Babywearing: Sore Muscles and Cranky Babies

It may seem like this post is coming a little early in the series, but these are two main complaints I hear from parents about wearing their babes – either of which could keep a caregiver from wearing their baby.  Since I don’t want anyone to give up before we truly get started, I would like to cover these complaints immediately.  The first deals with comfort.  Parents tell me that they can’t wear their baby comfortably for very long.  The second complaint is that babies protest, sometimes quite loudly, about being carried in a carrier. Babywearing takes some practice and patience but can ultimately be very rewarding for baby and caregiver.  This post will tackle both of these issues, starting with the comfort issue.

“Wearing My Baby Isn’t Comfortable”

I’ll be honest with you, just like any weight bearing activity, it will take some time to build up the right muscles.  While babywearing shouldn’t hurt, you might be pretty sore in the beginning just like you would be after starting a new weight-lifting regime.  Consult your fellow (informed) babywearers to make sure you are carrying properly and then smile – you are getting a workout in while cuddling your precious babe!  When I first started using the back carry I was really sore.  I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, after all we had been wearing our son from Day 2 and knew how to properly position him in each carrier.  After months of wearing our son and having to bounce him on an exercise ball several hours every day for naps, I thought that I had already built up my “babywearing muscles”.  I found out that front carries, back carries, and hip carries all use slightly different muscles.  I also discovered that each different carrier or wrap requires a slightly different set of muscles because their pressure points and weight distribution are slightly different.

If you find yourself getting sore, try using a different carrier for a little while if you have that option or ask someone else to wear your little one for a short time.  If those are not options, remember to take care of yourself.  Drink plenty of water just like you would when you are exercising, stretch, and stay active.  The more you wear your baby, the sooner you will be able to do it without the follow-up soreness.  Contact your healthcare provider if you continue to experience pain that is not getting better as this could be a sign of a different problem.

If you need some motivation or inspiration to get past the soreness, keep reading.  I recently went to the Riverbanks Zoo and wore our 22lb. toddler in an Organic Ergo for the entire 2.5 hours we were in the zoo and walking around.  Many people commented that our son looked happy.  My husband and I were also happy because we didn’t have to worry about navigating the crowds with a stroller, we didn’t have to worry that he would get away from us, and I got some weight-lifting in.  I wasn’t the least bit sore and several parents noted that wearing our toddler was such a good idea!  We didn’t see anyone else that day wearing their child.  Everyone else was stuck in the sea of strollers while my husband, son, and I were able to weave effortlessly among the habitats.  Those weeks of soreness and muscle building in the beginning were absolutely worth it!

“My Baby Doesn’t Like Carriers”

If your babe doesn’t like the carrier, try again another time – there is no point in making both of you unhappy just so that you can say you babywear.  The best time to introduce your babe to a new carrier is when they are rested and have a full belly.  Don’t try to introduce them to a carrier when they are cranky and hungry.  You probably need to be kind of well-rested (says the mama who hasn’t slept in a very long time) and your belly shouldn’t be rumbling either.  If you are both rested and fed, you will have more patience and fun trying out this activity.  Just like when you introduce new foods, it may take several tries before your baby will tolerate the carrier.  Make sure you are using the carrier correctly, take a deep breathe, and then give it a shot.

Although there is a learning curve for the wearer and the wearee with each new carrier, remember that not all carriers will be ideal for you and your baby.  It is best if you can attend a local Babywearing meeting before investing in a lot of carriers.  At these meeting you can often try out carriers for free, talk to other parents and get their impressions.  After you do some hands-on research, order your carrier of choice and give it a shot.  If you find out that you have purchased a carrier that truly isn’t right for your family there are plenty of ways to sell your carrier for retail or near-retail cost.

Don’t give up on the carrier too soon though.  I have found that we both had to adjust to the different material, the different stress points, and the different feel and structure of each carrier.  I still remember my son crying the first several times we tried the Ellaroo Mei Tai carrier.  Now, if I put him in that carrier he is often asleep within 5 minutes!

Pretty soon you and your baby will likely be in wearing heaven.  If you are lucky, your baby may even sneak in a nap 🙂