Babywearing is a wonderful thing. The benefits to babywearing are numerous and parents all over the world enjoy the perks. However, we all must start somewhere. Many new parents look at their wrap or carrier and are not sure where to start. Many fear dropping their child or causing suffocation. Truth is, when done correctly, babywearing is very safe and keeps baby happy while Mom or Dad can do tasks hands-free! I frequently get asked to assess baby carrier use and give my opinion. I want to share the top 5 babywearing mistakes I see with you, and help spread the babywearing love and knowledge. There are some article links and affiliate links to find more info and products too.
Place your hands on your hips. You know the spot. Both of your hands should sit on top of the bones that make up your pelvis. If you try to slide them down, it’s difficult to move. The pelvis has ridges that are a great area for support, and the spot where your soft-structured carrier base should rest. It’s a common mistake to wrap the waist band around your behind, and not with the support pressing down on your hips. I even see baby carrier models with the carrier sitting below these ridges and at risk for sliding down. In addition, wearing the carrier on your natural pelvic supports also helps create a better seat for baby and a more comfortable position for you!
While not everyone will wash a soft structured carrier before wearing, a woven wrap absolutely needs to be washed first. I wash all carriers first for several reasons. A woven wrap typically comes in loom state. This means that you have received the wrap before it has been washed. Washing tightens the fibers and plumps them, creating a more stable surface for carrying baby. In addition, wearing a woven wrap before it’s been washed can lead to thread shifting and other fiber damages that can be avoided with a wash.
Some soft structured carriers are made from similar fabrics and can benefit from an initial wash. In addition, I suspect some are coated with fabric conditioners designed to prevent the development of mold and increase shelf life. In addition, some may have been coated in a flame retardant chemical. While I am awaiting surveys to return from babywearing companies, I prefer to stay on the safe side and wash my carriers first. Make sure to use a detergent without optical brighteners like babyganics so your carrier stays in tip top shape.
While we certainly don’t want to compress baby, I often see carriers of all types that are simply too loose or too tight. This can often by avoided by trying the carrier on first and testing out it’s adjustments. Often a soft structured carrier like a Lillebaby can be adjusted with straps near the armpits, around the waist and across your chest or back. In addition, these adjustments need to be made frequently and like a pair of jeans, a carrier will stretch and loosen with use. Washing a carrier can often tighten fibers, but keep in mind that a carrier adjustment is not a one-time thing. Adjustments should be made on an as-needed basis and even during wear.
How to tell if it’s too loose or too tight? Baby should be able to turn his head easily, move his arms around for comfort and breathe comfortably. Baby should not be squished like a pancake, something I often see on women who are healthy in the bust, or have so much room that you could store a sack of flour between baby and yourself with room to spare. Look down, can you see baby’s chest rise and fall? Does baby look comfortable and happy?
What is a seat? When you sit down in a chair, the position that your body goes into is similar to that a baby should have in a carrier. While often described as “frog like” your baby’s knees should be positioned slightly higher then his bottom and knees bent. One of the most common mistakes I see are dangling legs and baby in a near-standing position. While some baby carriers are simply known as “crotch danglers” and do not create a good seat, many companies have the potential for great positioning and user error creates the poor seat.
How do you adjust seat? Look in the mirror and evaluate baby’s leg position. In a soft structured carrier you can reach your hands in and adjust the pelvis into a good seat and re-adjust the carrier. If you have the carrier sitting properly on your waist, mentioned in number 1, the soft structured carrier should have a natural pocket area for this position. For a woven wrap, the carrier may need to be re-wrapped or have the rails tightened. The seat portion of the carry is often the lower rail and practicing getting the first supportive pass, or the pass creating the primary seat is key.
Yes, the carrier you purchased may have been a good price, but is it a good carrier? Some carriers, despite your best efforts, simply don’t position baby well. Shelling out additional funds for a well respected brand of carrier may seem difficult in the beginning, but keep in mind that this carrier will follow baby from newborn, often with an infant insert, to toddlerhood. The time spent developing, manufacturing and materials used are costly. Often times you get what you pay for, however Lillebaby recently came out with the Lillebaby Essentials that retails for under $90. Can’t afford a new Lillebaby Tula or Ergobaby carrier? There are many BST groups that sell carriers under retail and if you ask, you can often find a Mom with an unused carrier in her closet. Just ask! Here are some affiliate images to help you find carriers at great prices plus free shipping.
While many of these items seem subjective, someone familiar with fit can tell in an instant. Don’t hesitate to seek help. Find your local babywearing group, babywearing carrier shop or if you live out in the country like I do, join a babywearing group online and share a photo for advice. Don’t ever risk your child’s safety in lieu of asking for guidance. Once you get fit right you’ll find that the Real Dangers of Babywearing are all amazing.
** Disclosure; This article is in no way meant to provide individual recommendation, diagnose or treat any sort of condition. Please refer to your local Babywearing Occupational Therapist or Babywearing consultant for proper fit and if you are unsure of baby’s safety always proceed with caution. **