Wearing Two as a Way of Life

The next in our tandem babywearing series, Sarah talks about wearing her toddler and her infant. Previous posts on tandem babywearing include Ruby’s post on wearing her newborn twins.

I never intended to spend several hours a day wearing a three-year-old and a baby at the same time…. it just happened that way. My two-year-old was still happy to be worn throughout my second pregnancy, and I had no intention of stopping after the baby was born. I expected my older child to be worn less and less throughout her fourth year, but she knows when she’s onto a good thing!

We moved to India for five months soon after the baby was born and wearing two became an absolute necessity. We were living in the mountains and walking several hours a day, taking advantage of great hiking trails but also just doing what we had to to get around without a car or access to public transport. The roads were too rough and steep for a stroller and fraught with dangers and annoyances for a walking child, like maniac drivers, stray dogs, cows and monkeys and cowpats and other excrement. Now we’re back in Australia and even though I have a hefty seven-month-old we’re still going strong!

Because tandem babywearing has been so essential for me, I’ve been forced to make it work as effectively as possible. The carriers that work best for me may not suit everyone, but here’s what I’ve learned about tandem carrying in general:

Considerations when choosing your carriers:

  • Bulkiness – The carrier that goes on first generally needs to have thin straps, which can sit unobtrusively under the second carrier.

I use a Mei Tai on the front first and have my older child in a structured carrier on my back. It helps to have carriers which tie in different places – e.g. one at the waist and one at the hips.

I occasionally use a ring sling on the front but it’s hard to get the back carrier straps positioned snugly over the bulky sling fabric. It works best with an unpadded ring sling with a trim shoulder style and thinner fabric. I like a pleated shoulder.

Invest in a babywearing coat for cold weather – it’s hard to get two sets of shoulder straps to sit comfortably over a bulky coat or jumper.

  • Ease of use – it’s going to take you twice as long to get ready as it does with only one child – streamline things as much as possible by choosing carriers you can put on quickly. It’s also hard to take the time to do a complex back carry properly when you already have a baby dangling from your chest!

Think about ‘poppability’ – does your toddler like to get down and walk regularly? Does your baby need to be taken out to be fed or pottied a lot while you’re out?

  • Weight distribution – choose carriers which distribute weight to different parts of your body – e.g. a front carrier like a wrap or Mei Tai which puts the weight on your shoulders and back, and a structured carrier which distributes the weight to your hips. I’ve carried two in one ring sling, and it’s quick and easy but gets heavy very quickly!

Think of tandem babywearing as a strenuous sport and ‘train’ accordingly:

  • Practise every day or nearly every day to stay in shape.

  • It’s the ultimate progressive weight training system – so start early, with a newborn or preferably during pregnancy if you feel comfortable.

  • Take it easy the day before and after a long session of tandem wearing. I can manage a four-hour hike if I limit tandem babywearing to 30 minutes or so the day before, otherwise I end up with aching shoulders very quickly. Expect to feel exhausted the next day!

  • Become more aware of your body’s needs – in particular be gentle on your knees. I tend to hyperextend my knees when walking fast so I keep my pace slow and steady and use ski poles for steep descents.

Never sacrifice correct positioning to accommodate a tandem carry – it’s even more important when you are carrying extra weight.

  • If you use a Mei Tai on the front, the straps will have a tendency to ride up to your neck. Make sure they stay under the straps of the second carrier as you put it on.

  • Take the time to put the first carrier on correctly and always bounce and tighten. Retie both carriers if you need to – it’s worth the extra time it takes.

Travel as light as possible

  • I can get everything I need for a longish walk, including drink bottles and snacks into a furoshiki bag made from a napkin, which I tie on to my waist belt.
  • Heavy grocery bags are a killer – invest in a nana trolley!

Keep an eye out for other tandem wearing posts during March. Did you muscle up and wear your toddler and your infant when your family expanded? What worked for you? How did you go about it? Share with us!

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8 Responses to Wearing Two as a Way of Life

  1. Elisa says:

    So cool to read this – wow, you are super-organised! I am in awe!

    I wore two while living in Egypt. Very similar pram-unfriendly situation, except Cairo is flat and hot. Steep climbs would have been frightening to me on a daily basis – I climbed Mt Sinai wearing only one – my husband wearing our older child – and that was scary enough. I’m glad you used ski poles. And yes, I had to learn to walk more slowly as well.

    While in Egypt, I wore a gauze wrap on my front and Ergo on my back for the older one. Now that I’m in Australia, I use an umbrella stroller for the older one and wear my now-heavy 13-month-old on my back.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story – it’s really fun to know I’m not the only one!

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  4. Anna says:

    Great article. I have been carrying my two year old on my back in an Ergo. My second child is due to be born in two months and I had been wondering if tandem carrying was possible. I will certainly give it a go.

  5. Katie says:

    Its great to see another tandem carrier. I wear a moby on my front for my 3 month old and my 19 month old in an ergo on my back 🙂 its great fun and the kids love it.

  6. Ralitsa says:

    Great post :)!
    Do you have any idea if it’s possible to hip carry your toddler while front carry an infant? My toddler doesn’t want to be back carried and wants to ride on my hip but I don’t feel confortable because I can support him with only one arm and it gets heavy quickly. I’m also worried not to put pressure on my newborn in its Boba carrier. Do you have any advice for tandem carry in the winter?

  7. Sarah says:

    Thanks for your comment! I have done a hip carry in a sling with an infant on my front – IME it works best if you have the baby fairly low (which works OK in a structured carrier like a boba) and the sling over the front carrier passing above the baby’s head across your chest. A ring sling would work better than a pouch as you can bunch it up a bit to keep it off the baby. Have you tried putting your toddler in a back carrier anyway and seeing if he/she stops protesting after a bit? My first daughter went through a phase at about 18mo when she refused to go on my back but I would just put her on anyway (sorry if this sounds abusive!) and she would stop protesting and be happy after less than a minute when I got moving. You can also try different methods of putting him/her on your back, e.g. shoulder toss which makes it like a game. My kids informed me that I used to cry “Whoooooop!!” every time I put one of them on my back. I was oblivious to this!
    For winter bwing your really need a bwing coat which can go over the top with a gap at the back and extra space at the front. This was one of the best things I ever bought! It’s just too bulky to try tying/buckling carriers over heavy clothes and makes it uncomfortable.

  8. Carrie says:

    Thanks for this great post! I wore my 2 year old a bit while pregnant, but have yet to try tandem wearing with he and my now 3 mo old. I just started researching how I could do this & your post is really helpful. The weather where we live now is snowy/rainy often and I’m finding I need to come up with a way to get out walking without the stroller.

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