Stretchy Wraps and Close Caboo

I am a big fan of stretchy wraps and their variants (like the Close Caboo). They come in all shapes and sizes, and are usually to be found cuddling a tiny baby close to someone’s chest. Many babies adore the security and safety of the wrap and fall quickly to sleep. For many parents, they are the first slings they own, for good reason.

Like all carriers, stretchy slings need to be used safely and the TICKS guidelines should always be followed. The most important consideration is to protect baby’s airway; a baby’s neck should never be folded in half and two fingers should fit between their chin and their chest.

The most frequently adopted position for carrying is upright and facing in, with legs slightly spread apart (the M position) and head well supported, as this will also protect growing hips and spine. The stretchy wrap will provide gentle mouldable support and can be adjusted to provide head support.

Babies often sleep in stretchy wraps/Close Caboos, when well positioned, as the closeness and snuggliness of the layers of fabric (always at least two layers of fabric with a stretchy!) mimic the close conditions of the womb during pregnancy, and being in contact with a parent’s skin and near a parent’s heartbeat and able to hear a parent’s voice is extremely reassuring for babies.

The most common style of carry is the pocket wrap cross carry (where baby’s legs are on either side of two cross passes). Once you have the hang of it, it is quick and easy, and the wrap can be left on all day and baby popped in and out.

carrying in the postnatal period

What is a Stretchy Wrap? (see further below for the Close Caboo)

A stretchy wrap is a length of fabric, usually made of soft and stretchy machine knitted cotton, that is usually between 4 and 5m long and about half a meter wide. Some have bamboo blended in with the cotton, which adds to the softness and comfort, and some have a small proportion of spandex, which adds to their elasticity and stretch.

They are suitable from birth, and in fact are often used for kangaroo care in hospitals with premature babies, and most people will find their stretchy wraps will be suitable for at least six months and often many more, especially for the days when active babies are sad and need all-over-cuddles or need some sleep. The gentle all-round pressure helps to reduce excessive stimuli and allow a baby to switch off and sleep.

Not all stretchy slings are the same (varying in stretchiness and ease of use) but by and large, they have the same purpose – to be a comfortable one-size-fits-most sling that a parent can pre tie before putting baby in. This means that the sling can stay on all day and baby can be tucked into it easily and quickly when needed, and taken out again very simply. There is no need to retie a stretchy over and over again during the day. The stretchy does not need to be removed for breastfeeding (see below for how to do this safely).

How do I put my stretchy on?

The key to success is in preparation; getting the tension of the passes right before baby goes in, and ensuring their position is correct. I always recommend that each pass is in place in baby’s kneepits to ensure baby is in the M shape and held chest to chest before the fabric is then spread across their body, one side at a time. These images show optimal positioning for a young baby in the wrap – each kneepit is supported in the M shape and baby is chest to chest in the gentle J shape.

Here is a quick subtitled video showing how a young baby can be positioned well.

Many people worry that it looks fiddly, complicated or that there is too much fabric. But really, it is simple – you just tie it on the same way each time and pop baby carefully into the cross passes on your chest. The videos here all show just how simple it can be. I work with “two-way” stretchy wraps (they stretch lengthways and widthways and are easy to maneouvre).

With premature or especially small babies who still have their feet held very close to their bodies, other techniques (still using the same tie method) may be more suitable, such as this one (video link). Please get in touch with your local sling educator (www.slingpages.co.uk) for extra help.

Please note that horizontal cradle style carries are no longer recommended due to airway risk. Some older instructions unfortunately still contain this position.

Here is another video of the pocket wrap cross carry from Noah’s Arc Sling Library

And here is an audio described version of the above

A step by step stretchy wrap photo tutorial guide; this is a two-way stretchy wrap. Two-way stretchy wraps stretch along their width and their length.

The key to success is in preparation; getting the tension right before baby goes in, and ensuring their position is right before spreading any fabric. Quick link to this tutorial here.

Video of the Pocket Wrap Cross Carry with a two way stretchy wrap  (Hana, Boba, JPMBB), showing how to avoid slumping. This is the same technique as the photo tutorial.

A more detailed, slower video with doll can be seen on this YouTube link

How to take a baby out of a stretchy wrap without untying  – this allows the wrap to stay on all day and baby can be popped in and out, rather than retying over and over again.

A short video for how to do the pre-flipped shoulder to keep fabric away from baby’s face. This is important to ensure there is no airway obstruction.


The pelvic tuck with stretchy wraps (and all carriers) is important, for baby’s airway support and also for comfort.

pelvic tuck

Passes in knee-pits and good M shape position

Top Tips!

  • Make sure the fabric is snug. Slack fabric leads to slumping later. Take time to make sure all the passes are tight and when stretched out, are no looser than the volume of your baby's body.
  • It will be much easier if you hold your baby in the secure M and J shape positions onto your chest before you put the carrier on.
  • Put both baby's legs into each cross pass and ensure he is sitting down with the passes in his kneepits, and then straighten him up and check his position. His ribcage should be snug against your chest and his chin up.
  • Then spread each pass one by one, kneepit to kneepit (this avoids sideways slump).
  • Ensure there is no fabric over your baby's face; fold the fabric out of the way, ensuring each pass still comes up to the neck.
  • Pull up the third pass to the back of baby's neck. Some people will fold the top edge over a rolled up muslin to provide a little extra neck support for active babies.
  • You should feel like you can lean forwards (with one hand on baby's head) and baby should not swing free.

Post-natal stretchy use

Dads use stretchies too

reduce crying

Common Queries about Stretchies

Breastfeeding in Stretchies

It’s possible to breastfeed in a stretchy, once feeding is well established and you are confident with your use of the sling. The video below shows you how you can use your stretchy as an aid for feeding without needing to unwrap each time. Please note that baby’s head is not covered by fabric and her neck is supported throughout. When baby has finished feeding, she must be returned to her safe upright position and not left to sleep in the horizontal position.

No breastfeeding is hands free, and it is usually a good idea to get some help and advice from people who are familiar with how to do it.

Can I face my baby outwards with the stretchy?

Forward facing out in a stretchy is not recommended for several reasons, even though some older instruction manuals show how to do it. Newer companies do not have this carry in their instructions. Why not?

  • No head support can be created in this position, and babies have heavy heads in proportion to their bodies. A sleepy head lolling forwards may compress the airway and impede breathing, just as the cradle carry may do.
  • A baby facing out has no support for the hips and legs (see this article for more)
  • The spine is artificially straightened in the forward facing out position when it should be curved.
  • Babies do not have the ability to “zone out” from all the conflicting sensory streams that comes from being held facing out. They need to be able to switch off and rest against a reassuring parent; this is hard to achieve facing out.

 

Read more here about facing out carriers; this can work well with older children.

How long will I be able to use my stretchy wrap?

That depends on the stretchy. Many people find that as babies get bigger and want to be able to see the world around them, they can find the all-over cuddle of the wrap a little restrictive for seeing. At this point, opening the shoulders out can help with visibility, but do keep a hand near any wobbly heads. Stretchies are great for older babies who are sad or uncomfortable and want a cuddle, or are ready for a sleep.

Most people will find the stretchy wrap works very well for the first six to nine months of age (a few will last into toddlerhood), and is just the start of a happy babywearing journey as their baby grows bigger. At this point, parents may begin to consider other carriers that have a wider vantage point. Some will allow more open shoulder strap angles, some will allow hip carrying, (such as ring slings or the Scootababy) and back carrying may not be far off!

 


Troubleshooting your Stretchy Wrap

  • Feeling too tight? Baby should be close enough to kiss, able to rest his head on your upper chest just under your chin. You should feel able to take a deep breath without feeling constricted (one hand's breadth between your baby's ribcage and your chest.) Any looser and baby may begin to slump. You can often lower your baby by putting your hands inside the carrier under her bum and bringing her down a little. Many stretchy wraps will have a little give in them and as you walk, baby is likely to settle down a little lower naturally.
  • Too loose or too low? Your stretchy is likely not tight enough; retie or see the video for how to tighten.
  • Baby slumping to one side? This can be avoided by putting baby's legs into each cross pass in turn, just into the knee pits, and ensuring he is positioned right before you then spread each pass.
  • Baby seems to be too curled up or folded inside the stretchy? This is likely due to the fabric not being snug enough, see the video for how to "unfurl" a slumping baby to keep their chest cavity well supported.
  • Baby's face buried in fabric? Ensure stretchy is snug (looseness leads to slumping over. You can fold or flip the shoulder passes (see photo below) for airflow and visibility, and use the other side as a hood if tolerated.
  • Baby wants to lean back and look at you? You can use a rolled up muslin folded into the top section to provide some neck support.

Unfurling a slumped baby

Stretchy too loose or too low and don’t want to re-wrap? Here is how to tighten it up to get baby back into a safe position.

Folded shoulders for airflow and a hood

A rolled muslin forming a neck support


More videos (for one way stretchy wraps like the Moby) or the pocket double hammock carry for babies who prefer to be legs in can be found here on the videos page.


Carrying twins in a stretchy wrap

Many parents of twins will use a good, supportive stretchy wrap to carry their small twins, with one twin in each cross pass. It can take a little practice, do come and get some help!

Babywearing twins

Putting twins in a stretchy wrap

There are many other ways to carry twins as they grow; get in touch with us to get some one to one help or visit our twin support group Peas in a Pod with one of our peer supporters for some simple advice and guidance.


Close Caboo Carrier

This is a semi-structured carrier made of one-way stretchy fabric that has the two cross passes sewn into position, and is tightened once baby is in by pulling any excess fabric through two rings at the side. There is less fabric than the typical stretchy, and it can seem simpler to put on at the beginning, which some people find useful. See the video for how to do it well and safely; the key is to prepare it properly, to fit your baby’s body right at the start. It is popular with those who find the tying and wrapping of a stretchy less to their liking but still wish for the cuddly wrap feel.

Common issues

  • Each pass needs to be untwisted and pre-tightened into a hammock shape before putting baby in; too-loose passes at the beginning will mean that baby sinks and slumps.
  • Ensure you have the cross piece on the back pulled down to the middle of your back, not resting by your neck.
  • Try to get the passes the right snugness for your baby’s body before you put them in.
  • Each cross pass must be tightened (or loosened) in strands across the full width of each pass to be effective and avoid slumping.
  • The third part must be tied on to ensure good head and neck support.

Some people can find it harder to fold the shoulders out for good airflow and visibility, due to the fixed hem (this is easier with a good two way stretchy wrap). The preflip in the photo tutorial is an excellent solution to this!

Much of the advice and top tips for the stretchy wrap will apply to the Caboo too, see above.

Close Caboo

Click on the image for the photo tutorial

front carry with a close caboo

Putting on a Close Carrier

Vija Kangaroo Care Tops

These special items of clothing are designed to hold a small baby close to parent’s chest inside some clever built-in pouches. They are very simple to use, and even come in twin form! More information here

Kangaroo Care shirt

carrying in the postnatal period

If you need some more support, your local sling educator can be found listed on the Sling Pages.


positive effects of carrying for parents

Positive Effects of Carrying for Parents and Carers

In-arms carrying and using slings doesn’t just bring good things to babies – they can make a real difference to parents and other caregivers too. Read more about the benefits of babywearing for adults here.

  • It encourages bonding and deepening of a loving relationship via the release of the hormone oxytocin; having baby close heightens the parent’s awareness and can increase their responsiveness to their baby’s needs. You can read more about the effects of oxytocin here.
  • It can increase parental confidence. The parent may be more “in tune” with their baby, as the carried child is part of the parent’s personal space, and the parent will be more aware of changes in a child’s mood, and thus be more able to respond to the child’s facial expressions, gestures and vocalised needs sooner. This will build mutual trust and contentment.
  • There is evidence to suggest that sling use can help with perinatal mood disorders such as postnatal depression, in part due to oxytocin release and in part due to increased bonding.
  • Fathers and other care-givers will be able to use a sling as well, increasing family connections and helping baby recognise more people by their voices and scent. Sling use can be very valuable in giving family members “cuddle time” and can be an useful tool for childminders as well.
  • Slings can provide “hands-free” parenting, which can be very useful, such as making a quick snack, interacting with an older child, doing the housework or other chores. A “fussy” baby may calm and settle in a sling, allowing the parent more choice about how to use their time.
  • Slings can provide opportunities for physical exercise and mental stimulation; a new skill to learn and a new social circle (social sling meets, for example!) Many people find that carrying their children on walks helps to lose weight and tone muscles. Dynamic (in arms carrying) is also a good workout!
  • Slings can provide greater access to the world – in a good sling the only limitations are where your feet can take you. Onto the beach, off the beaten path, up a tower, onto crowded public transport, around busy airports, the world is your oyster!
  • Slings can provide comfort and nurturing for older children as well.

Read more


Benefits of babywearing positive effects of carrying for baby isara grey carrier escalator

Positive Effects of Carrying for Baby

Carrying your baby is essential to their normal physical, psychological and neurological development. Human bodies are adapted to be a carrying species, it is part of our evolutionary history, however, our bodies are not as fit or as strong as our nomadic ancestors. It can be hard to carry in arms for prolonged periods of time. Nevertheless, babies need to be held, so a good, safe sling can be very useful in to help with increasing carrying frequency.

Remember, it is the relationship of closeness and loving touch that matters, as well as the position adopted in a good sling. The type of sling or the fabric that you use is just personal preference.

The benefits of babywearing- or the positive effects of carrying for baby are many;  here are a few.

The positive effects of babywearing for baby are many; here are a few.

  • It encourages bonding with the parent and helps to meets baby’s strong need for a sense of security and attachment, which will lead to greater confidence and independence later in life, as well as greater resilience and better long-term physical health.

 

  • It helps to regulate temperature, heart and respiratory rates, and emotional and physical growth. This can be especially useful for premature babies (the term “kangaroo care” and “fourth trimester” come from this concept) or children who are unwell.

 

  • It promotes and encourages the establishment of a successful breastfeeding relationship, in part due to the oxytocin release from the soft touch. Mothers who carry their children in soft slings are more likely to breastfeed beyond the early weeks.

 

 

  • Regular close skin contact is believed to help babies regulate their circadian rhythms better and distinguish the difference between night and day sleep.

 

  • Skin to Skin mattersIt reduces crying, both frequency and duration, (Hunziker and Barr 1986) and can improve sleep. It is safe for your baby to sleep in the sling, if the airway is well protected. Less crying means more time to be in “quiet absorption’, promoting learning and positive interactions with the world. The Esposito study discusses some of the mechanisms behind movement and how carrying is calming for babies.

 

  • Babies with colic can be hard to soothe, but the motion gained from being gently rocked in a sling while the parent/carer walks may help to settle them, and also the parent/carer may feel less helpless. There is no evidence to suggest that babywearing actually reduces colic itself.

 

  • Many parents of reflux babies spend a lot of time holding them upright and have tired arms and sore backs! A good sling that supports an upright position can thus reduce regurgitation and the discomfort of reflux. A spread squat position helps relax puborectalis muscle, to aid bowel elimination.

 

  • The motion experienced by a baby being held by the carer allows the vestibular balance apparatus to develop more rapidly and enhances neuromotor development and muscle strength. It improves neck and head control, but is not a true substitute for “tummy-time” (tummy-time head-lifting is against gravity from a prone position). This is more marked with dynamic in-arms carrying (where this is possible). A sling or carrier should never be used as a prolonged restraint (unless danger is present such as crossing the road). 

 

  • Children should always be encouraged to be active as much as possible (WHO 2019) and if they want to get down and it is safe and practical to do so, this is ideal. However, this doesn’t mean that a child who is otherwise very active needs to be automatically removed from the sling after a certain amount of time. Sleeping babies do not need to be disturbed, just gently adjusted to ensure safety.

 

  • It is believed to encourage sociability and language development; being able to hear the parent’s voice close up and watch their interactions with the world and other people from a higher vantage point is beneficial and also aids formation of family relationships. Studies into reduced talking in outward facing buggies highlights the importance of children being able to communicate easily with their carers.

 

  • It allows baby to retreat from an overwhelming world and snuggle into the parent’s body for respite when needed. This is harder to do with world-facing carries, so encouraging parental responsiveness with front-facing out positions is important. (The challenges of facing forwards is covered in more depth here)

 

  • Babies can learn very easily from a place of consistent safety, as their brains are not engaged with mere survival.

 

  • Good, correctly designed slings that encourage the physiological spread-squat "M shape" position (that mimics hip-perching) can help prevent hip problems later in life in those children at risk of hip dysplasia. There is currently no convincing evidence that narrower based carriers cause hip dysplasia in otherwise healthy hips.

 

  • Babies who are carried are less at risk of plagiocephaly (the flattening of the skull bones at the back of the head from prolonged periods lying on the back, more common since the “Back to Sleep” campaign). Slings are recommended as one solution (by the NHS, too!)

 

Further reading

"Why Babywearing Matters", Rosie Knowles, 2016

To have and to hold: Effects of physical contact on infants and their caregivers, Infant Behavior and Development, Volume 61, November 2020

 


If you would like to read in more depth on this subject, my book “Why Babywearing Matters” discusses much of the evidence base for the importance of carrying. It is normal behaviour for the human species to carry their infants close to their bodies; the book considers the anthropological, physiological and psychological reasons for this. Carrying really matters.


Welcome to Slings

Welcome to the wonderful world of slings! You may be new to carrying and a bit overwhelmed about the choices available. You may be just starting out with your carrier and not sure if it’s the best or most comfortable option and wonder what else there may be. Read on for more information about how to make babywearing work for you, your baby and your family.


New to slings?

Not sure where to start when it comes to using a sling? This is a common concern among parents who have become convinced of the benefits of carrying their baby but feel a bit all at sea about the huge variety of slings and the confusing jargon in the sling community.

  • There are many positive effects of using a sling with a very young baby; there is much evidence to suggest that skin to skin contact between mother and newborn (especially premature) babies can confer great advantages on both. The baby gains assistance with their physiological regulation of breathing and heart rate, temperature control is improved, and the contact helps to establish breastfeeding and promote more rapid growth compared to babies who are not held as close for as long. Furthermore, the baby will feel more secure in his developing relationship with his caregiver, due to the time spent in close contact.
  • The caregiver enjoys positive effects too; he/she may find themselves more able to bond with their baby, due to the increased release of oxytocin, and post-natal depression may be reduced. Being able to be “hands-free” can really make a difference to a family’s ability to get around with their new baby, keeping them active and engaging with normal life.
  • There are also many positive effects for society; such as a reduced burden of mental health and greater fitness.

Firstly, make sure you choose a sling that allows you to carry safely.

This is especially important with young babies who are still small and in need of “fourth trimester” nurturing. In summary, a baby’s airway should be supported with the head well aligned with the spine, thereby avoiding curled-up into ball positions that could impair breathing.

The safest place for a baby is upright, facing his parent, just as they are when carried in arms. His head should be resting against his parent’s upper chest, close enough to kiss, and supported snugly all around to avoid any slumping. Babies naturally adopt a squat position with a slightly curved lower back (you can see this in action when you lay your baby down to change his nappy).

Ergonomic slings will respect this and carry a baby in a seated position, with his knees above his bottom. By bringing knees up, babies’ hips are rotated and do not need to be spread very wide to be resting comfortably, as the image shows. Narrow-based carriers (sold by high-street shops and online) are not unsafe, but they are less ideal and may not be as comfortable for a baby to rest in as one that has a wider seat and encourages the knees to be raised.

Such hip-healthy positioning also helps to stabilise a baby’s back and protects the airway, as it reduces the amount of backward head lolling and uncomfortable straightening of a baby’s curved spine.

Click the link to read more about safe positioning in a sling and click here for information about healthy hip positioning.

This baby has just had her stretchy wrap removed; the sling has held her in the natural "in- arms" position

Safe, anatomically correct and comfortable positioning in arms and in a carrier


Secondly, choose a sling that is comfortable

Many parents find their high-street carriers can be less comfortable than they hoped, especially as their baby grows, and may stop using a sling at all.

Good slings have been designed to mimic in-arms comfortable carrying as much as possible, and many people find they are able to enjoy long walks with their children, up to pre-school age, with such an ergonomic carrier.

Broad weight distribution across the parent’s body matters; a child who is able to snuggle in and shift their weight closer to their parent’s centre of gravity will feel a lot lighter than one who is held in a stiff pocket, or held lower down and facing out (thus pulling away from the parent).

This applies in front, hip and back carries equally. Positioning makes a great deal of difference to your child’s and your experience of the sling, and is the most important factor in how comfortable it is.

You can make your high street carrier more comfortable in a variety of ways, for example by ensuring your baby is higher up on your chest, held snugly, and using a scarf to redistribute the weight. Your baby should be held snugly enough not to swing free when you lean forwards.

Features like the type of shoulder strap (wide or narrow, those that cross over on the back versus those that are more like rucksack straps), the shape and sturdiness of the waistband, and the type of fabric used can also make a considerable difference. It is always worth trying before you buy, and there are many sling libraries around the country that can help you do this. The Sling Pages has a full list for you to check your local resources.

"Scarf hack" for narrow based carriers


Thirdly, think about what kind of sling may suit you and your family best


Stretchy Wrap

If you have a newborn or a baby under six months, most people will start with a stretchy wrap. This is usually a long piece of jersey style elastic fabric that is between 4 and 5 metres long, and can be wrapped around your body to create a snug pocket your baby can nestle into. Depending on the quality of the fabric, the stretchy wrap is usually used up to six months. It is often worth investing a little more for higher quality.

One size (usually) fits all, and it can be tied on and left on all day for convenience, popping baby in and out with ease without needing to take the sling off each time, many parents don’t realise this. It is possible to use the stretchy wrap as a breastfeeding aid, with care and attention to baby’s airway.

You can read more about stretchy wraps here, including how to use it well.

Close Caboo Carrier

This is a slightly more structured and less stretchy variant of a stretchy wrap, with a little less flexibility. It is put on, adjusted carefully, and then baby is popped into each of the cross passes on the front. The fabric can be tightened through the rings to achieve a snug fit. The Close Carrier can be used as a breastfeeding aid if required, with care and attention to baby’s airway, and most people will find it supportive up to three to four months.

Ring Slings

This is a piece of woven fabric which has one end sewn securely into two strong rings. They are worn cuppring one shoulder with the child sitting in a pouch on the opposite side of the parent’s body, with the loose end of the fabric threaded through the rings in such a way that the tension holds the fabric firmly and the weight is distributed across the shoulder and back.
They have the advantage of being lightweight and (once the knack is gained), quick to put on and take off. They can be very useful for those who need to be able to carry their child on the hip, or need something that offers the child a good viewpoint in all directions.

Ring slings made of woven fabric and with no padded rails are usually the best option, and shoulder style (pleated or gathered) is a very personal choice. They can be used from birth to toddlerhood, and it can be easy to breastfeed in a ring sling, with the appropriate attention paid to airway and positioning.

Hip carriers

Pouches are another kind of hip carrier which can be very simple, but need to be fitted to size; they can be a risk for babies under 3months if used badly.

The Scootababy is a buckled hip carrier with a waistband which can be used from approximately four months and up into toddlerhood.

Carrying aids and hip seats can make hip carrying easier but are not hands-free.

You can read more about ring slings and hip carriers here and your local sling library will be able to help too.

Woven Wraps

Woven wraps are excellent choices if you want great comfort and longevity. They can be used from birth to toddlerhood and beyond. Woven wraps are long parallelogram shaped pieces of fabric, anything from 2 to 7m long.

They are woven in a particular way to provide gentle all-around pressure, supportive but still soft and mouldable. Most woven wraps are made of cotton, some may contain other fibres such as linen or hemp, for extra support, and come in many different colours and designs.

Many women around the world use local woven cloths for many purposes as well as for child-carrying. These cloths and woven wraps feel very different from the fabrics you might find in a haberdashery shop; these are more likely to fray and tear.

Many people begin with a 4.6m wrap (known as a size 6) and learn a carry known as the Front Wrap Cross Carry. They can take a little practice but they allow a great degree of adjustability and weight distribution around the body. There are numerous ways to tie the same wrap, so they can be used on the front, hip or back at the appropriate ages. Your local sling and carrier consultant or sling library will be able to get you started!

Upright breastfeeding is possible, if done safely with the appropriate attention paid to airway protection.

You can read more about woven wraps here.

Meh Dai/Bei Dai (formerly known as Mei Tai) Carriers and variants (half buckles, onbuhimos, etc)

These are Asian inspired carriers made of soft fabric, and are popular with those who appreciate the mouldability and support of woven wraps but need something with more structure, or speed of use.

They consist of a fabric panel that has two straps at the base which are tied or buckled securely around the waist, and two straps from the top of the panel which can be wrapped around the parent and baby to ensure a snug and comfortable fit. Baby sits in the pouch created by the panel, and the long straps allow a great degree of adjustability to all shapes and sizes. They can be worn on the front, hip and back at the appropriate ages, and upright breastfeeding is often possible, if done safely with the relevant attention paid to airway protection.

Your local sling library should have a few of these to try out.

You can read more about meh dais and their variants here.

Full Buckle Carriers

If you’re not sure about tying fabric, a good option is a full buckle carrier, which has a buckle on the waistband, and the shoulder straps buckle into the panel at the sides. Baby is seated facing the parent, inside a supportive pouch that supports them widely across the base from one knee to the other.

Waistband types vary, from the minimal to the heavily padded, and people’s preferences vary enormously. Some shoulder straps cross over on the back when baby is on the front, others are fixed into a rucksack style. The shape of adult and baby together is very individual, as is the health of the adult’s back, so what suits one pairing will not suit another. More padding does not automatically mean “better” or more comfortable, and those with back pain will not always need heavily structured slings. Good posture and general back health are important – read more about this here.

Buckle carriers can be very quick and simple to use. Often, a little practice to get the straps and positioning optimally adjusted is well worth it. Most good full buckles fit well from three months upwards; some can be adapted for younger babies by rolling the panel or by using inserts to keep baby snug, high up and visible. Many carriers will last into early toddlerhood, and some beyond that, depending on design.

Many mums find that breastfeeding in the buckle carrier is possible, if done safely with the relevant attention paid to airway protection. Most can be used on the back once babies have grown.

Some buckle carriers will allow baby to face the world. This can be great, when done safely and responsively. It is recommended only from four months upwards, not for sleeping in to protect the airway, and only for short periods of time. This is due to the reduced opportunity baby has to see and interact with his parent and learn about the world based on his parent’s response to it – this is known as social referencing. There is also reduced hip and leg support from the narrow base which can be an issue in some circumstances, as well as less comfortable for child and parent. Carriers that provide hip healthy positions facing out are generally preferred. (read more about facing out here.)

You can read more about buckle carriers here.


Fifthly, enjoy your sling and let the world see it!

Why not share your enjoyment with the parents you meet so they can discover slings too? We all carry our babies, some in arms, some in high street carriers, some in wraps, some in ring slings, some in meh dais, some in buckles. We all learn from each other; encouragement is always more productive than criticism!

 

Here is a lovely article from Ellie at Peekaboo Slings about the importance of no judgment; “We want to normalise babywearing and promote carrying your children close – put bluntly, we don’t care about the rest”.

Fourthly, be aware of the changing needs of your baby

The weather conditions may change how you carry your baby; being aware of the heat and the sun, or the cold and the rain may affect your choice of sling and your clothing.

As your baby grows, her own needs will change. She may want to sleep less and look around more. She may prefer hip carries, or even back carries, so she can see into the world into which she is being carried. As she gets heavier, the carrier you began with may begin to feel less supportive for you and for her; for many this marks a move towards “toddler-worthy” carriers. This may be different ways of tying your woven wrap, learning how to adjust the straps on your meh dai to ensure knee to knee support, or moving up to a bigger, toddler-sized (or even preschooler!) carrier when you need to. Your “baby” sized carrier will often last a lot longer than you think.

You will not spoil your baby or make him clingy by carrying him as he grows. Big kids need cuddles too – loving contact is vital to our emotional health and security, from cradle to grave. You can read more about carrying older children here, and your local sling library or consultant should be able to help you make the most of your carrier.


Carrying while Pregnant

Is carrying while pregnant safe? Many mothers wonder if they can safely continue to carry their children while pregnant with a new baby. For many, having established a close bond and finding the carrier they use of great value for comfort and practicality, they are keen to carry on carrying, both to meet their child’s needs for contact and for their own enjoyment.pregnant connecta

“I knew that I needed to make the most of carrying my girl before her sibling was born as things were about to change for all of us. She needed me too, so I carried her as long as I could during my pregnancy. Her weight balanced out my bump and actually made my back pain more manageable by being corrective.” Jody

Other mothers may not have a choice, especially if there will be a small age gap between siblings and the older child is not yet walking reliably, or if he becomes worried by the impending changes to the family structure and needs extra closeness and reassurance. Sometimes it is just necessary.

“My little girl is very strong willed so if she wanted up for a carry while I was pregnant, it was simply the path of least resistance . There were a few times when she was poorly, others when she was tired or I simply had things to do. It was all about practicality and doing whatever made my day a bit easier.” Lindsay

It is worth reflecting on the fact that women around the world have, for many generations past, carried older children on their bodies while pregnant, so it is certainly possible to do. In societies where babywearing is a part of everyday life, child-carrying is traditionally shared around large families, with older siblings carrying younger ones, or close family members taking their turn, to lighten and distribute the load around the community. Women in more Westernised societies may feel much more isolated and unsupported by their local communities, so they may need to be able to carry their own children for longer periods and more often than in traditional societies.

Babywearing in pregnancy is indeed possible for the majority of women, if they are in good health and there is no medical reason to avoid lifting loads. Those who are already well used to carrying their toddler frequently will find it simple to continue; their body strength and tolerance has grown in pace with their child’s weight and little may need to change until the bump is large.

“We needed to walk the dog and I wanted to be able to go to the dog trials and carrying was much more convenient than a buggy. My body was used to carrying, so we just carried on!” Lucy

Those who are new to carrying (and looking for a solution for an uncertain or distressed older child) may find it more of a challenge, just as if they had a new job which required sudden frequent heavy lifting. In these circumstances, it would be wise to get some support from your local sling professionals to find out which slings will work best for you and be comfortable. They can help you learn how to get your bigger child up into a carrier safely without straining yourself, and be able to work with you to find solutions. Once equipped with an appropriate sling, it is wise to stick with carrying for short periods and gradually increase the duration of use. This all helps to build up endurance until pregnancy is well advanced.

big kid with bump

First Trimester

The maternal body undergoes several changes during pregnancy which can have an impact on the type of carrying women find comfortable.
In the first trimester, symptoms such as Photo by Alicia Petresc on Unsplashnausea or lower abdominal discomfort can have an effect on how much a woman feels able to carry; pressure around the stomach can feel intolerable. Fatigue and low back pain can take its toll as well, and changes in blood volume can cause lightheadedness or dizziness. Such symptoms may make carrying children uncomfortable or even inadvisable and medical advice should be sought. It is important for women to listen to what their bodies need and be responsive; changing which carrier they are using, changing position frequently, or even not carrying at all for a while. Medical advice should never be ignored.

All being well, however, most carriers can be used in early pregnancy; there is no need to fear that the growing baby will be squashed by waistbands, for example. On the whole, the carrier that has been used up until a mother discovered she was expecting again can continue to be used while baby’s body is still small and mostly contained within the pelvic brim. Front carries are still fine to use and hip and back carries are also appropriate.

This may be a good time to begin learning some new carries or investigating other slings in preparation for an enlarging bump. At this early stage, the toddler’s weight is still being distributed around the mother’s body and it is not resting on a bump, so there is time for both parties to begin initiating change whilst still being able to enjoy front carries.

If there is any discomfort from abdominal pressure, altering the type of carry can be very useful; front carries that don’t use a waistband could be considered, as could hip carries or back carries that avoid any central abdominal pressure. Meh Dais (and their variants) and woven wraps will offer high back carries in this circumstance, and can be tied in ways that have no knots around the middle at all (for example, “tying tibetan or candy cane”). A carrier with a waistband could be moved low down to settle around the hips (as long as the carried child remains snug and close enough to kiss with an uncompromised airway), or moved higher up nearer the ribs, whichever feels most comfortable.

Second Trimester

As a growing bump begins to have an impact on a mother’s shape, moving to hip or back carries may feel much more comfortable. Front carrying may become awkward as the child will be very high and it is best to avoid a heavy toddler’s weight sitting on top of a bump.

front carryHip carrying (with adjustable buckle carriers, meh dais, ring slings, other one shouldered carriers, or wraps) can become a fantastically useful option for many for quick up and downs; many parents carry toddlers loose in arms on their hips in daily life (usually with frequent changes of position and for short durations at a time). A sling may add a little bit of support if used well but it does not mimic in-arms carrying as most the weight of the child is now borne by a single shoulder rather than the spine and lower body. It is very common for people to find themselves mis-aligned with hip carries, leaning towards the side the child is sitting on, finding their shoulders and upper body rotated, and experiencing a lot of pulling strain on the ring-shoulder. Trying to fit a big toddler on the hip in a very lateral position (to avoid sitting on a bump) may also mean that shoulders are out of alignment with each other, as one shoulder has to be held behind the central plane to fit around the child’s body, putting a rotatory torsion on the spine.

Those who love ring slings and other hip carriers have often already learned how to minimise these alignment issues with familiarity and experience, and can always benefit from being reminded!

It is worth being aware that prolonged hip carrying in pregnancy may also have an impact on the pelvis and its stability, especially as ligaments begin to soften and loosen in preparation for birth. If you begin to experience any discomfort with carrying (if not related to inexperience) then it is sensible to check your posture to make sure your spine is not twisting, try frequent switching of sides, reduce the duration of carrying, and see your local specialist for support. Some women suffer from Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction and may find hip carrying inadvisable.

13627241_10100708599629694_3550257905670810259_nBack carrying is a good solution for many; there is more space on the back for a bigger child, enabling close contact without putting any pressure on the enlarging bump. The maternal body may be able to balance the front and back loads better with a more equal pull on the weightbearing axes from the two directions, however, as the load grows, the strain will increase and some women will choose to stop carrying sooner than others, or reduce the duration of sling use.  The carrier on the back should be used in such a way that the child is held snugly and as close as possible to the mother’s centre of gravity, and needs to fit well to help with weight distribution. The core muscles of the abdomen and lower back/buttocks as well as the joints of the spine and hips and knees are having to work harder than usual; any pain or soreness during carrying, or stiffness and aching afterwards should encourage a woman to assess whether it is appropriate to continue. Asking a sling and carrier consultant for help may be very useful; to assess if the type of carry is the best one, or if it is snug enough, or if an alternative carrier would be of benefit. 

Logistically, waistbands may begin to become difficult to fit above the bump and may no longer be as supportive due to the changing angle of the band and how it functions when distributing weight around the pelvis. It is up to the individual to decide when the waistband is no longer the best option. At this stage, carriers with floppy soft waistbands that will mould around the mother’s shape, or no waistband at all, may be more useful. Meh Dais with flexible waists that can be carefully tied, or podaegis or onbuhimos or woven wraps tied in such a way that the carry has  no waist at all may be very helpful.twin bumpThese wraparound carriers focus mainly on binding a child’s body as close to his mother’s as possible so that they share a space. These can be tied gently above bump, or spread around the chest and shoulders, taking the weight much more on the mother’s upper body.

candy cane chest belt to avoid tying round the middle

Learning how to do this well and comfortably may need practice and building-up of strength due to the new position and a local sling professional can help.

3rd triThird Trimester

In this last part of pregnancy, the maternal body is now carrying a significant extra load every day; movement may feel more cumbersome and the mother may wish not to carry any more than she has to. Furthermore, the levels of relaxin hormone increase significantly; ligaments and tendons soften and become more elastic. This helps the pelvic outlet to widen ready for delivery and also loosens and softens the intercostal muscles and ligaments between the ribs to allow expansion of the chest diameter for the growing baby. These changes will all affect load-bearing and every pregnant mother will vary in what she feels able to do; each successive pregnancy will also affect carrying ability.

kathy

In the third trimester, high, supportive back carries with soft slings tend to work best; woven wraps in multiple layer carries or supportive single layers are useful, as are meh dais and their variants, as well as the waistband less onbuhimos, all of which keep toddler weight high, snug and central, minimising any uneven pressure on the pelvis and spine, and also balancing out the weight of the bump. Carrying may be only for short periods, and hip carries are best kept to a minimum.

3rd tri

Once baby has been born, the maternal body will take some time to recover from the huge changes of preparing for labour; and then the process of labour and birth themselves. It may be some time before a mother feels well and strong enough to begin carrying her toddler again; the pelvic floor and stretched abdominal muscles need time to re-tone and strengthen. For this reason, many experienced professionals will advise post-partum women to consider carrying just their newborn for the first few weeks and months, and then begin to carry their toddler again in front carries before they consider re-starting back carrying. Methods for getting a heavy toddler on the back will need to be considered; swinging and scooting methods may place inappropriate strain on still-recovering ligaments and muscles. This will of course depend on individual circumstances; back carrying may be preferable to pushing heavy buggies. Tandem carries may be necessary from an early stage, and it would be wise to visit your local sling professional to get some support with carrying two children in this way if you are not experienced.



carrying in the postnatal period

Carrying in the Postnatal Period

lindsay 10days

Is carrying in the postnatal period (in the early weeks after a baby is born) safe?

Babies want to be held close from the very moment they enter the outside world; they crave contact and many will spend their first few days and weeks sleeping in their parents’ arms and feeding frequently, enjoying this close interaction.

Pregnancy can be tiring and uncomfortable for many, due to our changing bodies and habits. We are no longer an upright species but a sedentary one, to our great anatomical and physiological disadvantages; chronic pain is a significant problem for increasing numbers of people in our society. Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction can be debilitating for pregnant women, and there is a growing belief that many women’s bodies are frequently not in the optimal condition to carry a child and thus take much longer to recover from pregnancy than our forebears. Ligament softening and laxity (from the hormonal changes preparing a body to deliver a fetus) can take some time to resolve fully especially if there has been pre-existing back pain and poor posture, and breastfeeding may prolong the effects of relaxin.

Labour, while exhilarating and empowering for some, can be exhausting for others, especially if prolonged. The recent historical practice of lying down for delivery is in marked contrast to how most women around the world across history and cultures have given birth (upright, squatting or kneeling). The natural birth movement and the emergence of doulas to support women with their delivery choices mirrors a growing desire to get back to our ancient human roots, which may also encourage speedier recovery from labour and birth.

Women are becoming prouder of their bodies and what they have achieved; bringing forth life. As a friend of mine once said, how can you ask a butterfly to return to being a caterpilllar? Women's bodies are designed to carry and nurture children before birth and after. Here is a photo of one mum carrying her newborn in the early days after birth, proudly showing her post-partum body. martha RS

The rate of caesarean sections (both planned and as emergency) is high in Western society, currently between 20-25% of births in the UK (with some regional variation). A caesarean section is major abdominal surgery and some recovery time from this is to be expected, and varies enormously from woman to woman, depending on the reasons for the operation. Women are advised to avoid heavy lifting, “carry nothing heavier than your baby”, and not to drive for at least six weeks after birth. Scars can be uncomfortable and slow to heal for some, and some may experience abdominal pain for a while afterwards. Babies may come early and be very frail for several weeks.

Therefore it is not surprising that many mothers worry that after labour and birth, they may not be strong or well enough to carry their newborns in their arms for prolonged periods. Many will have toddlers at home needing the reassurance of their mother’s loving arms to help them cope with the newcomer’s arrival. Paternity or parental leave is often short; in a few weeks mothers are often required to manage at home alone.

Carrying your child in the postnatal period is important.

The early weeks are vital for bonding and attachment, providing continuity and security, promoting breastfeeding and helping to reduce depression. So yes, we should carry our babies somehow after birth. This doesn’t need a sling; people can hold their babies while sitting down and while reclining just as much as while they stand and walk around; it is the closeness and the contact and the skin to skin that promotes bonding and oxytocin release that matters. It helps to shape baby's brain, and also has a positive effect on yours!harriet

Carrying a newborn baby can be very healing if birth has been traumatic or there has been previous bereavement.

“"I had a tiny baby (4lb5oz) and experienced a traumatic birth, I suffered with PTSD. At times this meant I was very anxious and wanted to keep my baby close to me to be sure she was safe. I started with a stretchy wrap when P was just 3weeks old. I truly believe babywearing strengthened my attachment with her and helped me to cope every day." Anon

There are some garments of clothing that can be worn in hospital or in the early weeks after birth; mimicking the practice of putting a tiny newborn down the front of the shirt. Some of these garments (known as skin to skin tops or kangaroo care clothing) are designed for keeping baby skin to skin to the parent while reclining, and are not hands-free.

carrying in the postnatal period
Others are a little more structured (at least two layers of stretchy fabric) and provide enough support for baby that a parent can be hands-free and walk around, similar to a stretchy wrap. These can be most useful in hospital environments for their coolness and simplicity. (in the UK the Vija Design range is the most commonly used).

Please note that if your baby is premature or very small (under 6lb) it is wise to seek the advice of a specialist baby-carrying consultant; many "newborn" carriers, including some stretchy wraps will not provide enough support without guidance on how to use for these babies with special needs.

Breast and bottle-feeding can cause back, neck and shoulder pains, as can prolonged periods of one-sided carrying (which can also affect the pelvic floor and the symphysis pubis.) Being alert to the body’s signals of discomfort and acting on them to frequently redistribute the strain is of great benefit in building up tolerance and strength.

As women recover their strength and are able to do more each day, their mobile carrying abilities will grow too.  As womens’ bodies settle back down after pregnancy, with appropriate pelvic floor toning and correction of posture and alignment, carrying will become easier. Furthermore, as baby gets bigger and heavier, the parent’s muscles will adapt to the gradually increasing weight and become more toned day by day, the more often they carry.

“Much of my pre-pregnancy life was spent in the mountains, and carrying my babies after their birth helped me get back in touch with my "home". It enabled me to very gradually and gently regain some fitness away from busy streets, and felt like less strain on the scar area than pushing a double buggy uphill.” Carissa

twin stretchies

Keeping a baby’s weight high, snug and central will encourage loading across the large weight-bearing axes of the body, thereby preventing strain on muscles, ligaments and the pelvic floor, and avoiding abdominal pressure. Lifting a baby to the chest should be done carefully, with knees bent and upright posture maintained, and pelvic floor and core muscles engaged and active. Most types of carriers will be possible to use after a vaginal birth, and it will be a very individual and personal choice which. On the whole, most babies enjoy the gentle all-around pressure of carriers that can mould softly around them and be reminiscent of the uterine walls they have just left; and carriers that distribute weight widely across the parent’s upper body will be more comfortable. 

If you have a sling that makes your back ache, please visit your local sling library or consultant for a fit check (often a few tweaks make all the difference) or to try an alternative. Cheaper carriers from supermarkets/Ebay often work much less well than better designed carriers and therefore last much longer. "My baby is too heavy for a sling" is usually an issue with the sling not fitting/not being well designed.

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Carrying after a Caesarean

post CSNICUThis is also very possible, and it could be argued, perhaps more important post section than after a normal non-instrumental vaginal delivery, depending on how the individual feels after the surgery. Achieving skin to skin as soon as possible is ideal,  for promoting oxytocin release and bonding.  This is vitally important after a section, especially if it was emergency and traumatic, thereby interrupting many of the biofeedback mechanisms around bonding. It is also important if the section was planned and baby was thus delivered before the biological hormone cascades of labour and birth were able to begin. There can be a strong tendency for women who did not have the birth experience they wished for to feel robbed and deprived of an important part of their baby’s arrival. The subsequent feelings of sadness and grief, or disappointment or that they have let themselves or their baby down somehow, however untrue, can significantly hamper the forming of attachment bonds and play a part in later postnatal depression or other mood disorders.

Mothers who experience this are very likely to find that skin to skin contact and frequent close touch and carrying extremely useful; the process of initiating and mantaining contact and loving touch often acts as a catalyst for the oxytocin release; this positive feedback mechanism will encourage loving feelings to develop despite the less than “perfect” start and get bonding well under way.

As soon as surgery is safely over and a well baby can be given to its mother, skin to skin can begin; resting on the mother’s chest under a blanket, inside a shirt or with kangaroo care clothing. Women are entitled to this skin to skin and should insist upon it; baby does not need to be washed or the cord to be cut before contact is achieved; the sooner the better.

Once mother is ready to move around and carry her child in her arms she can; she is advised to carry nothing heavier than her baby. Some women will choose to use slings immediately, if they feel ready (especially if they are already familiar with slings and feel confident with their use), others will wish to wait, especially if they feel unwell or are in pain. If the mother is confined to hospital and alone for parts of the day and wishes to move around, she may find the sling will help her to feel safer than carrying her baby loose in arms while she is still a little unsteady.

“Having a sling for carrying was very useful, as much easier and less painful than carrying in arms (less stress on abdominal muscles).  It was great for bonding, especially since we were having trouble with breastfeeding.” Rebecca

The key factor is to avoid any carrier from irritating the wound or putting pressure on the abdomen. Double layer kangaroo-care shirts or other soft carriers such as stretchy or woven wraps, high-carrying waistband-less meh dais or buckle-tais and ring slings in frontal tummy to tummy carries, may be options to consider. Baby’s legs should ideally be tucked into the M shape, and this will also help to avoid feet kicking against a still tender wound. As the scar and any abdominal pain heals, carriers with more structured waistbands will become more accessible.xmas connecta

General tips about post-partum carrying (including fitness classes)

Post CS connectasarah hatBaby carrying in the post-partum period is possible, if done in a mindful, responsive way, and can actually help promote recovery.  Holding a baby close in the anatomically correct position so that their weight is well distributed through the large weightbearing axes will tone muscles and improve posture more than pushing a pram with a strong forwards lean. Being able to go for gradually longer and longer walks with your baby in a soft and comfortable sling will rebuild strength and release endorphins which are natural feel-good hormones.
Participating in postnatal recovery programmes can be useful; however combining carrying and exercise/dance is usually best done with great caution as not every provider will have adequate knowledge about postnatal recovery (pelvic floor and diastasis recti issues) or about the rate and speed of each woman’s individual recovery from birth. Many may have no specialist knowledge about safe sling use or how to protect a baby from sudden shaking movements, as well as how to avoid overloading still-recovering tissues with certain stretching or weight-bearing activities with the extra load of a child in a sling. Walking with a baby in the sling, ensuring good alignment and posture, gradually increasing the speed and duration, is usually enough exercise for most women in the early months. Please do not rush; pelvic floor dysfunction is very very common (14 million women in the UK are known to have an issue, and many many more never seek help and remain undiagnosed). Leaking is NOT normal or to be expected. If you are unsure if your pelvic floor is recovering normally, please see your GP.

Read more about babywearing fitness classes here.

Using a sling allows families to settle back into the normal rhythms of daily life.

Often, older siblings are uncertain about the new addition to the family and uneasy about their place in it; they may need extra reassurance with the birth of a new baby. They may wish to return to their mother’s arms and be close to her body, for reassurance and reinforcing of the attachment bond.walk after birth

Toddler carrying after birth

“During the intense post-birth bonding period with D I began to use a couple of wraps that had been favourites of R (the new big brother). It almost felt like a betrayal! But one afternoon, R asked if he could come up for a front carry in his favourite wrap, something he hadn't done for ages, and we twirled round the lounge together laughing while my husband cuddled the new baby. I think that was a really healing moment for us and let my eldest know he still had an important place in my arms too.’  Emma

However, toddler carrying after birth is much more of a challenge, especially if the pelvic floor is weak and there is diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles from the stretching during pregnancy). Please seek help if your floor or core are weak.

tandem Many specialists would suggest it is wise to wait until any pelvic floor/diastasis recti issues have resolved and the mother is functionally strong before beginning to carry toddlers again; this will of course vary widely from woman to woman. Generally those mothers who are well used to carrying toddlers will find it easier to resume carrying than those beginning for the first time, and front carrying may be the most suitable position (rather than hip or back carries, to avoid straining still-healing tissue). Sitting down cuddles may be wise for a while!

Involving the whole family!

The post-partum period may be a great opportunity for other caregivers in the family to share the carrying and begin the bonding process.  Whole families thrive when children are kept close; it spreads the load of child care around. Partners can carry their newborns, or their older children to provide reassurance.

“Carrying our eldest son (3) enabled my wife to give her attention to our new baby. It gave us much needed daddy and son bonding, at a time when he was feeling insecure with the arrival of the new baby.” Mal

Remember, it is the closeness and contact that matters; in arms carrying is as valuable as using a sling, and the shifting of your growing baby around your body as your muscles tire will help to rebuild your strength and endurance. Sharing the carrying with other members of your family will help to strengthen relationships and reduce the strain on your own body too.

family


Carry Me Daddy!

“Dear Daddy


When you hold me I feel happy. You are strong and I am safe in your arms. The more time I spend with you the more I trust you, and the more I can let you look after me when Mummy isn’t here.

I love to hear your breathing and the sound of your voice rolling around in your chest. I can hear your heart beating and it steadies me. I can hear you best when I am close to you. I love it when you look at me with your proud eyes, it makes me feel good. I feel loved.

I love being carried on your chest where we can chat till I am ready to snuggle contentedly to sleep.
I love my rides on your shoulders and on your back. The world is so interesting from up high!

I love the games we play and the way you make me laugh till I have no more breath in my body. I love it when you hold me on your lap to read to me. I love it when you hold my hand.

Carry me Daddy, while you still can!”

In-arms carrying and all other means of close and regular contact (such as noisy physical play) is of enormous value in building bonds between fathers and their children. 1 in 4 children lack strong attachment relationships, and slowly our society is recognising the need to address this. In arms carrying can be hard work, and a good comfortable baby or child carrier can make this much easier. Babywearing dads are becoming more and more visible, which is great news for families and for our society.

There can be a common myth that is only mothers who bond with their children in depth, and that the changes in her brain with parenthood are unique to her. This isn’t the case, fathers’ brains are also deeply affected by their caring role and they form strong, lifelong connections to their children if they are closely involved with their young baby as they grow. Bonding can be encouraged in many ways, not just though feeding the baby (which is another common myth). Babywearing is one tool for developing a deep relationship.

Here are some fathers talking about babywearing, what it means to them and why they do it!

Mohamed

Babywearing! How are you faring? Are they still staring? As a father of twins who liked getting things done, there was only so far my two hands could take me when I had two babies to hold. I was hesitant at the science behind stretchy slings when I was first told you could carry more than 1 baby in them, the picture shows how quickly that evaporated into pure elation and joy. "I've got my hands back!" I remember thinking. That was the start to an awesome journey where there was nowhere I couldn't go with the twins. Beyond the physical strength which babywearing gave, I feel like it helped me show my girls that no matter what, I was able to lift them and raise them above whatever it was they were facing and give them a different view while still supporting myself. Why are you fearing if all you are doing is baby wearing?


Read more


Perinatal mood disorders

Perinatal Mood Disorders and Carrying

The prevalence of Perinatal Mood Disorders (pre and post-natal depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder) is increasing in Western society as it is increasingly fractured and isolated, with a decreased sense of local community and shared care. The birth of a baby is often an overwhelming time for both parents, especially when also faced with the expectations and demands of a fast-paced culture that often judges people by their apparent productivity and appearance. As a GP, I see many families struggling with these conditions that are often diagnosed, and keeping babies close may play a part in surviving these illness, mainly due to the closeness with your child, rather than the choice of sling.

Postnatal depression is on the rise – affecting at least 10-15% of new mothers (with many more sufferers (and fathers) never being recognised to have the condition). Anxiety and PTSD are also worryingly common. Parents are encouraged to put their babies down as much as possible and regain their old lives; babies are expected to learn independence as quickly as possible and stop relying on their parents for their every need.

This approach to caring for children is very new in human history and runs counter to attachment theory, which suggests that the human infant thrives on responsive parenting and close contact.

Read about Ruth’s experience of antenatal depression here; for the rest of this post we will focus mainly on postnatal depression (PND).

What is Postnatal Depression?

Postnatal Depression is a depressive illness which affects between 10 to 15% of new mothers. Many more are never diagnosed with this condition, which can become a very significant issue in the functioning of a family. It is often poorly managed by health care providers, and can be misunderstood by the community and dismissed as “just the baby blues” or “tiredness.” It is common for sufferers to feel very alone and unable to explain just how they feel and why it is so difficult to endure. Prenatal depression is also experienced by many new parents, and postnatal anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are also commonly experienced pre and postnatally.

Sad woman

Why is it so common?

Western society is increasingly fractured and isolated, with a decreased sense of local community and shared care. Depression is common in our culture, for reasons not clearly understood, but partly due to the way we live. The birth of a baby is often an overwhelming time for both parents, especially when also faced with the expectations and demands of a fast-paced culture that often judges people by their apparent productivity and appearance.

Before parenthood, people’s identities are often based on their roles and responsibilities in life; work, friendship circles, hobbies and interests. After a baby arrives, this often changes dramatically, sometimes in unexpected ways, and for many, the huge change in the pace of life and the loss of control can be very difficult to deal with. “The burden of conscious responsibility with no let up and the unusual and unexpected degree of fatigue can make a mother feel desperate about whether she can survive and how she will manage.” (Kennell & Klaus) This is the role that community used to play; supporting and carrying each other’s burdens as part of a committed and close-knit group of people who lived together, an experience that few parents enjoy in the West today.

What does it feel like?

Common words used to describe PND are guilt and inadequacy.

“The worst part was the guilt I felt about crying every day when I had a beautiful new daughter.”

“It isn’t about not loving your baby but about feeling overwhelmed with responsibility and unable to cope.”

“My head can feel empty and I have no thoughts.”

“It is just so hard to face another day of feeling totally unlike myself, missing my old life, unable to enjoy this new one.”

Fathers suffer from depression after birth too.

“The first few weeks were the hardest and I would just sit and cry. I felt like this shouldn’t happen to me, I should just be taking it on the chin and getting on with it. But the truth is, I felt alone and without the support of my wife, I would’ve been a lot worse.”

Many parents with PND feel a sense of dissociation and detachment from the child they want to love so much. 

“It isn’t about not loving your baby but about feeling overwhelmed with responsibility and unable to cope.”

Caring for people with PND is hard.

“PND is the scariest and loneliest place on the planet and puts a terrible strain on the whole family.”

“My husband felt helpless because he knew something was wrong but I wouldn’t admit it and shut him out. All he could do was try to look after me and be there when I finally admitted it. It caused a lot of irrational arguments.”

perinatal mood disorders
Perinatal mood disorders

What can I do?

If you are suffering, or think you may be suffering from perinatal mood disorders, first be reassured that you are not alone and the vast majority of people with it survive with few long-term ill effects.

Here are some suggestions that may help.

Get help where you are.

Tell your nearest and dearest how you really feel.

“I found the hardest bit was to admit that I wasn’t coping, even when it looked like I was, I was fine on the outside but was a complete mess on the inside.”

Many women testify how supportive their partners and families and close friends are once they understand – ask them to help with the basic jobs of daily life; cooking, cleaning etc. Help them to see how useful you will find it when they listen to you with acceptance and without judgement, and how their understanding when things go wrong is vital. Guilt is a large part of PND and many kind people may inadvertently add to this burden.

Get help from your local health care providers.

This may be your GP, your midwife, your health visitor, your local SureStart centre. The quality of care from these resources can vary enormously. It can help to write down on paper how you feel in advance and what you think you need (validation, formal counselling, CBT or medication, for example) and take it with you to appointments. Continuity of care is great, if available; a HCP who listens and cares can make a greater difference than one who fires questions and is keen to tick boxes and prescribe medication at once.

“Guilt and lack of confidence are so typical of PND and my HCP was essentially validating those feelings even though objectively I was doing a great job!”

Be armed with information (e.g. if you wish to carry breastfeeding, sertraline is safe in these circumstances). The Breastfeeding Network is a valuable resource. If you are not satisfied with the care you are receiving, find different care.

Get help from your local non-NHS resources.

These can be very useful, such as HomeStart (a befriending service) and local PND groups. A postnatal doula may help, and there are many national helplines and resources (see below)

Get help from online social resources.

There are many forums and parenting groups full of people who know how you feel, and will listen and share. Being among people with the same values and parenting beliefs may be a source of great encouragement. Equally, avoid too much time online.

Get out!

It can be very hard to actually get out of the house when struggling with dark thoughts or hopelessness, but it is worth the effort involved. Even a walk down the road is a good start, and encourages release of endorphins (the natural feel-good hormone). Arrange to meet some friends, and ask them to encourage you to come. Try to make a plan for most days, and be kind to yourself if you decide on a pyjama day instead. Try to arrange some time to spend alone with your other half, to remember who you still are, as well as parents.

Get nourishment.

Good quality food, drink, exercise and sleep are vital to your own health and sanity, as are times to enjoy the things you used to. Dress well in bright mood-enhancing colours. You are still a person and your own needs should be met as much as your child’s. Some people make use of night-time carers to allow some much-needed uninterrupted sleep.

Get past your birth story.

For many women, recovering from birth takes a while, especially if it was not the hoped-for experience. The NHS Afterthoughts service and counselling can help if you feel a sense of grief.

Get a sling or carrier.

Keeping your baby physically close is well known to stimulate the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that is closely related to bonding and attachment. It is released during labour and breastfeeding, and, crucially, during skin-to-skin contact and social interaction. It has an important role in encouraging nurturing feelings and a sense of belonging, and reduces anxiety and depression by affecting cortisol release.

Babies who are in close contact with their parents have been shown to have a corresponding higher level of oxytocin than their non-carried counterparts; which subsequently helps to reduce baby’s own stress levels and improve their sense of secure attachment; their needs are met at the point of request. Calmer babies are easier to care for; win/win.

The soft touch of close skin to skin contact reduces the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, via C afferet fibres affecting receptors in the hypothalamic-pituitary-axis. Stroking has been shown to reduce pain responses.

Modern life is fast-paced and for many, constant carrying of ever-growing children can be difficult to achieve, or uncomfortable after the travails of birth. This is where the practice of using a sling, (sometimes known as babywearing) can be of great value. A soft sling that allows you to keep your child close to you, (thereby stimulating the release of oxytocin and reducing cortisol), and helps your baby to relax and sleep in secure comfort may make a huge difference to your life and your feelings and help you to feel that you can cope. Anxiety may settle a little as you know your little one is safe next to you. 

“The sling brought us back to an almost pregnant-like state, with him a part of me, listening to one another’s cues. He was calmer for being close to me, which made me feel more confident, which brightened my mood. Leaving the house felt less daunting so I got more exercise and again increased my confidence. I talked to him more, whether he was awake or not, and he became my son rather than a tiny scary stranger.”

“My favourite thing in the whole world, that never fails to calm me or lift my mood has been cuddles with my baby, particularly skin-to-skin. For me, there is no antidepressant like it.”

“When she was in her pram I felt completely removed from her and her world. I was just an accessory, she was a job to do and I was irrelevant. Using a sling finally helped me bond properly with her and made a massive difference to the PND.”

Many slings are extremely comfortable to use, and can be very practical indeed. It is possible to learn how to feed discreetly in a sling, allowing you more flexibility about being out of the house for the day with your baby.

Slings give you and your baby the freedom to be on the move together, rather than feeling stuck; to go out into the world for a walk or go shopping without struggling with the complexities of a pram. Movement and exercise are vital to wellbeing; and using a sling safely can help your body recover from birth and become stronger.

Slings can be beautiful and colour therapy can help to lift the mood. Learning a new skill can be therapeutic, and many parents find a great sense of community among other sling users both locally and online. This can help with feelings of isolation, especially if you have chosen to parent differently from your family or your peers.

help my child cries in the sling

 Get a sense of perspective.

What matters in these early months is you and your baby. It does not matter what other people think; the house does not need to be pristine, you do not need to impress people with how well you are taking to parenthood. I have heard many women describe how they “are falling apart on the inside”.

“I thought because I wasn’t suicidal or not looking after things that it couldn’t be PND so held back for a long time from accepting it and getting help.”

“I found the hardest bit was to admit that I wasn’t coping, even when it looked like I was, I looked fine on the outside but was a complete mess on the inside.”

Get confident again.

Reflect on what you have achieved so far and use that to build self-belief. Learn to trust yourself, be an instinctive parent – and you will fin that as you encourage others, you will find yourself lifted too. Some people find going back to work can be very helpful; the chance to use skills again and have adult interactions once more can be a great boost to self-confidence.


carrying children matters, carrying matters, rosie knowles,

Why Carrying Children Matters

Why does carrying matter? There are so many reasons why holding and carrying children matters, on multiple levels (biological, developmental, psychological, sociological, long term health) that it would take a whole book to discuss, even in brief!

Carrying behaviour is normal for the human species; babies are very vulnerable at birth. They are born with great needs, there are many months and even years of maturation needed before human infants are able to control their bodies fully and become able to care for themselves independently. Babies and young children are dependent on their primary caregivers for a very long time. This prolonged childhood is thought to be one of the reasons why the human species has been so successful; allowing the human brain to develop complex skills such as language, creativity and the ability to alter the environment around them.

Mothers’ and babies’ bodies are adapted to each other; during pregnancy, during birth, and during the early years. They “fit together” and create a very special shared space, honed over the millennia of evolutionary processes. They work perfectly in harmony, when given the support and freedom to do so.

carrying matters

This is where the “4th Trimester” concept comes from; holding and carrying babies recreates in some part the intra-uterine environment of warmth and safety and containment and allows them to develop new skills from this platform of security. Our human instincts are strong (a baby’s cry tugs at our heartstrings and we feel the urge to gather them up, hold them close and rock gently while murmuring in a soothing way) and we are discovering much of the neurochemical science behind this normal, natural behaviour. Oxytocin release builds loving connection via multiple pathways. Soft touch has helpful effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-axis and cortisol production, reducing pain and modulating the stress response. Gentle and responsive parenting builds and reinforces the neural circuitry as it develops in the child, creating a healthy positive inner thought state that affects long term mental health. Furthermore, building this resilience helps to combat the adversity that so many children experience. Early “skin to skin” contact is enormously useful for beginning this process of connection.

Children need loving nurture in the early neonatal period and long beyond this for normal, healthy development. Carrying babies close to an adult’s body, as human beings have evolved to do, is vital for normal physiological and psychological development. Research into the importance of skin to skin contact, soft touch and responsive parenting, as well as a better understanding of disability reinforces this.

I talk about the positive effects of holding, carrying and babywearing, rather than the “benefits” of these practices. The word “benefit” implies an extra thing, an advantage, something that can be added onto what is baseline… but the holding and carrying (however it is done, in arms or a sling) that builds connection is part of normal human development. It is the baseline! It isn’t something that some parents can choose to do to give their child an extra advantage in life. It is what all babies need, like nourishment, warmth, safety. The absence of these loving connections that involve gentle physical touch is harmful to children.

Carrying multiples, carrying twins, carrying toddler and baby, babywearing
carry me daddy

We can agree that carrying children matters. However it is not just babies and children who need the close contact; parents and caregivers also benefit hugely from holding their offspring and interacting with them closely. The same biochemical pathways that help babies and young children to thrive are present in adults too, and families flourish when the needs of all its members are met. Adults need loving contact too; and a child who calms when comforted in arms or a sling provides positive reinforcement that parenting is manageable after all. Many parents find that babywearing can help with low mood and improve their confidence, as well as giving them freedom to get on with their lives in the societal constraints in which they live.

Carrying in arms and in a sling really does make a significant difference to the overall wellbeing and physical and mental health of all members of society, both now and for the future. A society where children’s needs and rights are taken seriously, where knowledge of how to build securely attached children and adults is put into practice, and where the most vulnerable among us are treated with love and kindness, is one in which we would all wish to live. This is why carrying matters; it can change the world around us.

To find out more, please click the links below.


carrying children matters, carrying matters, rosie knowles,

Carrying Matters - all about babywearing safety, a guide to slings, and why connection matters

Welcome to the Carrying Matters website, run by the award-winning Dr Rosie Knowles.

 It is important to support caregivers as they build a happy brain for their children. Soft touch and loving connections play a vital role in this. There are so many benefits of babywearing, which can be explored in this site. Babywearing safety matters; our guide to slings and our commitment to sling education will help parents and those who support them feel confident with sling use at every age.

Quick Link to FAQsLooking for some training?

Listen to Rosie talking about the 4th Trimester period in a new family’s life.

Coronavirus COVID-19 support

My team are offering free ten minute Zoom consults to anyone needing simple help with their carrier or uncertain of what they need. We’re helping a lot of new parents who would otherwise have visited a sling library and need to know what would work for them, and providing troubleshooting support and guidance for families wanting to get help with their current sling, with follow up email support.

Open to anyone who needs it, anywhere… book via this link.

The positive effects of soft touch, close loving contact, and meaningful connections are enormous, and investment early on in family life is well worth it. Holding and carrying is connection; it matters to children, their carers, and society. The close contact helps to build a happy brain, and creates the relationships that buffer against adversity and promote resilience and long term positive health outcomes. It also helps mothers to survive the “4th Trimester” period and the months and years ahead. Here you can find everything you need to know about how to carry your baby safely and well, why babywearing is so normal and useful, how to choose a baby carrier, and help for all sorts of circumstances.

This page is run by Rosie Knowles, the author of the book Why Babywearing Matters (you can get a signed copy here). She is a GP in Sheffield, a carrying advocate and babywearing expert. She is passionate about supporting parents and carers to be close to their children; holding, soft touch and carrying matters in so many ways.

carrying children matters, carrying matters, rosie knowles,

The simple act of connecting with a small person through the medium of loving touch has powerful and long-lasting effects on both child and carer. Babies need to be held close to encourage normal physiological and psychological development, especially in the early months.  Every child needs love and connection to grow normally: the absence of responsive and supportive relationships that involve loving physical touch will hamper a child’s potential. Mothers heal best with their babies close to them.

Children thrive when they are carried, resilience builds and families flourish when the needs of all its members are met. Carrying is connection; carrying matters!

carry me daddy

Keeping babies safe in any kind of baby sling or baby carrier is of paramount importance. The first most vital issue is to ensure that baby’s airway is open and unobstructed, with chin off the chest and the ribcage well supported. Babies’ temperatures should be considered too; they are surprisingly warm, and overheating can cause problems. Read more about sling safety here.


beco gemini

Secure attachment to other people is vital to human health and wellness; we thrive on relationship, on belonging. Such healthy attachments are the bedrock to future positive mental health and enjoyable relationships. However, 40% of children lack secure attachments, and are significantly disadvantaged. Encouraging carers to spend more time in close physical contact with their children is one way to improve children’s resilience and support everyone’s mental health. Soft touch is an essential part of building a happy brain and positive bonds that last a lifetime.

Read more about the importance of building secure attachments here, and how encouraging close physical contact can help build the resilience that children need to thrive despite adversity.


when the time comes to stop carrying

About Rosie

“I am a mum of 2, a family doctor in the UK (a GP), and a passionate advocate of building secure attachment relationships between children and their carers, due to the long lasting effects this has on future health. I believe that carrying children plays a large part in building such bonds, be it in arms or in a sling. With Carrying Matters, I focus on providing accessible information and education about this for parents and the professionals who support them. Sling and carrier use is not a new concept at all; but our Westernised society has lost the communal sharing of knowledge. We are no longer surrounded by a community of people who can help us get to grips with parenthood and share the load, so we need support in newer and more structured ways. This is what I do; empower people to keep their children close in a safe and positive way.”

Her book, “Why Babywearing Matters”, was published by Pinter and Martin in May 2016. It was translated into Polish “Dlaczego noszenie ma znaczenie?” by Nicminiewisi and Lenny Lamb in May 2018.  She has written for a wide range of publications, including Juno Magazine, and has a regular freelance blogging role for Boba (links can be found in the Blog section).

She founded the Sling Pages, an independent website listing all the known sling professional resources in the UK and Eire.

She is a practising GP in the UK with a particular interest in holistic medicine as well as children and women’s health and medical ethics. She began her career in hospital medicine but switched to general practice because of its flexibility with family life and the opportunities it presents to be more closely involved with communities, from cradle to grave. She has two children of her own, who have both been carried happily, and a husband who works alongside her at their local Sheffield premises. Rosie founded the Sheffield Sling Surgery and Library in 2013 and has supported thousands of parents across the South Yorkshire region, helped by a volunteer team of fantastic, committed parents who have found carrying their own children to be life-changing. They all want to help their fellow parents to discover this for themselves!

Rosie has won several awards for her work in this field; the Babywearing International Vijay Owens Babywearing Advocacy Award for Lifetime Achievement in Promoting Babyweaaring in 2016 and the 2019 Association for Infant Mental Health AIMH (UK) award in recognition of those who have highlighted and promoted infant mental health in their discipline.


Rosie developed the “Fourth Trimester” sling meet model with her colleague Lindsay Snow, focusing on the needs of parents with bumps to four months. Families often struggle to deal with the biological needs of their new baby within the confined structures and expectations of modern society, which can be damaging to the building of secure attachments.

The needs of baby and caregivers are both important, as is the mental health and happiness of the whole family. Human beings were not designed to live in small isolated units but in supportive social groupings.

Holding babies close (in arms or in a soft sling) can be a very useful tool for families struggling with mental health disorders, pre, peri or postnatally. The close contact and the soft touch has biochemical hormonal effects that can help to reduce anxiety, improve feelings of wellbeing and connection, as well as lifting the mood. Read more about this here.

You can find your local sling library or sling meet by searching the Sling Pages resource, get in touch with them!

Using a sling (carrier) helps parents to keep their child as close as their biology needs, while also being able to function as adults in a demanding and inflexible world.


Rosie trains carrying advocates and sling/carrier peer supporters through the Born to Carry initiative, running courses in Sheffield and nearby. She has trained health care professionals, sling librarians, fitness course leaders and interested parents.

She lectures at conferences and gatherings around the UK and Europe about a range of topics, all related to early years parenting and how slings and carriers can make a huge difference to babies, their carers and to society.

peer supporter training professionals
rosie knowles learning education carrying matters lectures

“I’d highly recommend any enthusiast to attend this course. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and look forward to being able to use this new knowledge to help more parents discover the benefits of babywearing, as I have.”

“Rosie is a wonderful teacher, very clear and good at explaining. I felt she was well educated in her field and able to answer any question thrown at her. Also very friendly which made me feel comfortable and relaxed in a learning environment and confident to ask questions.”

Get in touch with her here.