“I struggle to carry my baby in a sling because they’re too heavy”. This is something we repeatedly hear from parents of even very young babies.

That’s not to say they don’t have a valid reason or belief. Perhaps they have an underlying condition that makes them not be able to carry for long, or perhaps they really do have a big baby!

Positioning is key

But one of the things we see time and time again is babies being positioned in a way that increases the felt weight of the child, instead of in a natural carrying position where the weight can even feel less!

To explain this we head to the park and get dad and child on the see saw.

When dad and child are at opposite sides of the see saw its really easy to see that dad weighs more!

But as dad moves closer to the middle the scale starts to tip, and eventually the child will lower to the ground.

Torque if you want to go all down the physics rabbit warren.

Any one who has spent time yawning and rolling their eyes, I mean attentively paying attention at the works mandatory moving and handling course…..or has had a private newborn session with me…..will know that when we hold a box close to our body it feels lighter, and puts less pressure on our arms than when we hold it at arms length.

For this you’re going to need to try it with a 2litre bottle of pop or something heavy from your pantry. Just hold your object out in front of you for 2 minutes whilst I have a cup of tea.

Pretty heavy right!

Now try it in a rucksack.

And now imagine your 7lb newborn. And remember how much your arm ached when all they were doing was being held in cross cradle feeding. Again, that undeveloped muscle mass of theirs feels so heavy in our arms!

Choosing the right carrier

We use the terms carrier or sling to represent a device that the adult wears to help aid carrying the baby or child.

The specific terms may be, high street carrier, soft structured carrier, framed back pack carrier, Asian style carrier, ring sling, woven wrap, stretchy wrap, and carrying aid.

Overall, if you’re committed to carrying your child and helping them get to explore the world we are really proud, we’re always happy to see parents carrying their kids in the wild, and the home! So please do send us your pictures.

However, some parents look up the safety of carriers and get worried. There have been some instances where children have been hurt or died. And we take this very seriously! The loss of a child is something no parent ever wants to go through! However, if you know some basics on safety you can feel a lot more confident, and that’s one reason people reach out to us for a private session to alleviate their fears and improve their confidence to go further!

We also know that some slings and carriers are dangerous, and that even banned or fake slings are passed along the mummy chain to help new parents save some cash. Any carrier that holds the child in a laid cross body style should not be used, unless you have seen a sling consultant and it was the best position for yours or babies condition.

Sometimes we see parents carrying their babies in what looks like really uncomfortable positions. And when we go back to the bottle of pop earlier we wince at the thought of carrying in such positions.

We have put a couple of common or good slings on to show how even a good sling not fitted correctly can cause issues.

Supporting baby’s natural shape

What we look for in a carrier is that it holds baby or child in an anthropologically normal human carrying position. A position an adult would naturally hold a child, without a carrier. A position that as the child grows they can easily cling to aid the adult.

That is when a human holds a newborn, they hold them to their chest with the back curled and their knees high above their bum. What we find with this position is the hips are nicely supported in neutral alignment and have space to develop and grow. We also notice the rounding of the newborn back means their floppy head comes forward and is supported by the flat part of the adults chest – the decollotage.

As a baby grows their back uncurls and becomes more of a J shape, and they can support their own head and air way whilst they are awake and rest their head on the chest again whilst sleeping. Hip carrys become possible at around 4 months. It’s still nice to have the legs supported in a knees above bum position, and helps keep the weight close to the adults centre of gravity so they aren’t changing gait too much to counteract the additional circumference.

At around 6 months baby may be comfortable sitting, and in a soft structured carrier then they could go onto an adults back. Generally a piggy back would be more of a 2+ without a carrier – but even at 8 years old a piggy back still has knees above bum, and a curled back towards the adult to the child can cling.

And as much as we don’t think shoulder carries are good for posture or safety, a shoulder carry still has the knees above bum, leaning into the adult and cling position. We just aren’t keen on them as if the adult trips it’s a big fall for the child….but we do them from time to time, knowing that risk!

This image is a good way of showing the different shapes a child makes through the ages.

We often notice that highstreet carriers and framed back pack carriers do not support the adult or the child in a natural position. We can help make them fit better, and give tips on getting the most out of them. But these are the carriers we typically hear, my baby is too big to be carried.

Carriers that do support the child in a normal human carrying position, allowing for neutral alignment of adult are soft stretchy or woven wraps, ring slings, Asian style carrier, and soft structured carriers. And these are what we would typically have available to borrow, or support you in purchasing.

Sling safety ABCs

Airway – ensure that baby has a clear airway with no loose fabric near their nose or mouth.

Back – supported high and snug, so the back is held in a natural curve and not slouched. Their head shouldn’t need support if their pelvis is tilted correctly bringing their knees above their bum.

Clothing – a sling or carrier is an additional item of clothing, and baby is next to you sharing your warmth. Often they don’t need as many layers as they would in a pram. We suggest ensuring that baby and you wear layers so it is easy to adapt to changing temperatures, for example heading for a walk on a wintery day and stopping for a pub lunch whilst baby sleeps. Try a hat or extra socks over extremities rather than a coat on baby. And wear a big enough coat that baby can be wrapped in it * please don’t zip above babies head.

Please remember sleepsuits – baby may need a little extra space around their delicate little toes.

And secondly comfort.

Listen to your body. Notice how it feels in the carrier, is it digging in anywhere, are their straps to tighten or loosen to make it fit better. Is it altering your gait. Are you getting kicked in the thighs?

Listen to your baby – listen to their breathing, soft quiet, rhythmic breathing. We know as your practicing they may be grouchy and upset, but once your in and secure, and confident, they should be settled. Try bouncing gently and keeping moving. If baby is snoring they may not have a clear airway, try repositioning them.

Have you had a fitting appointment with someone trained to fit slings/carriers? It really can make all the difference. And most of our customers tell us how much it has changed their life simply by having a couple of hours time to practice without pressure.

It used to be believed that we could carry 50% of our body weight. But O’shea has developed a scale that suggests that lighter people can carry more of a percentage than heavier people! *insert graphs and links.

We have carriers that can fit an 8 year old in – I tried! He’s 24kg and 124cm tall. There is plenty of growing room.

The weight limit is 30kg,

I weigh around 66kg, and I can carry 25kg. I have a shoulder injury, and am more bendy than most. However, I have been weight training by carrying babies and children of various weights for 8.5 years! I do not expect you to jump up and start carrying that sort of weight from nothing.

I also think I am sadly at my limit and my twins are going to need single carries rather than tandem now.

Rachel is a babywearing expert and has a collection of slings available to hire through Parent Sanctuary. For more information book on to a sling meet or contact us