This is the first in a series of posts aimed at helping parents with special needs. Here, we look at babywearing with a shoulder injury.
You’d like to wear your baby or older child, but red-hot pain is holding you back. Depending on the extent of your injury, it may be possible for you to wear your child while supporting the healing of the afflicted area. In this post, I’ll take you through babywearing with an injured shoulder(s). It’s an area of personal experience for me. My right shoulder has had (at various times) bursitis, tendonitis, a thinned distal portion of the rotator cuff, dense calcifcation in the tendons, possible cartilage damage and “changes to the tendonopathy of the region”, whatever that means. I didn’t understand much of the preceding, but my GP summed it up nicely when she looked at the xrays: “this shoulder is stuffed“.
If you have any injury, shoulder or otherwise, it’s important to define exactly what the problem is. I’m going to divide the possible problems into two areas: reduced range of movement and reduced ability to weight-bear. Each of these can occur independently or together, but the consequences for babywearing are quite diffferent.
Reduced Range of Movement
A reduced range of movement can occur for many reasons, but the main consequence for babywearing is difficulty in getting the child into the carrier in the first place. In this case, the simpler the better. In my experience with shoulder injuries, long wraps were disastrous- passing fabric to and fro was very painful and practically impossible. Simpler carries and carriers like short wraps, mei tais or SSCs were easier to get on with less pain. Ring slings and pouches may also be an option if only one shoulder is injured and you can bear weight on the uninjured shoulder.
When wrapping, your strategy depends on what portions of your range of movement are affected. Carries starting with a chestbelt may provide support while you wrap through your available range of movement. Alternatively, back carries tied under the wearees bottom may be impossible.
Lifting a child onto your back may be difficult in itself. It may be worthwhile reviewing other options if your regular method doesn’t work. Superman tossing is my usual method of initiating a back carry, but when lifting my arm above my head was intensely painful, lifting 9kg of baby didn’t seem sensible. The hip scooting method proved to be an acceptable compromise.
Reduced ability to bear weight on the affected shoulder
Let me be very clear: if it’s painful to wear your child, it may be wise not to do so if you want the affected area to heal. However, if wearing is important to you, there may be ways to get around the problem if you are unable to bear weight on the affected area. There are several options:
1. Avoid the area altogether. If you have two injured shoulders, it may be well worth looking into torso carries and carriers, which will eliminate any weight on your shoulder. These include torso carries with long, short wraps and straight-strapped podaegi. If you have a single injured shoulder, you have the additional option of one-shoulder carries in a short wrap, ring sling or pouch and modifying certain wrap carries (such as the BWCC with chestbelt) to avoid the affected shoulder (this was my personal favourite for extended carries. If anyone wants to know how it’s done, hit me up in the comments section!).
2. Reduce the weight on the affected area by distributing it to other parts of your body. Depending on the extent of your injury, you may still choose to bear weight on the affected shoulder(s). Carriers such as SSCs, chunei and mei tais tied tibetan or with straps crossed in front will distribute weight to your hips and across your chest, reducing the weight on your shoulders. Wrap carries with chest belts, tied tibetan or tied at the waist will do the same.
3. Teach your partner to babywear, put your feet up and wait to get better. More seriously, you may need to re-evaluate your babywearing goals. In my case, it became apparent that attempting to tandem wear 20kg+ of children at once was no longer the best option. I bought a better stroller and put babywearing on the needs-only list for awhile. It doesn’t make me a bad person! And, as a result, I’m now able to lift a coffee cup without wincing. It was one of my better decisions!
Hopefully, this post gave you some ideas for babywearing with a shoulder injury. Look out for our next installment on babywearing with a back injury.
Have you continued to babywear with an injury or disability? What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them? Leave a comment and let us know!