What is the pelvic tuck or scoop?

I am often asked by carers who want to carry their children safely and comfortably “what is a pelvic tuck and how do I do it?”

Babies are born with gently curved spines, and usually prefer to rest in this tucked posture when they are relaxed. Arching the spine and “starfishing” can (for some) be an attempt to communicate discomfort or distress. Sleeping and relaxed babies can usually be found with their knees drawn up into a comfortable “M shape”; this is normal behaviour, and it is how most babies rest on their parents, perching on the broad secure base of the carer’s forearm. From this broad base, babies’ chests can be properly supported against the parent’s body, thereby avoiding slumping over and restricting airways.

This “squat” positioning also helps to encourage healthy hip development. Studies have shown that the rates of hip dysplasia are lower in communities that carry children on the hip or back frequently, as the posture adopted for this promotes optimum growth of the hip joint. (see here for more information on hip dysplasia and slings).

The pelvic tuck/scoop technique of encouraging a child to sit in a position that creates a “J shape” (from the side) or an “M shape” (from the front) in a carrier is therefore very helpful. Such positioning is more comfortable, more respectful of anatomy, and also helps preserve open airways. The aim is to raise the knees up, allowing the bottom to settle downwards into the classic “M shape”.

pelvic tuck and m shape

When demonstrating, I suggest that carers imagine they are scooping two curls of ice-cream towards themselves with both hands; and then repeat this action as they hold their child’s thighs gently between thumb and fingers. Another way of thinking about it is to imagine they are holding two glasses of water in front of themselves, and then pour the water out away from them.

This rotates baby’s femoral head in the socket. The photos and videos below show this in action.

Creating this broader base seat for a younger child will also help to make a narrow base carrier more comfy and feel more stable and supportive. A simple scarf can be used to support the legs in this “M shape” once the pelvis has been tilted and knees raised above bottom.

sling faq pelvic tuck professionals training

The pelvic tuck is less important for older babies and toddlers; as children get older, the ability to actively move around in the sling becomes more important while they are awake. The key thing is to ensure they are comfortable and their legs are not dragging down or tiring them; the carrier no longer needs to be knee to knee for older children.