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3 Most Common Mistakes: Baby-Wearing

How not to rock a Bjorn.

By the Babble Editors |

What the three most common mistakes parents make when using baby slings or carriers?

Expert: Laurel McCarthy, creator of www.carrymeaway.com and baby-wearer.

1. Giving Up Too Easily

Many people get a carrier as a shower gift. They may try it once or twice and it doesn’t feel comfortable for them or they feel like the baby’s not comfortable in it, so they give up and think, “I’m just not a sling person.” When moms feel this way it’s usually because they were using the carrier incorrectly or they didn’t spend a little time practicing with the carrier before putting the baby in it. When you get a carrier, you should take time to read the instructions. It sounds basic, but most people don’t do it. It can also help to practice first with a doll or stuffed animal. That way you feel confident with what you’re doing before you put the baby in and the baby starts crying and you feel panicked. A lot of people also make the mistake of starting out using a cradle carry, where the baby is low and across the stomach. That’s a carry that most babies don’t like and it’s not the safest option either. Most babies prefer a tummy-to-tummy carry, meaning that they’re upright with their head on your chest. So, try different positions and don’t just assume that this horizontal, flat carry will be the best. A good bet is to try a position that mimics how you usually hold your baby. Babies also need time to get used to a sling. They really like gentle motion, so when you put the baby in the carrier, walk around or sway. That can help you both adjust.

2. Size Matters

The second mistake that I often see is that people buy a carrier that’s too big or wear an adjustable carrier too loosely. That is almost universally the problem when people tell me that a carrier isn’t working for them. Buying a carrier is not like buying a T-shirt, when if you’re not sure that a medium is going to fit you, you just get the large. With carriers, you really need to get one that fits. When you wear a carrier too loosely, the baby doesn’t feel secure. It’s not safe. When a baby is in a carrier, he should feel as snug as if you were holding him. An oversized carrier is also ergonomically bad for your body. A properly used carrier should distribute the weight across your back. You should be using your core muscle to hold the weight. If a carrier is pulling on your neck and shoulders, you’re either using it wrong or it’s the wrong size. If you’re not sure about this, find a baby-wearing group in your area and ask someone there for help. You can also carrymeaway.com.

3. Not Looking Beyond Björn

The Baby Björn-style carrier is probably the best-known and most available type. It serves a lot of parents really well, but it has its limitations. First of all, the Baby Björn is only for infants up to fifteen pounds or so, which gives people the impression that carrying is for really small babies. However, there are many carriers that can be used from newborn to toddler. I carry my four-year-old still and with the pouch I have. It’s very comfortable. Also, the Baby Björn is only a front carrier. You can wear the baby facing out or in, but you can’t do any other types of carries, like back or side. The other thing about that type of carrier is that they’re not very snuggly. A baby’s legs are spread apart, which most newborns do not like, and they’re more strapped to you than snuggled. Different carriers are good for different things. The Björn is great if you want to be active, go hiking, walk around a city, but a ring carrier or a sling is better if you’re looking to soothe or snuggle. There are a variety of carriers out there that can do more and can last you longer, so it’s good to think about what you will use the carrier for, and buy the one best suited to that purpose.

As told to Lindsay Armstrong

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15 thoughts on “3 Most Common Mistakes: Baby-Wearing

  1. JulieApple says:

    This is great.  I am a mother with three children.  I used the Baby Bjorn with my daughters.  I used it right up to 20 lbs with my oldest daughter, until I was too pregnant with my next daughter to wear it.  And we were very happy.  I still had the Baby Bjorn when my son was born 4 years later.  He liked it too.  He grew so quickly.  I could see  he would quickly be beyond the 15-20 lbs limit for the Bjorn.  He is also very particular about how he is held. I was fortunate to find Mayawrap.com on line.  He did not like it at first.  I though I was too uptight to be successful.  All those other moms seemed like the really easy going Earth Mama types. I was an exec with very little time.  We worked it out.  My son was never, and will never be a cuddler.  He never nestled in the sling and enjoyed it like I saw other childern do.  He is now 2 1/2.  I just used the sling 3 weeks ago to take him out to the 4th of July fireworks.  I could put it in my bag, just in case.  He sat on my hip, and laid his head on m shoulder and saw all of the fireworks.  We probably use the sling once a month, but it works.  He has slept in it, nursed in it, and flown on international flights in it.  We have used it in every possible way, from cradling him, to back carrying him, and of course, just hip carrying him.  He is 32 lbs now, but it is still better than just holding him.  We walked 1 mile back to tha car on the 4th with him in the sling, awake, content and secure.  I love the Bjorn too, I am so happy that I considered a sling too as he grew!

  2. BabyWearer says:

    This article is great. I keep telling new mom and dad friends to try a carrier for a couple weeks before giving up, and definitely practice over a bed or couch while putting the baby in.The one thing this article didn’t mention is that not all carriers are good for everything. They all have their limitations, and if you really want to be babywearing, you will likely need a sling and some sort of more structured carrier, the Ergo carrier being the most universal I’ve found for mom and dad, easiest to use, and not so bulky to pack around in the car. I also highly recommend the mobywrap type carrier for it’s comfort.

  3. Freckles21 says:

    this article is so true. it took me a minute to figure out my baby k’tan carrier, but it really was so simple and its so easy and comfortable to wear. it’s also a sized carrier and the manufacturers are very clear as to the sizing tips so i got the right size without a problem and it fits great. i had a bjorn with my first and it worked ok, but my k’tan is just so much more versatile and comfy.
    my main tip would also be don’t give up! anyone can find the perfect carrier for themselves…

  4. WearThoseBabies says:

    As a “baby wearing expert” in Portland, I have a few suggestions:
    1.  In general, the baby should be carried as high and as tight as possible–if the baby is not positioned at or above your navel, you’ll probably never be comfortable.
    2.  In lieu of the bjorn, try a Moby.  The Moby seems intimidating at first (my husband referred to it as “Mommy Origami”), but it becomes second nature after about 6 trys.  The Moby (or Baby Bundler, or Gypsy Mama wrap, all variations on the same idea), allows you to carry the baby about 12 different ways, including on the hip and back, and, as a front carrier, is very conduicive to nursing.
    3.  As the baby gets older and heavier (around 6 months and/or 20 lbs), consider an Ergo or BabyHawk.  Both are comfortable for back carries, although the Ergo provides more substantial support for the heavier baby.  For example, I can carry my 30 lb. 15 month old for about 1.5 hours in the BabyHawk, but in the Ergo I am comfortable for closer to 4 hours.  On the flip-side, I felt the BabyHawk was more comfortable than the Ergo for the newborn stage (in fact, we used our BabyHawk from the time our son was about 3 weeks old, and still occassionally use it for short jaunts).  Both of these carriers can be used to at least 35-40 lbs.
    4.  These carriers may initially seem pricey, but they are well worth the money.  A well-made carrier will last through multiple children, and don’t “expire” like carseats.  Ergos listed on Craigslist here in Portland, generally sell for $85-95 (they are $105 new), and almost always sell within 24 hours.  It’s almost a no-lose situation to just try it out.

  5. keep trying says:

    I would like to add a Number 4 – if a carrier doesn’t work for you and your baby – move on and try another one.
    After watching every last youtube instructional video my husband and I  tried a ring sling with a stuffed monkey and our newborn until we were all blue in the face and nobody was happy with it. Then we tried the ergo with infant insert and were worried that our baby would turn blue in the face the way she was positioned in there. We ordered a pouch which worked no better than the sling for us. Relief finally arrived in the form of the Moby Wrap. It worked great in the early years and now at 16 months the ergo is our carrier of choice.

  6. Brooke Johnson says:

    Another thing that wasn’t mentioned is that baby carriers really promote breastfeeding…the right kind of carrier that is. A sling, wrap or structured carrier like the Ergo (there are now a ton like it) keep the baby close for lots of skin to skin contact which promote breastfeeding on demand, allow mothers to breastfeeding almost hands free and allow for breastfeeding to be discretely in public. The Baby Bjorn cannot really be used for breastfeeding like other carriers can. Also there are many patterns and instructions online for making baby carriers if you cannot afford to buy one. I could not have imagined the first 16 months of my daughters life before she learned to walk without a baby carrier. 

  7. NorthernMom says:

    Excellent article!

  8. this is why god gave you arms says:

    You still carry a four year old around in a pouch? Hilarious. Maybe try teaching the kid to walk. What is this, Cambodia? You workin’ in the rice paddies all day? Priceless.

  9. Just saying says:

    Please don’t discourage readers against Bjorn by saying it only goes up to 15 lbs or so. The bjorn goes up to 25 to 26 lbs which for me was until my son was 2. I don’t work for Bjorn. I just like to keep the facts straight.

  10. Nik says:

    I have several sling/ carriers and use them often. The two I use most are the bjorn and the ergo. I like the bjorn because it is so easy to get off and on. Especially when I am traveling by plane with my infant and my toddler, it is great to be able to take off the bjorn quickly when I need to. The ergo is a bit more work to take on and off (but still easy) but it is less stress on my back than the bjorn. I also like the little zippered pouch on the ergo for stowing my phone, a pacifier, etc. I can nurse on the go in the ergo but not in the bjorn.
    Next in line is the moby wrap. Very comfortable to wear and snuggly for baby. I used this wrap a lot with my oldest daughter. She was born in winter and I could put her in the moby for walks outside and she stayed warm and cozy. Loved this. However, the moby was the kind of wrap that could not be taken off/ put on easily. I got the hang of putting it on pretty quickly, but when I was out and about with my daughter it became cumbersome to keep taking it off and putting it on. Because it is such a large piece of fabric, it was also bulky to carry around in the diaper bag. With my second child who was born in the spring, I found the moby to be too hot to wear for long periods of time or for outdoor outings. In other words, I don’t think the moby is as versaitile as the ergo or bjorn.
    Basic slings (new native) never worked for us. I never felt the baby was secure inside.

  11. Carry Me Away says:

    I’m so happy to see that people like the article! There are a lot of great points in the comments, too.
    I did want to clarify that the Bjorn is considered safe for children up to 25 lbs, but in my experience, many parents find it uncomfortable for children after 15-20 lbs. I certainly don’t mean to knock the Bjorn as a carrier, just to let people know that there are lots of options out there and if the Bjorn is not working for you, there may be something else that will.
    Cheers,
    Laurel
    Carry Me Away

  12. sunshinegirl says:

    I just wanted to point out that the Baby Björn (and those like it) do NOT hold your baby in a way that is good for their hips and spine.  You can read more here:  http://continuum-concept.org/reading/spinalStress.html 
    Basically it puts too much stress on the spine.  Would you like to be carried like babies are in the björn?

  13. Carry Me Away says:

    There are certainly carriers that physical therapists recommend more highly than the Bjorn. :)

  14. Rhonda says:

    Great article! I just got my Moby wrap in the mail today and my baby is happily snoozing away in it right now. I had tried a front carrier previously and he hated it! I wasn’t sure about a wrap or sling type carrier, but I think I’m becoming a believer!

  15. Amy says:

    You obviously don’t have children. Kids like to be held by their parents occasionally long after they learn to walk. Heaven forbid we use a carrier to alleviate the strain a 40 lb kid puts on our backs. Go crawl back under your rock.

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