Babywearing is a great way of getting there, of getting close, getting the job done. But sometimes you may experience pain. This series of posts looks at a few of the common causes of pain while baby wearing and some simple fixes. Here, we start with the neck and shoulders.
Sometimes new (and not-so-new) baby wearers may experience pain in the neck or shoulders. If you are using a one-shouldered carry like a ring sling you may find that after a certain time frame you either need to change shoulders or use a two-shouldered carrier. Everybody’s longevity in a one-shouldered carrier differs.
If you’re using a two-shouldered carrier, it can come from a number of problems. In a front or a back carry:
– Pain in the neck and shoulders may mean your baby is too low: is your baby in the “zone”? In a front carry, if you can kiss your baby merely by tilting your head slightly, the baby is high enough. Ideally a baby should be sitting just above or in line with your navel, although smaller babies need to be higher and larger children often need to be lower. In a back carry, very small babies need to be very high up, right at the nape of your neck. As a very rough rule-of-thumb with older babies (4 months+)/toddlers, start high and move downwards until you find a comfortable spot for you. In the picture, the sleeping baby is only a few centimetres from the wearers’ chin. Aim for high and comfortable!
– Pain in the neck and shoulders can also be caused by the baby being too loosely held by the carrier allowing them to “lean” away from you. You should be able to fit a hand between you and your baby, but not much more than that. If this is the problem, your top straps in a buckle carrier or mei tai may be too loose or the top rail in your wrap may be too loose. Retightening will reduce a lot of the pain.
– Alternatively, your shoulders may simply be tired! If you’re not ready to take a break from babywearing that day (or if your baby is telling you a break is not an option) there are several ways to reduce the strain. You can use a different carry: moving from front to back or hip. You can retie the carrier slightly differently: use a chest belt in a SSC or cross the straps if possible. In a mei tai you can finish tibetan, tie a chest belt before crossing the straps over the baby’s legs or cross the straps in front. In a wrap you can tie a chest belt, finish tibetan or try a double hammock carry. All of these things distribute more of the child’s weight across your chest and takes some of the strain off the shoulders.
– If you are using a short wrap, or your mei tai straps are too short to tie a chestbelt/cross/finish tibetan or your SSC doesn’t come with a chest belt or the ability to cross the straps: there’s an easy fix. You can thread a scarf or other thin piece of material through the shoulder straps of your carrier while wearing it and tie them together creating a “home made” chest belt. It’s not perfect, but sometimes that’s all it takes to get through a difficult afternoon.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the causes and easy fixes of lower back pain while babywearing. In the meantime, you may like to have a look at one of our older posts on babywearing with an injured shoulder.