Babywearing OUCH! Part 1: Neck and Shoulders

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. ┬áIn 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.

About Steph

Steph is a Mum of three with a passion for babywearing and some excellent skills with knots.
This entry was posted in Asian-style Carriers, Babywearing Info, Ring slings and pouches, Special Needs Babywearing, Special Topics, Wraps and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Babywearing OUCH! Part 1: Neck and Shoulders

  1. Kristin says:

    Thank you for posting such helpful advice. I have had issues before with aching shoulders/back and shoulder fatigue. I didn’t realize that it was carrying positioning that was causing this.

  2. Pingback: Babywearing OUCH! Part Two: Lower Back | Baby Carriers Downunder

  3. Cheyenne says:

    I have found that I have had a lot of hip pain lately. I only use SSCs.

  4. Steph says:

    Which ones do you use, Cheyenne? How big is your baby? Hip pain when using SSCs can come from a couple of sources, is it ligament pain or joint pain? Hopefully we can work it out for you!

  5. Pingback: Babywearing OUCH!: Troubleshooting Ring Slings | Baby Carriers Downunder

  6. Fiona says:

    Hello. I have a 5 month old and use a boba 2G carrier and have recently started getting (R) shoulder and neck pain that affects my ability to turn and look and causes an aching arm. We are ? rear facing car seat with a high anchor strap or my carrier? Carrying is optimal as I also have a 3yo.

  7. Pingback: Practical Tips for New Parents to Prevent Joint and Back Pain | natural health star

  8. moselle says:

    Any videos on how to wrap a young (2 month old) baby and minimize neck and shoulder pain?

  9. Noemi says:

    Hello
    I have a 11 month-old baby that I carry every day for several hours, it is just most practical and keeps her happiest that i intend carrying her as long as she needs it. I have been using the Ergo Carrier since brith and liked it quite ok. It felt that it wasn’t the most ideal carrier but it worked fine. Now as she is getting heavier I would like to possibly find a better carrier. I often feel that there is too much pressure on the shoulders as there hip and shoulders feel a bit disconnected and the connecting clasp between each shoulder strings often feels in the wrong spot (even too high or too low on the back) and sometimes even hurt. I find myself pushing out my belly and thus making a hollow cross (if you know what i mean) and that then my posture is not ideal. I would like to avoid developping a bad posture. I also find carrying the baby on the back with the Ergo Carrier very uncomfortable (the belt around my waist cuts into my tummy). Have you got a tipp which carrier would be ideal for me. Thank you so much and with much respectful greetings, Noemi (from Switzerland)

  10. krina says:

    I’m also getting terrible neck,shoulder pain and sometimes hip pain with the Ergo, the neck strap is awkward. My son is a big 4.5 month old.

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