A new year is upon us and we’re jumping right in with a topic we frequently hear questions about from expectant caregivers but is so often shrouded in mystery: Babywearing while pregnant!
I anticipated wearing my firstborn throughout my second pregnancy, but due to the luxury of horrendous morning sickness (which, let’s face it, should be called all day sickness) I was only able to wear briefly around the 4 month mark. My third and fourth children, not to be outdone, made sure the morning sickness was extra memorable throughout my entire pregnancies. Needless to say, babywearing in pregnancy is not something in my repertoire!
Thankfully we have our extremely talented and knowledgeable 102 coordinator, Bethany, to provide us with the ABC’s of babywearing while pregnant!
Babywearing (or toddlerwearing!) during pregnancy can be an incredibly helpful tool for the busy caregiver. We recommend that babywearing should be approached like any other form of exercise while pregnant. Safety is always the first step for babywearing success, so be aware of any risk factors that might negate babywearing, listen to the needs of your body and change the carry or stop if you experience pain or discomfort, and PLEASE take your own medical needs into consideration and talk with your healthcare provider about your specific circumstances.
General exercise during pregnancy recommendations
- Exercise in pregnancy is good! Research has shown that exercise during pregnancy can reduce certain pregnancy risks such as gestational diabetes, as well as decreasing back pain, improving posture, and possibly assisting in decreased labor time and decreased fatigue.
- HOWEVER, exercise in pregnancy also needs to be approached with caution:
There are variety of medical conditions which may arise during pregnancy that could increase the risk of exercise including carrying multiples (twins or triplets), spotting or bleeding, pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure, placenta previa and others.
- When in doubt about any type of exercise consult with your healthcare provider.
- Combine babywearing while pregnant with focused pregnancy exercise programs for core strengthening and aerobic health such as prenatal yoga, walking, swimming, kegels and other pelvic floor activities.
- Consider your prior level of babywearing: If you were a frequent wearer (most days a week, several hours a day) before becoming pregnant you will be in better shape to adjust to the increasing demands of babywearing while pregnant. New or infrequent wearers should be cautious and consider alternatives if there are signs of stress or fatigue from wearing.
Body Change Considerations
- Relaxin: Another factor that will arise is the increase of relaxin hormone in your body as your joints prepare for childbirth. This can place you at greater risk for joint irritation and injury, both during the sustained work of wearing a weight on your body, and particularly during the more gymnastic movements involved in putting your child up, especially in a back carry.
- Fatigue: Fatigue may be a significant factor impacting your ability to babywear for extended periods. Some pregnant caregivers may have to significantly curtail their wearing activity, while other caregivers may find continuing to wear less exhausting than chasing older children or holding in arms.
Balance: Finally, pregnancy will cause changes in your center of gravity which increases the risk of loss of balance and falls. Some caregivers find they like the more balanced feeling of back wearing to counter the baby bump, but it is important to always remember that you are living in an altered body and move with caution, especially around stairs, slippery floors (like the grocery store) and tripping hazards (like small children).
During the first few months of pregnancy it may be possible to continue to front carry with a few modifications.
- For buckle carriers and larger toddlers, you can try buckling under the bump and letting the toddler “hug” the bump.
This can also be done with mei tai with a more structured, padded waist band.
- For mei tais and buckle carriers without a structured waist and while carrying smaller babies, it may still be comfortable to tie/buckle right under the bust line, resulting in baby above the bump.
- For many front wrap carries it is possible to slightly off-center the carry so the weight of the child is off to the side of the belly. For example, Kangaroo carry can be offset to the side, as can front wrap cross carry.
As the baby within grows, front carry options will become less practical but hip carries may still be quite doable. It can be helpful to alternate sides in order to maintain comfort for the wearer.
- In a ring sling, baby can be put in a high hip carry very much to the side, with one leg over the bump. This can be done so as to put little or no pressure on the bump through a good percentage of the pregnancy.
- In a woven wrap hip carries such as Robin’s hip, Kangaroo hip, Semi Front Wrap Cross Carry, Rebozo and Reinforced Rebozo can all be comfortable options.
- In a buckle carrier or mei tai, a hip carry may also be possible but will have the additional challenge of determining if the waistband above or below the bump is still possible or comfortable for the pregnant wearer.
Many caregivers find that the preferred approach for wearing during pregnancy is in a back carry. Back carries help reduce pressure on the growing belly, as well as balancing the weight which may help wearers feel more secure and less uncomfortable as the pregnancy progresses.
- Consider alternatives to how you place your child on your back. Superman toss may become more difficult, so hip scoot may be a better option.
- Watch your balance!
- Be aware of any shortness of breath or dizziness from bending over while donning or adjusting the back carry.
- Carriers with waist belts (buckle carriers and mei tais): Buckle above or below the bump by personal preference. Also consider the width of the waist belt and whether the carrier is designed to be worn on the hips (like an Onya Baby or Tula) or is more easily adjusted to a high back carry (like a Pikkolo or Connecta). Most mei tais can comfortably tie in either position, or even tie off center if the knot is uncomfortable.
- Wrap carries: Whatever is easy and comfortable is fine. Many wearers like things that tie on the chest, such as Ruck tied “Tibetian” across the chest, Jordan’s half back carry with a candy cane chestbelt, or shepherd’s carry. Some of these shorter carries are also helpful because they can be quicker to put up. However, if a double hammock or Giselle’s back carry is your favorite, feel free to keep using it!
- An onbuhimo is a Japanese style carrier without a waist belt that is popular with pregnant wearers as it can be tied across the chest with no pressure on the abdominal region. Buckle onbus are a modified version of an onbuhimo that are secured with buckles instead of tying.
What if I just can’t keep wearing?
Not all caregivers can keep babywearing through pregnancy, and that is okay. It is also okay to feel sad that you are in a phase of life that you need to focus on your physical needs and rest. Remember you are growing a whole new little human inside you- that is a lot of work! Some suggestions for strategies to help you and your formerly worn child get through:
- Snuggles under a wrap may be helpful. Some children might even be willing to snuggle to sleep.
- Stroller, wagon or shopping cart for distances. HEB has “car carts” which may be very helpful for some toddlers.
- Car naps or stroller naps for the motion dependent napper.
- Partners, grandparents, and helpful babywearing friends can all be recruited to wear and it’s a great chance to connect with friends and family who may eager to help prepare for a new baby.
By keeping safety and comfort considerations in mind, babywearing throughout pregnancy can be a helpful tool for expectant caregivers. Modifications to front, back, or hip carries can help you wear during each stage of pregnancy. And even if you find that you can’t babywear, there are plenty of ways to continue snuggling and soothing older babies and children to see you through! We encourage all caregivers to join us during the month of January as we discuss pregnancy babywearing during the Babywearing 102 portion of our meetings!