if the wound reopens.

While every mother is different and most mothers are able to babywearing once they stop feeling the pain from the surgery, we recommend that mothers who have undergone a c-section seek clearance from their obstetrician gynaecologist before babywearing if they are unsure.

Other common issues that mothers have during pregnancy are pubic symphysis (pain at the front of the pelvis) and sacroiliac joint pain, which is pain at the base of the spine region at the back.

With baby carriers, the child’s weight is meant to be spread across the shoulder blades and spine/pelvic region. Therefore, if a mother has had pre-existing issues with these areas, babywearing might make it worse.

Does that mean that I can’t babywear if I have any of these conditions?

No. It depends on the technique and type of carrier used.

Depending on your condition, different types of baby carriers may be recommended, such as a woven wrap or ring sling. We will assess your condition and work closely with you to find the right solution for you.

As with any task we do in life, moderation is also key.

If you carry a heavy load for a prolonged period of time, your muscles and joints will feel the effect of it and this can unnecessarily stress your body over time.

The same applies with babywearing.

Having breaks in between to let your muscles and joints “catch a breather” and relax rather than be on constant tension will ensure a happy and pain-free babywearing experience!