Babywearing OUCH! Part Two: Lower Back

Yesterday we looked at pain while baby wearing in the neck and shoulders. Today we’ll talk about some of the possible fixes for pain in the lower back.

Before we go further, we should emphasise the fact that everybody’s ability to bear weight is different. Babywearing in a great carrier distributes the weight well, but always consider your own needs while baby wearing. If your body is telling you enough is enough: listen. Especially after pregnancy when your body is still readjusting, there’s nothing wrong with putting the sling down for awhile and enjoying your baby on the couch. There’s also nothing wrong with exploring the world together with the pram if that’s what your body is telling you.

However, pain in the lower back is often a fixable issue. In my experience it can come from two or three particular problems.

The first problem is unevenness in the distribution of weight. If you’ve been using a lot of hip/one sided carries, this may cause you some pain if you’ve been at it too long. Either change sides or change to something with a better distribution: or snuggle sitting down if you can. It’s OK to take a break.

Lower back pain can also be caused by a front carry that is too low on the wearer’s body. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll remember that 9 months’ pregnant belly everyone told you was so beautiful. It was! But having all that weight out the front of your body and down low commonly causes back pain. It’s the same in baby wearing. Try retieing your carrier higher or a back carry. Remember the baby should be held to you firmly, not loosely or slumped down. A nice smooth curve to the child’s back is what you’re aiming for.

If you have a back carry that’s causing you lower back pain, it may be that there is too much space between you and your child. Sometimes the top straps or rail can feel quite tight, but your little houdini has squirmed into a position where his/her bottom is sticking out creating a pocket between you and the baby/toddler. Try retying with this in mind and you may find the carry gets more comfortable.

Soft Structured Carriers (SSCs) like the Ergo, Manduca or anything with buckles can be quite specific when it comes to pain. Common causes of pain include the waistband not being situated quite correctly, sometimes it needs to be right on the hips. Other causes can include a child outgrowing the carrier and “leaning” out of it, or the shoulder straps not being tight enough. A chest belt (home made, as we discussed yesterday or carrier-specific) can often help. If your SSC is giving you discomfort then it’s worthwhile taking the time to adjust it so it feels great. A local sling group, Baby Carriers Downunder here or on Facebook or any one of a number of supportive baby wearing sites are a good place to start. Specific brands often have great Facebook pages willing to offer tweaks and tips too.

In the last couple of days I’ve given you a few simple tweaks that may help you be more comfortable while baby wearing, but never forget that your body knows best and to listen to it!

Those of you with troublesome backs may find an older post of ours on babywearing with a back injury interesting- the comments especially have some personal experiences in them that may be helpful. Alternatively, some babywearers experience pain after a caesarean and these posts here and here may help.

If you’re experiencing pain in your carrier and need help troubleshooting, feel free to leave a comment below, we may be able to help! If you’re a babywearer who has dealt with pain and found a solution, we’d love to hear what worked for you.

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.

12 Responses to Babywearing OUCH! Part Two: Lower Back

  1. Andrea Pazin says:

    What a great article, thanks! I’ve got an ergo and definitely find that it’s a bit finicky in terms of adjusting to avoid pain (I’ve had lower back issues for ages). I love my carrier, but some days it kills my back and other days I feel like I could wear it for hours. I’m keen to come along to one of the meets, and hopefully get some tips there, and this article was a great starting point. I find that the shoulder straps don’t sit flush on my back, and wonder if this may be part of the problem. I think it’s the inner edge that digs in, but the outer edge that sits out/ puckered… Maybe I just need to loosen the chest strap a bit. Any ideas or tips though would be much appreciated, as I’d love to learn the trick it making it comfortable to wear everytime. Thanks very much.

    • Steph says:

      Hi Andrea,

      If your shoulder straps aren’t sitting quite flush and your pain is intermittent (i.e. sometimes there, sometimes not), then I suspect it’s the fit that’s not quite right. Loosening the chest belt sounds like a great start, it’s also possible that the shoulder straps are too tight/loose and the chest belt may be sitting too high/low. Whereabouts are you located? We can probably help you find a sling group to get that Ergo comfortable!

      Cheers,

      Steph.

      • krina says:

        Hi, I have the Sam’s issue with my Ergo, not quite sure how tight each strap is supposed to be, my baby is only 4.5 months and his head is just below my chin with the waist strap quite low.. Can’t see how it will fit when he’s 2! Any tips appreciated. X

  2. Geni busick says:

    I love these articles but do you have any tips on arm/shoulder pain with ring slings?

    • Steph says:

      Hi Geni,

      Are you getting shoulder pain in the shoulder with the rings? Is it a tingling pain running down your arm? How soon does it start after you put the sling on? Have you had any previous shoulder injuries?

      You could try switching shoulders: I have one shoulder I won’t wear with a ring sling because it’s simply too damaged to do so, it’ll start to hurt within seconds 🙂
      How big is your baby and which brand of ring sling are you using? These things can alter how you manage the pain.

      One important tip is to make sure the ring sling is well spread across your back and shoulder- as wide as possible. Also try and make sure your baby is in firmly, not loosely. He/she should be at your navel height if sitting in an upright carry. Cradle, kangaroo or cross-legged carries will all place more strain on your shoulder/body than an upright tummy to tummy or hip carry.

      A loose top rail will also create a lot of pain/pressure in your shoulder as the baby will “lean” out of the carry, so make sure that baby is pressed in against you.

      I hope that helps a little!

      Cheers,

      Steph.

  3. Steph says:

    We had a few requests for ring sling information, so we have a post up about it 🙂 http://baby-carriers-downunder.com/2012/04/27/babywearing-ouch-troubleshooting-ring-slings/

  4. Claire says:

    I was actually complaining about this last weekend. My DD is 2 and I don’t get to carry her often as she is tooooo independent and likes to walk 🙂 Well this past weekend we went to an event (that is really crowded) and we had to walk almost 2 miles there and back so I wore her in my Boba on my back. I didn’t feel any pain at the time, but the next day my hips were hurting! I felt like what I imagined it to be 40 weeks pregnant (I delivered early). I mean, it was awful. I had to lay on heating pad for 3 days. I’m not sure what to do, if anything, to correct it. Like I said, I don’t get many opportunities nowadays. Any advice would be appreciated! And thanks to one of my awesome friends for showing me this post 🙂

  5. Emma Lipson says:

    I love these 2 posts – part 1 and part 2. Such useful practical and impartial advice for new mums. I am an osteopath in the UK and have just linked to both your posts in my new blog for parents on how to reduce joint and back pain. Take a look and feel free to comment – I would love to hear your thoughts (0: http://wp.me/p52QUI-f3

  6. Rebecca says:

    Ooh I am so thankful for this post! I bought a ergo (knockoff) with Christmas money to carry my toddler in back carry. First time I wore it for 10+ minutes I was fine until the moment I took him off, my lower back spazzed! I was in pain for a couple days until I got in to see my chiropractor. Took a break for a few weeks thinking I just needed to strengthen my core but the same thing happened! Loving it until the moment I took him off. Maybe I’m wearing it wrong! I will go hunt down some instructional videos, but any suggestions would be welcome. I was wearing the strap at my natural waist; should it be at my hips? I’m nervous it might not be able to extend that far. My waist and hips are still sitting at US size 16 since baby. :/

  7. Gitu says:

    I’ve been a fan of baby wearing esp with a close caboo and baby Bjorn. But – My manduca leaves me in so much lower back pain when I take my 6 mo. I try and wear it low – on my hips and my thigh start to ‘pull’ upwards. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? I’ve had two C births. Many thanks.

  8. M says:

    Hi,
    I don’t remember having back pain all the way from top to my hips especially my mid back pre-delivery. But I step artel experiencing back aches as have to rock or walk my baby to sleep my husband bought me the ergo. Though my baby likes sleeping in it. It’s giving me more pain esp in my mid back and around my hips. It’s like my muscles are giving up kind of pain.
    I live in jersey city, nj and was wondering if anyone could meet up or suggest me if I am doing anything wrong with the carrier.
    Thanks.

  9. Emi says:

    Hello! Great post!
    I have a 1 year old son weighing about 9kg. I carry him in front on Manduca for almost a year. But it seems like when I walk with my son for more than 30 minutes, my pants get wet. Probably because the waist band is suffocating my stomach which causes me to be runny. Any advise! Sorry it’s an embarrassing topic but had to ask since it’s really bugging me.

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