Babywearing 101: Top Tips For Transitioning from Newborn to Toddler Carriers
Babywearing had a HUGE impact on my early days as a mother, well through the first year, because any time my little girl refused to nap or was extra fussy, wearing her made all of the crank go away. Bonus that it allowed me to keep working, or sometimes just sit there and appreciate the silence… But at one point, despite how long she stayed so tiny, that stretchy wrap really started to hurt my back, so I turned to the experts on how to transition from newborn to toddler carriers so that I got to keep my magic fix-all tool that is baby wearing. I leave the floor to Amie, a local babywearing instructor in Ottawa.
Babywearing has allowed you to get out of the house with your baby, get some things done around the house, and soothe your little one during fussy times. It’s a wonderful parenting tool but as your baby gets older and grows larger you may find your usual go-to isn’t as comfortable anymore. How do you step forward into wearing an older baby or toddler? How do you know it’s time to change things up? You may wonder if your current carrier is still safe to use as your baby ages. These are common questions and concerns that babywearing educators help people navigate and we’ll break it down for you.
When to Change
Knowing when to change things up is straightforward and it comes down to two main things – comfort and safety.
Depending on the type of carrier you are using comfort can be affected in different ways. If you are using a soft structured carrier (SSC) for proper fit it should fit your baby knee to knee and support the M position. It should distribute your child’s weight on your body in such a way that you don’t feel muscle pain, strain, or weakness.
Babies reach an age where they notice the world and this is often when parents will begin to wear them facing out. As babies grow and get heavier, that can cause mid/upper back and neck discomfort for the wearer. Ergonomically the weight distribution shifts pulling the parent’s upper body forward when wearing a larger, heavier child forward-facing. A great alternative to this is to make the switch to back wearing or hip carries. Ring slings make for a great hip carry option and toddlers can be worn safely on the back in all manner of wearing devices.
The first step is always to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding that specific wrap, ring sling, or carrier. Those guidelines will detail weight minimums and maximums and also provide general fit guidance. If your toddler’s weight has exceeded the maximum weight for the carrier continuing to use it could cause undue stress on the seams and material of the carrier and weaken them.
Whatever you are using to carry your child the panel should extend up your child’s back to reach at least the middle of their shoulder blade. If the panel is lower your toddler could fall were they to arch backwards. If you are using a wrap you may find you need one that is woven with more width so you have enough fabric to extend up to shoulder blade height. You may also wish to explore different fibres that offer more support and lift of bigger children – hemp or wool for example.
This is the time to pack away your stretchy wrap, if you haven’t already. Although they are typically weight ranged to 35 lbs they don’t allow for hip or back wearing and the added stretch which is so beneficial with a newborn becomes detrimental with a bigger child. You will know when it’s time to make the change because when you’re babywearing with it you will feel it sag, and you’ll want to adjust and tighten it often.
There are many options available that allow parents and caregivers to continue their wearing relationship with their child. Many soft structured carrier manufacturers offer different sizes – baby, standard, toddler and even preschool size. Tula and Kinderpack both offer preschool size carriers. Companies that convert wraps to carriers and meh dais offer different sizing as well.
Once your baby is able to sit independently and has reached the minimum age guideline as outlined by the manufacturer of your carrier make the move to back wearing. Carrying larger babies, toddlers, and preschoolers on your back provides a more ergonomic option, that keeps your centre of gravity aligned as it should be. Children can be safely worn on the back in ring slings, carriers, wraps, meh dais, onbuhimos, and podaegis.
What If I Need Help?
Look no further – National Capital Doulas offers assistance from experienced, trained educators. We can take you through how to transition from newborn to toddler babywearing, help you determine what carrier is right for you, and work with you to get the most out of it. Join our Facebook group to access videos, Lives, information sharing, and ask us and the group any questions you may have. We also offer private education – virtual and in person.
About The Author
National Capital Doulas is a team of professional birth and postpartum doulas, lead by Amie Scharfe. Amie is a Certified Birth Doula, postpartum doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, and Certified Babywearing Educator. The National Capital Doulas team offer families a wealth of knowledge, extensive skills from years of experience, and exceptional services from pregnancy through the first year of parenting. Your birth and parenting confidence will thrive with their compassionate support. They give you the best, starting with childbirth education, infant feeding education and support, birth and postpartum doula services, babywearing education, all the way through to birth pool and TENS unit rentals. Modern doulas for the modern family! Send them a message to book your consultation. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.