"Rookie Mistake"

"Rookie Mistake"
Only because of lack of experience. Never because we are careless or unwilling to learn.
With a few trials, it will become second nature and having a carrier would really be like having an assistant or extra set of hands. The first time carrying our wee newborns with bare hands and we excelled at it but now.. we would like to resume our mobility. Going to clinics for checkups and whatnot. It would be handy with a carrier, alas, we finally tried on that carrier we bought when we were only 5 months pregnant. Trying it out with a REAL BABY this time, ohmygosh, it feels awkward. It's okay if you don't get the best position the first time (as long as you wear it safely). With a few trials and errors, it will become second nature and having a carrier would really be like having an assistant or an extra set of hands. 

With a few trials, it will become second nature and having a carrier would really be like having an assistant or an extra set of hands. 

I have assisted many new parents using carriers and slings for the first time but where my help usually needed is with the Stork Baby Carrier because that's usually what parents seek when they come to us. So in this article, that's what I'll mostly write about. I wouldn't say that these little mistakes may result in devastating consequences. It is meant for you to see if there's anything that you can do to achieve ideal positioning, prevent muscle sores, acquiring the maximum benefits and comfort of your baby carrier that has been designed to make you and your baby most comfortable.  If you have any issues or any questions at all, feel free to ask in the comments below and if necessary I'll write up another post.

Here's a list of the most common mistakes parents do when we first put on a carrier. Look through this list and ask yourself if you can make your babywearing experience more comfortable and optimal, proceed to make adjustments if necessary.

1. Waist straps too loose

The first mistake you can make is right with the very first step to putting on the carrier. I have noticed the tendency of parents to put on the waist straps rather loosely like a bangle on the wrist. The carrier is free to rotate around the waist and this can cause the baby to sag low on your body, the baby may sit on the waist straps instead of the body panel, and this may cause discomfort especially when carrying the baby for quite some time even the wee ones. 

Buckle it up, pull the straps tight and snug. The waist should feel like a yummy hug, the carrier shouldn't budge easily or rotate, let alone rotate around your waist. Make sure the panel is also placed centre. Check in the mirror if you aren't sure.

Wearing the waist straps snugly will do you much better in terms of comfort and posture.
I know... I know... we are conscious about our post-childbirth body. With babywearing and breastfeeding, you will lose weight in no time. Don't I know it!  Haha! It did take me over a year but I was down to pre-university size! *high fives all around*. Hide the flabby wearing loose clothes, pull over a light cardigan to cover up, wear Spanx! I did wear Spanx! ;D Wearing the waist straps snugly will do you much better in terms of comfort and posture. The flab will eventually disappear, achy muscles from poor posture lingers and can affect your body in the long run.

2. Waist straps too low

This seems to be like an instinct for dads especially. When you first put on the waist straps, you would like to put it where your belt buckle is.  Yes, dads certainly wear pants lower and their physiological built is different from women. Dads generally have longer torsos. It may feel okay for dads to wear the carrier lower but the problem we will find as the result, the baby sits too low. Dad won't be able to reach down to plant a kiss on the baby. The connection and bonding would be a little less effective. Baby ideally is better to be seated higher and able to rest his head on dad's chest when they are tired. Wearing a baby too low may also cause early muscle fatigue when carrying for a longer period of time. 

3. Baby not seated centrally

When you first try out a carrier, we usually advise you to try when the baby has had enough to eat, sleep, clean diapers and calm. We suggest that someone is with you to keep an eye on the baby while you are fiddling with the straps. Having a soft landing like a bed or sofa certainly helps boost confidence. It would be great to have a mirror too! Firstly, you can ensure that the carrier is centre on your body. Hold your baby in the tummy to tummy position by making sure that he is also centre. Then only pull up the body panel to cover the baby's body.

Not to worry if in the end baby still look off-centred because you will still be able to adjust accordingly. Check yourself in the mirror. Notice how great you look ;) Be sure the baby's legs look even on both sides.

4. Baby not getting a deep seat

How do I know if not getting a deep seat? If I poke under the baby's bum above the waist straps joint, I can feel there's a space there like a deflated balloon. When the baby is not getting a deep seat, there's an issue of incorrect positioning where the baby might not quite get a good M seating position. To solve this, you can either remove the baby and when holding the baby in the tummy to tummy position (or rather baby's tummy to mummy's chest), check in the mirror making sure that baby's bum is level with the top of the waistband, then only proceed to lift up the panel to cover baby's bum and back.

Don't straightaway pull up the shoulder straps before you cover the baby's bum with the body panel. By pulling up the shoulder straps too soon, the baby's bum will not fill up the bottom part of the baby carrier nicely.

Another way you can try if you think removing the baby altogether is not necessary is to readjust while the baby is already seated in the baby carrier. There's is a manoeuvre called pelvic scoop/tuck. It's hard to explain it in words.. I'll shoot a video as soon as I can. 

Getting a deep seat is important in a carrier to ensure the baby is able to sit with knees above his bum. This encourages normal hip development for babies below 6 months of age. When the baby is deeply seated forming an M position, this helps the baby back being well supported in its natural position which is slightly curled and not forced to be straight. 

5. Shoulder straps too tight

Before trying out the carrier for the first time, I do encourage parents to get acquainted with all the parts, giving attention to the black straps, identifying how they adjust the shoulder straps. Note how to loosen the buckles effectively. A parent should try the carrier on its own or with a doll, at least once before trying it with the baby and note how to adjust accordingly when the carrier is on the wearer's body. When the carrier reaches you the first time, all the straps would be in a 'factory setting'. They may be too loose or too tight, so try not to miss this one important step, as I had demo-ed in this video 'Setting up Stork for the first time'.

Side buckles (shoulder straps buckles) and PFA

Most carriers these days would have dual adjustable buckles on the sides. This allows parents to easily loosen or tighten the straps from the front or from the back. When you try out the carrier for the first time, let's say you are trying out front carry for the first time, make sure you leave some slack towards the front side of the side buckles (shoulder straps buckles) so that later on, you will be able to tighten this part further for a snug fit. However, if you find that you have already tightened it to the end and still feeling like the shoulder straps still loose, you can still tighten the petite-fit adjusters/PFA buckles (the short straps at the shoulder-body panel joint), you may also have someone to assist you with tightening the back part of the side buckles (you can also do it yourself but the angle may be a bit challenging). Will be easy with some practice.

6. Chest straps too high and/or too wide

With the issue of shoulder straps sometimes being put on too tight, this makes the shoulder straps pull to the sides. Without clipping the chest straps, they are sure to slip off your shoulders. Usually, this is compensated by elongating the chest straps and this gives a lot of strain because the clip is trying hard to pull the tight shoulder straps from slipping. The padding usually would be sitting on the shoulder tips instead. I imagine this can be straining to the shoulders, too tight for the baby and also straining for the carrier parts too.

From general observation this can happen when baby is worn straightaway with carrier from the box (without prior adjustments), or when mom passes the carrier for dad to use without adequately loosen the straps.

Ideal positioning for the straps at the back.
Back view when doing the front carry

The shoulder straps need to be loosened a bit to make it placed more relaxed ON the shoulders. Then the chest straps are clipped just to keep them from sliding off. You will see if you are wearing the carrier ideally when viewed from behind. This is how it looks like when there is unnecessary straining of the shoulder straps versus when they are properly placed. Note that the chest strap moves along railings, you can adjust how high it goes on your back. As a general guideline, you want them as low as possible but still reachable if you were to wear the carrier when you are alone with the baby.

From general observation, this can happen when the baby is worn straightaway with the carrier from the box (without prior adjustments), or when mom passes the carrier for dad to use without adequately loosen the straps... Dad being eager, put the carrier on straightaway without further adjusting the straps. Thus putting on the clip can be very straining and chest straps are loosened all the way to enable them to be clipped.

7. Baby's hands in awkward position

After we put on the carrier properly, obtained the sweet spot for both wearer and the baby, sometimes we look down and a bit puzzled thinking 'where should baby's hands be?'. For younger babies, the best position for their arms is right in front of them, pressing against our chest. In an active state, the baby will have greater awareness and he will be able to actively press against our body. This helps with the baby's development. 

We want to avoid leaving the baby's hand dangling on his sides, if we are able to observe this, the hand movement can be quite restricted and limited. Baby won't have active control like when their hands are placed in front of them.

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I wouldn't worry about older babies, they are strong enough and will decide where they want their arms to be. To allow a little extra freedom they can choose to hang one or two arm out of the carrier depending on how strong their torsos. You can assist them with this. If they fall asleep, it is best to tuck their arms back into the carrier as this will keep your centre of gravity closer to your body and make you feel more steady walking around.

That is it! The most common mistakes and how you can troubleshoot. Some other things I always remind parents include:

  • Take short breaks. Carrier makes baby feel weightless but still, your muscles are working harder to carry the additional weight. Sit down, give a good stretch, loosen up, remove the baby from the carrier if necessary every 30-45 minutes perhaps?
  • The safest place for a baby when travelling in a car is a properly installed car seat.
  • Breastfeeding and babywearing are 2 different skills that you and your baby need to be good at separately before attempting to do both at the same time. Very useful skill when combined but it is encouraged that breastfeeding is to be done in a calm and relaxing manner, in your most comfortable breastfeeding position.
  • Dress baby lightly and avoid thick denim and layers when going out and about with baby especially in our weather. One-piece full body suit (the one that covers down to the little toes) looks totally adorable, but it may pull on the baby's leg and give baby unnecessary pressure on baby's legs when placed in the carrier. 

Do you have some tips for newbie babywearers? Drop a line below!

Pictures from SNUGGbaby's Instagram

Illustrations by Liza Yaakup @Callizgraphy

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