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Shawn Burns

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Shawn is a father, philosopher, and writer who lives in the Silicon Valley. He has been, at times, a stay-at-home dad, a work-at-home dad, a not-so-much-work-at-home dad, and a work-at-the-office dad.

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That Front-carrier Looks Ridiculous On You, Dad.

By Shawn Burns |

In a recent poll (I asked Facebook), people (mostly women) said that they thought a guy wearing a baby in a sling or a front carrier looked sexy and not ridiculous. In a less recent poll (I asked myself), people (myself) said that they thought a guy wearing a baby in a sling or a front carrier looked ridiculous and not sexy.

I am clearly in the minority.

And this is a strange sort of position for someone like me, who goes pseudonymously by “Backpacking Dad” online and who wears his kids in a backpack, to be in: Aren’t all babywearers in a massive global alliance together, chanting attachment parenting slogans to each other and fomenting rebellions against the Cry-It-Out oligarchy?

Well, sure, I go to the meetings. But I don’t chant, and I’ve never worn my kids in the front, and I do react negatively (I don’t throw a punch or anything; but I don’t go “Aww…..”) when I see a guy wearing a front-carrier. I have many and varied complicated reasons for this, but anyone with more than a tin ear for authenticity can see that they are merely justifications for a prejudice, not reasons for one.

Because I am not a coward, however, I thought I’d share some of these justifications with you.

  1. They don’t make a front-carrier with a place to put your Rambo knife or Dirty Harry gun.
  2. Having a baby in the front means having to clear a path through people at the grocery store as they try to pinch cheeks or dangling legs, overcome with “Aw…a baby….” feelings as soon as you round a corner
  3. It makes  you look pregnant; it makes you feel pregnant; you are not pregnant; you actually can’t be pregnant, dude. Stop telling lies.
  4. Kuato. “Quaid, release your mind…”
  5. I get neck and lower-back strain just looking at it.

Are you convinced?

More seriously, though, I prefer to use a backpack because I think there is something special about being able to use all the stereotypically manly strengths (strong back, strong arms, strong legs, tall stature) to do something to bring me closer to my kids. A child on a man’s back is no burden, neither physically nor metaphorically. A child on a man’s back sees the world almost through his eyes. A child on a man’s back is protected from threats by the intercession of his father’s body, his father’s strength. A child on a man’s back looks like Yoda riding on Luke Skywalker’s shoulders, and that is totally badass.

For the purposes of science, though, I should probably conduct a new study. How many people think dads wearing kids in a front carrier are way, way less sexy than dads wearing kids in a backpack? There is a right answer to this question.

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About Shawn Burns


Shawn Burns

Shawn is a father, philosopher, and writer who lives in the Silicon Valley. He has been, at times, a stay-at-home dad, a work-at-home dad, a not-so-much-work-at-home dad, and a work-at-the-office dad. Read bio and latest posts → Read Shawn's latest posts →

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32 thoughts on “That Front-carrier Looks Ridiculous On You, Dad.

  1. Stephanie Precourt says:

    LOL about the babywearers alliance. NO. We aren’t like that! My husband wore our kids on the front in the mei tai. He never could figure out ring slings. I love wearing Ivy on my back still, and well, I think it’s sexy either way.


    1. Shawn Burns says:

      Backpacking moms FTW!

  2. palinode says:

    Kids should be worn under the armpits in leather holsters. For best results, make sure it’s a snub-nosed .38 kid.

    1. Shawn Burns says:

      The only kids I can get my hands on are semi-automatics.

  3. @tshaka_zulu says:

    Sir, your witty blogging has inspired me…

    If I had twins, I’d wear one on the front AND one on the back! Dual wielding is AWESOME.

    When Chuck Norris was a baby, his dad didn’t wear him on his back. Baby Chuck Norris wore his dad on the front.

    1. Shawn Burns says:

      Now an army full of Baby Chuck Norrises, that would be scary.

  4. alpha_sahd says:

    babies r the ultimate distraction…I could go anywhere w/ my baby strapped to my chest……I’ve had visions of huge armies of men taking over the world w/ nothing more than babyBjorns and their offspring.


    1. Shawn Burns says:

      Nobody would be afraid of that army.

  5. Amanda says:

    I just busted out a laugh so loud (even scared myself) at the Yoda/Luke comparison. I tried for years to get my husband to wear one of our kids in a sling. Every time he would roll his eyes and say something about how guys should never wear babies in a sling. He did rock the backpack every now and then. Like a manly man.

    1. Shawn Burns says:

      Much respect to your husband.

  6. Delora says:

    Except you shouldn’t wear babies on your back who can’t sit up by themselves, thereby precluding all men from babywearing for the first 6 months of their child’s life. Damn me for throwing logic into the discussion…

    I thought my husband was wicked-sexy wearing our new baby in a ring sling on front while preparing dinner when I’d get home from work every day ;)

    (And yes, he worked FT OOTH too, just had an earlier schedule than me)

    1. Shawn Burns says:

      That’s not logic. But yes, don’t stick a newborn in a backpack. During the first six months of a baby’s life, the manly thing to do is to carry the baby in a carseat, and to do bicep curls with it as you walk along.

  7. mg-williams says:

    I guess one would have to decide if “manly” was sexier than whipped. I think women like seeing men strapped as they were; kind of evens the score, if you will. Carrying a infant on the front makes a man look more like a woman at 9 months. Women find that sexy because, like wearing pink, it says to them that the man is confident looking like a woman. Hands down carrying a infant on the back is manly. It allows him to keep shoulders square, a posture that still allows him to respond to emergencies without compromising the infant, and places the infant behind him where he can still rip open his shirt show off his superman shield and protect all those behind his imposing stature. I prefer to be manly even if it doesn’t score with the women who just want to strip men of their masculinity. Stay strong! Some women still find that sexy, especially the ones who will appreciate you mowing the lawn, fixing the car, and opening the car door for them.

    1. Shawn Burns says:

      I do enjoy wearing my superman shirt.

  8. Mr Lady says:

    Way, way less sexy in front. And they make your boobs look small.

  9. awesome, my friend. well done. though i kinda like the front style.


    john “baby bjorn” osborne

    (okay, that’s total BS. i hate the front-carrier, too.)

    looking fwd to reading more, buddy.

    1. Shawn Burns says:

      Thanks for reading, John.

  10. Melody says:

    I think a man carrying his child is sexy no matter what…But just a little more manly when using the backpack.

    love ya Shawn!

  11. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) says:

    I go both ways.

    Wow – Jan this is about baby carriers and that did not sound appropriate!

  12. Dad says:

    I don’t recall using a backpack with you. I just threw you up on my shoulders. I think it taught you how to hang on and never let go.

  13. Yuliya says:

    Is that really your dad commenting? That is awesome.
    My husband carries our daughter in the Ergo both in the front or back, either way it makes me all swoony.

    1. Shawn Burns says:

      @Yuliya Yep, it is :}

  14. Andrea says:

    I much prefer men who wear the baby on the back. It is significantly sexier. This from the women who married a man who works outside, owns a gun (and wants more), has killed something and eaten it. You get the picture, I have a thing for manly men. Specifically, my manly man.

  15. Andrea says:


  16. [...] Had me at: That Front-carrier Looks Ridiculous on You, Dad. [...]

  17. [...] Had me at: That Front-carrier Looks Ridiculous on You, Dad. [...]

  18. Natasha says:

    Yeah, Shawn, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your back-packing ways for a while now. A dad carrying his child-regardless of how, is DAMN sexy. Doing it in a sling, on the front is even sexier! NO, it does not make him (or you) look pregnant. It makes you look calm, connected (to your baby) and so damn cool! Carrying a 25 pound contraption on your back with said child (please let it be one that is at least >9 months old-safety reasons) in it, looks cumbersome and kind of mountain-climbing sherpa-ish and walking through the mall or anywhere that does not involve rocky trails of switch-backs with it on just looks wee..kind of silly.

    And trust me no one is going to question your manliness if you carry a baby on your front in a sling, ’cause we all know what you did to get said baby in the first place ;) !!

    Now, ditch that huge metal (please don’t tell me that thing is comfortable) sherpa carrier and we can talk about something that can be custom made with your favourite Superman Logo on it (front or back) that is a true BABY carrier!!

    OK, I am done my chanting from headquarters up here in the Babywearing League of {North} America Watchtower!!

    1. Shawn Burns says:


      Someday I’ll write a follow-up about giant frame-packs, which, as you rightly point out, look ridiculous off a mountain. I’ve never used one. My backpacks have always been more subtle than that :}

  19. Natasha says:

    Good to know! And I am quite serious-name your superhero and a carrier will be made and sent!

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