Tips for Getting Your Baby that Hates Babywearing to Learn to Love It!
For some parents, babywearing isn’t the dream journey that other’s may say it is! So often I hear from parent’s that their baby hates babywearing which often results in an unused baby carrier and sore arms for the parent! Having a baby that will cry hysterically when placed into a carrier and then not settle is not only distressing for you both, it can turn you off babywearing altogether. This article is to make sure that you don’t write off this helpful parenting tool yet! Over the past 3 years in Kangatraining and Babywearing Consultations I have met a few babies that fit this scenario and by troubleshooting the below areas they have learnt to love babywearing!
First Area to Consider: Baby’s Position in the Baby Carrier
Common Issues: Is your baby sitting too low, not tight enough, does it put your baby in an optimal position?
It is important to follow T.I.C.K.S in terms of positioning for safety and comfort for your baby. (See more about babywearing safety here) In terms of positioning, you want your baby to sit nice and high so the top of their head is close enough for you to kiss easily. This means that for newborns/smaller babies, the waist strap will be high (often around your ribs) so that their head rests on your chest. As your baby grows, you can lower where the waist belt/strap sits on you to continue having their head close enough to kiss. You also want them to be upright and firm against you with a supported back; this is to ensure that your baby’s airways are clear and that they don’t have space to slump which can affect their airways. Aim for the same tightness and closeness as a hug!
The other common issue is that the baby carrier doesn’t put them in an optimal position. An optimal position is the natural state that your baby goes into when you are hugging them to you. You can achieve this in a baby carrier when they are firmly against you facing inwards, the seat of the carrier goes from their knee crease to knee crease without over or underextending their hips, they have a rounded and supported back and adequate head and neck support. Their hip position is often a common cause for a baby’s unhappiness as if they are under-extended it can be uncomfortable (imagine sitting on a bar stool for a long time) and if they are over-extended it can be very uncomfortable and even painful for the baby (like being forced into the splits). If you are not sure what your baby’s natural hip position is, lay them on their back and watch as they bring up their knees to their belly button and look at the distance between their knees. This is the distance/size of the baby carrier’s seat that you want.
Possible Solutions: If you think your baby’s position may be the issue, I would recommend reading your carrier instruction manual to make sure you are getting the most out of your baby carrier and that is fit properly (or see a consultant) as often minor adjustments such as moving the waist belt higher and tightening your straps can make a huge difference! You want a baby carrier to be adjustable for your baby and some that are only a one size fits all can result in it not fitting your baby or putting them in a position that isn’t their ‘normal’. If your baby isn’t in a good position, it may be time to consider the next area.
Area to Consider: Is it the Baby Carrier?
Possible Issues: Does it fit your baby, is it adjustable, is there any pressure on baby’s back, any material issues, do you have the right size carrier, is your baby hot?
This can be hard as baby carriers aren’t cheap however in saying that some will fit YOUR baby better and make your babywearing journey a lot easier. Not all carriers are as adjustable as others and what you are looking for is one that can be adjusted in terms of seat width, height and neck support. If your carrier isn’t that adjustable, sometimes this results in the carrier not fitting your baby (at this time) in terms of position and your baby looking/seeming uncomfortable. If this is the case, it will affect how your baby feels about the carrier (hence all the crying). It’s also important in terms of safety and comfort to make sure they are in the right size baby carrier as some are made for newborns onwards, other’s for babys from a certain age (usually 3-6 months) or a certain weight, toddlers or pre-schoolers. If they aren’t in the right size this can be a safety issue as they are a falls risk and there is a risk that their airways can be obstructed – never go up a size in the hopes that it will last longer. Get the baby carrier that fits your baby now and you can always decide later whether you need to upgrade to a bigger size.
Other common issues are about the material of the carrier which can be scratchy or hot or the design of the carrier may not work for your baby. Especially for little babies, if the carrier design results in them being in a position that isn’t natural for them or doesn’t mold to their body, it can place pressure on their undeveloped muscles which can be uncomfortable for them.
Possible Solutions: I always recommend trying baby carriers before you buy to see if it will suit you and your baby. Different baby carrier types and brands are going to fit differently and what might fit one baby/parent combination is not going to fit another. A baby carrier that is adjustable for you and your baby will definitely assist with this.
If you already have a baby carrier, again reading the instruction manual can make sure that you are getting the best out of your carrier and if there are any additional accessories that can help (such as an infant insert). Also some baby carriers fit once your baby has grown so don’t despair if it doesn’t fit right now.
In terms of material and hotness, any baby carrier that is made from woven material will be softer, mold better to your baby and generally cooler. Added infant inserts can also be hot so it is important to check your baby often and consider wearing them at cooler times or in air conditioning until they have gotten used to babywearing.
Area to Consider: How You or Your Baby Feels
Possible Issues: For You – like anything new, there is a learning curve to mastering using a baby carrier and often if you aren’t feeling confident or are feeling anxious/stressed when you use a carrier, your baby can pick up on these feelings as well.
For Your Baby – some baby’s are just more sensitive to new things and take more time to get used to babywearing. For other baby’s, they may have a health issue (reflux, high/low muscle tonus) that may also impact. There are also baby’s that are VERY particular about the baby carrier that want to be in and while this can be frustrating for you especially if they are in a good position in the carrier, listening to your baby’s needs will help them learn to love babywearing.
Solutions: For You – Building your confidence and practising babywearing can help you and your baby to love babywearing. The best place to start is to inform yourself about babywearing safety, practice using your baby carrier without your baby (a doll or stuffed animal is helpful) until you feel that you’ve mastered it, read your manual and watch instructional videos about how to use your baby carrier or seeing a babywearing consultant or going to a babywearing meet can help! It is also important that when you are starting down this path, some days it just isn’t going to work and that’s ok. Stop reset and try again at another time or day can often be the best decision for you both.
For Your Baby – time and patience can be key to help a baby learn to love babywearing. Picking those ‘premium times’ to babywear eg when they are feed, clean nappy, happy, not too tired and wearing for short bursts and gradually build up the amount of time you wear. As your aim is to slowly encourage your baby to associate babywearing with enjoyment, if they are getting too worked up – go back to the stop, reset and try later. Once your baby learns to love babywearing, then you can wear them in those not so premium times as you know that they will settle quickly.
Baby’s that have health or medical issues can also benefit from professional advice from a health professional or babywearing consultant to go through all the options and make sure that your baby’s carrier suits their needs. If you have a baby that just seems to hate babywearing despite troubleshooting the above areas, they may just be telling you that they want a different carrier or carrier type, which can be frustrating but with so many carrier types and brand there is something for everyone! This is where trying at either a babywearing consultation, meet or one of my Kangatraining classes can help!
Hopefully this will help you and your baby discover the love for babywearing and sometimes it does take a little perseverance to get to the magical, smiling, sleepy stage! We went through multiple carriers until we found one that suited us both and it has resulted in 3+years of babywearing joy.
Certified Babywearing Consultant