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Back carrying – the Holy Grail

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Back carrying is the Holy Grail of babywearing. Ok, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but being able to carry your baby on your back can be very liberating for parents. It can, however, be frustratingly difficult to achieve at first. But if you really want it, and you put the time in, you can succeed on your quest for babywearing mecca! Sorry, that’s enough religious metaphors for one post isn’t it.

My journey to back carrying is probably not a typical one, but I reckon it allowed me to succeed relatively quickly and with confidence. I carried my first-born in a stretchy wrap, and then moved on to a bubba moe sling, followed by a Scootababy – a buckle carrier designed specifically for hip carries. So, more by default than design, I didn’t have a carrier to back carry him in. When he was about 15 months old he was starting to get a bit heavy for the one-shouldered Scootababy for extended wear, so a very generous friend gifted me an Ergo she no longer needed – and the rest as they say is history!

Being 15 months old, I never front carried him in the Ergo, I went straight to back carry. As a toddler, I could tell him to hang on while I got him up there, which I am certain made my transition to back carrying much easier than if I had tried when he was 6 months old. So when my daughter came along and I bought my first woven wrap when she was 4 months old, I didn’t hesitate to learn back carrying as soon as I’d mastered the front carry. I look back at the photos I took of those first times back carrying with the woven wrap and have a bit of a giggle – in hindsight I wasn’t really all that good! But, it only took me a few weeks to get into the swing of things and I’ve never looked back.

Back carrying woven wrap

My first attempt at a Double Hammock (left), I’ve got a bit better since then! (right)

There are a few important points to consider before you start back carrying your baby:

Do you feel confident or are you terrified of dropping your baby? If you’re terrified, I’d suggest doing some more research, watching some more You Tube tutorial clips, and speaking to some other babywearers to allay your fears, as being overly worried is probably not the best state of mind to learn something new.

Don’t back carry in a stretchy wrap (Hug a Bub, Moby, Boba wrap etc). You may see photos or hear of people back carrying in a stretchy wrap, but please don’t! It isn’t safe, baby has the potential to flip backwards due to the stretch of the material. The exception to this is if your stretchy is a hybrid. The new Ergo wrap and the Je Porte Mon BeBe (JPMBB) wrap are examples of a hybrid stretchy. If you’re unsure if your stretchy wrap can be used for back carries, please ask an experienced babywearer or the vendor.

You should wait until your baby is sitting independently before you back carry in a soft structured carrier (Ergo, Manduca, Tula etc). This is because soft structured carriers generally don’t carry baby high enough on your back to be safe for a younger baby and baby needs to be able to hold its own weight and not slump in the carrier.

As you can carry baby much higher on your back in a woven wrap, back carrying can be done in a woven wrap with a newborn. BUT this requires a degree of skill and experience that a new wrapper probably does not possess. Being back carried as a newborn is generally the domain of second, third, fourth children, after the wrapper has had plenty of wrapping practice with their first baby, and it is not something I recommend trying if you’ve never wrapped before.

With a woven wrap, front carrying should be mastered first, before moving to back carries. This doesn’t mean you have to front carry for six months before you can try a back carry, but it is important that you can successfully and comfortably front carry in a woven wrap and feel confident in your ability before you attempt a back carry. For me, because my daughter was already four months old when I got my first woven, this was only a matter of a weeks. For others, it might take several months to build up the confidence with wrapping technique. Everyone will be different, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to try back carrying if you’re not comfortable yet, nor should you feel you have to wait if you think you and your baby are ready.

back carrying woven wrap

Back carrying in a woven wrap means baby can see over your shoulder and stay involved in whatever you’re doing

Mei tais are similar to woven wraps in that you can carry baby on your back earlier than with a soft structured carrier, but again, you would want to make sure you are comfortable with carrying on the front before you attempt a back carry. Young babies should be carried high on your back, which can be achieved by ensuring the waist straps of the mei tai are tied high on your waist.

While ring slings are not designed for back carrying, it can be done, but this is an advanced carry that takes some skill and time to learn, and would be better suited for older babies and experienced wearers.

Before you start, watch some You Tube tutorials to get a feel for what you need to do. If you’re lucky enough to have a local babywearing meet, try to get along and get some hands on advice from other babywearers. Then, if possible, practice back carrying in front of a mirror, and near a soft surface like your bed or sofa. Some people like to kneel on their bed, or the floor, which helps them feel less worried about the possibility of a fall.

Lastly, don’t be disheartened if at first you don’t succeed. In fact, if you do a fantastic job on your first effort I’ll be jealous! Back carrying really is a great way to feel like you can get a bit more done in your day when you have an infant that doesn’t want to be put down, or a cranky toddler that is refusing to nap. It is worth persevering, continuing to practice, and seeking advice from other babywearers if you’re still struggling after the first few weeks.

Got a question about back carrying? Let me know. 

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