Welcome to the final part in a 4-part series about the most common caregiver types we see at Mama & Roo's! This series is designed to help you figure out where to start on your babywearing journey based on where you are in your life now. Use these guides as a jumping off point, and don't be afraid to send us questions via the chat! We're always happy to help =).
Part 4 of the series... which Mama & Roo's parent are you?
"I love sweet baby snuggles! There's nothing better than being close to my little one. But I'm not a young mom, and carrying car seats and hoisting my baby on my hips really aches. I'd love to be able to hold my baby in day-to-day life without hurting my body."
Let's chat about being a caregiver with physical limitations. What options are out there? Is babywearing possible? Is it safe? See our recommendations for you below!
Part 4: Parent with Physical Limitations:
As a mom with scoliosis and other physical issues myself, I know how challenging it can feel when trying to accommodate carriers to fit your body. Maybe you’re an older parent, or you’ve had several kids, and it’s taken a toll on your body. Maybe you’ve had a condition since childhood, like me, or maybe you’ve been in an accident and needed surgical care.
Physical limitations are real, but in many cases, we can successfully babywear even with these limitations. In fact, in many cases, babywearing can aid in our physical therapy and recovery!
If you're under care from a physician for your condition, be sure to communicate with them about the carriers you're using. You can even bring your carrier and demonstrate how you're using it. It's often easier for a provider to say, "well, just don't wear your child" when you bring up concerns. But that doesn't take into account the very real challenges of caring for your child without this tool, especially if you have chronic pain and weakness. Ask specific questions about how to make babywearing work for you, and work with your provider to understand how to take advantage of the healing benefits of wearing your baby. A physical therapist can be a great resource for this task!
Babywearing continues to have the same advantages of promoting bonding and comforting your child, but there are also distinct advantages for you.
Advantages to wearing your baby as a caregiver with physical limitations:
- Reduce the pressure: Wearing your baby in a carrier that is adequately spreading the weight of your baby across your torso is much easier on your body than the alternatives. Holding your baby in arms day and night can cause you to curl around baby and slump over often, hurting your back and neck. Babies in arms put a great deal of pressure on your arms and shoulders. Car seats are bulky, heavy, and put a lot of one-sided pressure on your body when carrying in and out of buildings. Carrying a baby on your hip puts more one-sided pressure on your hip and back. Even a stroller asks for a lot of upper body strength as you push up hills or maneuver over and around surfaces. Ultimately, you are going to have to transport your baby, even if it’s just around the house. Using a baby carrier can make those times when you need to lift and carry your baby easier on your body, not harder.
- Slow down and enjoy your baby: If your physical limitations make you more tired, you have the perfect excuse to wrap up your baby and enjoy these moments even when resting. Although it’s unsafe to sleep while wearing, you can wear your baby while sitting. Does your little one not like when you sit down while holding them? Try an exercise ball or birth ball! Bouncing gently on a birth ball can not only provide soothing for baby and a little rest from standing for you, but it can also be a part of your physical therapy plan. Which leads to our next advantage…
- Gentle strengthening: Wearing your baby is a form of gentle strength training. As your baby grows, the weight on your body slowly becomes heavier. As part of your care plan, babywearing can allow you to maintain and build strength in weak areas of your body, slowly and gently. It’s a great tool in the healing process for many conditions. You can even explore how different carries feel on your body and make it a routine to rotate through different ways to wrap as part of this process. Which leads to our final advantage (for now!)…
- Learning new things: Let’s face it, being a new parent can be monotonous. Especially if we have limitations that prevent us from doing things we otherwise would, having a baby can be lonely and isolating. What I love about babywearing, and wrapping especially, is it gives you an excuse to learn something new. There are likely hundreds of ways to tie off a woven wrap, in a variety of lengths. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to practice and master each one. Maybe one carry takes 3 weeks to perfect—accomplishment! Maybe you try one and realize that it's not going to work for your body—awesome, you’ve learned something new that you won’t try again. It can be a really fun activity to do with your little one to learn and grow together. Plus, there are great communities out there, like ours, happy to support you every step of the way =).
Here are our top recommendations for caregivers with physical limitations:
- Long woven wraps: These long pieces of fabric are the most traditional carrier type and the most flexible. Long woven wraps can be tied off in 2-shoulder, 1-shoulder, or no-shoulder (torso) carries. They can be used for front facing in, front facing out, hip, and back carries. The beauty is in the simplicity—support baby and tie the carrier off. Whatever way is comfortable is fine so long as baby is safely supported with an open airway. You can even re-tie the carry as you feel too much pressure somewhere, to avoid pressure on that place at all. And with the help of sling rings, you can even avoid pressure from knots. The long woven wrap may take a little longer to learn, but it’s definitely the ideal carrier for ultimate versatility. I usually recommend caregivers with physical challenges start with a base size or base +1 size wrap as these will allow for multiple layers of support. A size 6 is the most common base size, typical for T-shirt sizes of M or L. A size 7 would be the base +1 size for those people. A size 7 is the second most common base size, typical for T-shirt sizes of XL or 2XL. A size 8 is the base +1 size for them. Tap here to shop our long woven wrap collection.
- Wrap strap meh dais: A wrap strap meh dai with 4 wrap straps is a great way to step into wrapping if you aren’t quite ready for all the tying! These carriers have a pre-made seat in the form of a structured panel. Then you tie the waist and arm straps on your body as desired. This can be as simple or complicated as you like or need! This is a great carrier for you if you have physical limitations because you have a lot of the same flexibility, just made a little easier because the seat is already made. You can do front, hip, or back carries. Depending on your child and the meh dai specifically, you may even be able to do a successful one-shoulder or torso carry. You can also do waist-less carries and can use sling rings instead of knots. These carriers are wonderful tools with plenty of flexibility! Tap to shop our wrap strap meh dai collection.
Babywearing is a wonderful tool despite limitations we may have. Whether it's wearing every day or once in awhile, this is a great tool for so many reasons. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! =)
We recommend having several styles on hand. We all develop preferences for different styles for different adventures (around the house, at the store, on a hike, etc.). So don't be afraid to choose one to start =).