When I tell someone what I do for a living, their first response is usually:
I really wanted to wear my baby in a carrier, but she hated babywearing!
This is surprising, considering the fact that being held close is a physical need for young babies and baby carriers facilitate this close contact. So can it be true that some babies really don’t like being held close in a baby carrier?
The answer is… not really.
Of course, there are some anomalies and I never want to dismiss a parent’s assessment of their baby. You know your baby best and while you should seek guidance from experts, you should also listen to your gut and trust your parental instincts.
That said, in my expert opinion, babies generally like being held close and they love being worn in baby carriers. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
So why do I hear this refrain again and again… and again?
Here’s what happens to make parents think their babies hate babywearing:
Baby wants to be held, and you want to get something done, so you says to yourself, “Now’s a great time to try out that baby carrier someone bought me!”
Sounds reasonable, right?
So you go get the baby carrier and try to get it set up. Your baby really just wants to be held… now. And maybe he’s a little tired or has a wet diaper, so he isn’t in the best mood to begin with and maybe he starts to fuss a little.
You aren’t exactly sure how this thing works and you’re hurrying to get it on and you’re try putting baby in, but he’s so little and fragile and now you’re sweating and your heart is racing. You finally get your baby in properly, but now he’s freaking out.
“Oh my god, he HATES this thing! Maybe it’s too tight? Is it hurting him? Oh, I hate making my baby cry!”
So, like a very reasonable person, you take him right out. You forget what it was you wanted to get done and just deal with your baby, or try to do it one-handed, while holding baby in your other arm.
Maybe you’ll try again another time. And maybe it happens again and you decide that your baby just hates being worn. Oh well, you’ll move on.
Here’s the thing:
Most babies don’t like being in a baby carrier at first.
Emphasis on “at first!”
Like most things with newborns, it’s an adjustment and it takes time and practice… for both of you! Babies want and need to be held close and babywearing mimics the sensation of the womb, but being in a carrier is still a new sensation and, for most babies, it needs some getting used to.
Babies don't cry when put into a carrier because they're distressed or they hate it. They cry because our big world is new for them, this is really new for them and crying is the only way they can express that they aren't sure what the heck is going on.
Of course we don't like to hear our babies cry. Reduction in crying is actually one of the benefits of babywearing and it may be why you're trying it in the first place! So what are you supposed to do if your baby cries in a carrier?
Most parents put their baby in, baby starts to fuss and the parents wait only FIVE SECONDS before taking baby out and deciding that their baby simply doesn't like it. So, firstly… don't do that. Give your baby and yourself some time.
Read on for my stress-free babywearing tips!
For New Parents
Using a baby carrier for the first time can feel intimidating and trying it with a fussy or squirmy baby makes it even more stressful! Watch a few Youtube tutorials before you start, to familiarize yourself with how to use your baby carrier.
Before putting baby in, practice with a doll or a five pound bag of flour or potatoes. It may seem funny to practice with potatoes instead of a doll, but realistic weight is usually more helpful than realistic limbs.
Practice with your baby when you're calm and have plenty of time. Start by taking a deep breath and know that you don't have to get it perfect at first.
If you're still feeling unsure and want some extra help, a private consult is a great opportunity to gain confidence in your skills and learn how to make using a carrier work for both you and your baby.
For New Babies
The first few times you put your baby into a carrier, make sure he starts off in a good mood. Practice when baby is well-rested, recently fed and burped, and in a dry diaper.
If baby starts to fuss, take another deep breath. Stop exactly where you are, support baby with your arms if he isn't fastened into the baby carrier yet, and take a minute to soothe him before continuing.
When baby has settled, keep going with the carrier, continuing to shush, bounce, sing, or talk to your baby -- this helps both of you stay calm!
Once baby is in and your carrier is tightened, break out all your best baby soothing techniques! Bounce, shuffle, jiggle, or just walk normally — regular walking is something the most soothing! Shush, sing, offer a soother, pat baby's bum, and try anything else that usually works to settle your baby.
Go outside! Babies love fresh air and the change of scenery may be all your baby needs to relax.
A brisk walk or relaxing stroll is also a great way to settle your baby in a carrier. After a few minutes, she may even be lulled to sleep and you can head back inside to get something done or just relax while your baby naps.
The more you practice, the more quickly your baby will get used to being worn in a baby carrier and each time he'll fuss less and less. Soon enough, just taking out your carrier may be enough to soothe your baby, as she anticipates going up!