What positions can I use for carrying my baby?

Important Note. Suggestions are made here for positions that may be appropriate for your baby at a particular age. This guidance is of a general nature only. If you wish to try a particular carry, make sure that your babycarrier is appropriate and use specific instructions that are designed for your babycarrier.

Newborns

The most appropriate positions for newborn babies are:

Lying down or semi-reclining on your front. Slings, pouches, rebozos, some torso carriers and wraparound carriers are suitable. In a sling, pouch or rebozo there are two variations - the Cradle Carry where the baby's head is nearest the carrying shoulder, and the Nursing Hold where the baby's head is opposite the carrying shoulder. In the Cradle Hold you can move your baby's head further up towards the carrying shoulder (towards the rings, in a sling) into a semi-reclining position.

In the Newborn Snuggle Hold your baby is upright and facing you, either with knees up (froggy-style) or feet tucked under. Wraparounds, slings, pouches, rebozos, some torso carriers and some Asian-style soft carriers can accommodate this position while keeping the baby's back and head well supported and minimising slouching. For an Asian-style carrier to be suitable, it must specifically designed to prevent the baby from sliding sideways, or worse, falling out of the carrier.

The Shoulder Carry or Burp Position. This is a very natural position to use with a young baby, one that we frequently assume without a babycarrier. It is comforting for your baby by putting gentle pressure on her tummy and it prevents reflux. It can be achieved with an unpadded sling (with the rings down on your hip) or a rebozo but these options do not provide a secure "hands free" carry. To be secure, a second sling (or rebozo) on the opposite shoulder can be added (again with rings on your hip). Both slings should be secured very tightly.

The Reclining Back Carry. In traditional cultures it is common to wear a baby reclining on the wearer's back. This is born of necessity for women who must resume manual work while their babies are still quite young (often from 6 weeks onwards). The baby is carried on the back while the mother works and when the time comes to nurse, the baby is swung around to the front. Wearing young babies on the back is not common in our culture, but if you wish to try this position, a traditional African-style carrier or rebozo is likely to be the most suitable. See our How To page for links to instructions for this carry with a rebozo.

Young babies with head control

Once past the newborn stage, when your baby can hold his head up well, he will probably enjoy being more upright.

The Snuggle Hold (or tummy to tummy) is a very popular position, giving great security and comfort as well as more visibility. The name "tummy to tummy" is misleading as your baby should ride with her legs around your waist, so that her centre of gravity is above your own. Young babies often prefer to have their feet inside the carrier and tucked underneath them. Others are more comfortable with their legs straddling your waist. In a sling, pouch, rebozo, torso carrier or wraparound, it is easy to move from the Snuggle Hold to a reclining position for nursing or sleeping. Structured soft carriers can also be used for the Snuggle Hold; make sure that the seat area is wide enough to support your baby's bottom with her legs straddled around you, so that you are not kicking her legs back as you walk.

The Buddha Carry. Once your baby becomes more inquisitive and adventurous, he will probably enjoy facing out to see the world, at least some of the time. This is sometimes called the Kangaroo Carry, although you may also see that term referring to a carry with the baby facing in. To avoid confusion I will use the term Buddha Carry. You can achieve a Buddha Carry with a sling, pouch, rebozo, wraparound carrier (using a wrap cross carry) or an Asian-style soft carrier with extra straps (or long straps) as for the newborn upright position, above.

Your baby's legs can either be crossed, Buddha-style; knees up, froggy-style; or feet tucked under. Your baby's centre of gravity is a little further out from your body in this position, so some people find it more tiring than the Snuggle Hold. Unless your baby is very gregarious, this position is not a great choice for outings to new places or where there will be a lot of people. The stimulation is unavoidable for your baby and can be overwhelming, with no place to turn his face away.

The Sideways Kangaroo Carry is a variation on the Buddha Carry with the baby sitting sideways and legs outstretched. The baby's head and bottom are at the higher end (in a sling this is the side with the rings) and baby's legs may stick out the other side if they are long. This position is possible with a sling, pouch, rebozo or wraparound carrier. The sidewyas kangaroo has the advantage that the baby has a great vantage point, but can also retreat to safety and comfort by snuggling into your chest.

Upright Back Carry. Carrying your baby upright on your back is possible at this age with a podegi or Asian-style (unstructured) soft carrier. It is also possible with a wraparound, but can be difficult to get your baby into position without assistance.

The sitting baby

Some new positions are added to the repertoire once your baby can sit well. Positions listed above for young babies are also still appropriate.

The Hip Carry is one of the most popular and "natural" carries and can be achieved with a sling, pouch, rebozo, wraparound carrier (one-shoulder carries only), hip carrier, and some soft carriers (the manufacturer will state if this is an option). The term Hip Carry refers to any carry where the baby straddles you, that is not directly on your front or back; it is most often slightly to the front of your hip, or slightly to the back. This is a comfortable position for your baby as she can see out as well as being able to see your face. She can also snuggle into you and retreat when overstimulated. Babies can sleep in this position with the head resting on your shoulder, but naturally this will reduce the mobility of your arm. Some mothers find it convenient to nurse in the Hip Carry.

Upright Back Carries are quite secure with a podegi, torso carrier, soft carrier or wraparound carrier, once you have learned how to get your baby into this position. An upright back carry is also possible with single shouldered babycarriers: slings, pouches, rebozos and some hip carriers (check the manufacturers specifications), but these are less secure. Babies vary considerably in how much they wriggle, arch and move around; you will need to make a judgement about whether your baby is secure on your back in a single shouldered carrier, especially if you want to carry him there for long periods. If you have your baby on your hip and need him out of the way for a minute, you can temporarily move him to your back (or to a back-Hip carry). If your baby is wriggly and you would like to carry him on your back using your sling, one possible option to increase security would be to add a second sling on your other shoulder; this should also add to your comfort.

The Sumo Hold is also possible for this age group. In this position you baby is upright on your front (or back) and facing away from you. There is some debate about whether this is a healthy position for babies' hip and back development. It can be achieved with a wraparound carrier and some structured soft carriers (check the manufacturer's specifications). It can also be achieved by wearing two slings or rebozos used on opposite shoulders, to form a cross on which your baby sits. A sumo hold on the hip is possible with some hip carriers.

Front and hip carries are the most poppable (easy to get your baby into and out of), which is essential during the up-down phase. This will most likely start some time between 6 and 12 months. Older babies often prefer the Hip Carry to the Snuggle Hold as they can see more. Through their straddling action, both carries transfer some weight downwards onto your waist/hips.

Toddlers

Most positions are developmentally appropriate for carrying a toddler; the key factor is that you are both comfortable.

Front and hip carries are still recommended for poppabiity. Most toddlers will prefer the Hip Carry to the Snuggle Hold for visibility. As your child gets older and bigger, you will also find that the Snuggle Hold becomes less convenient.

The Sumo Hold and Buddha Carry are both possible but likely to be less comfortable for you now that your baby weighs more. In both positions you baby's centre of gravity is away from your body.

The Back Carry is the position of choice for many parents of toddlers. Your baby will most likely have outgrown a structured soft carrier by this age, but unstructured ones can still be used, as well as all of the babycarriers mentioned above for back carries. Frame back-packs are also a popular option.


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