This is Part 11 in our series on Babywearing Safety. You can find links to our other articles here.
Back carrying is a great way to free the arms and allow baby to look and interact with the world while remaining in an optimal position for hip and spine development (see here). It’s also very comfortable for parents and allows you to do things like tend to older children while attending to your baby’s need to be held.
Back carrying is an advanced babywearing skill. It’s important to be aware of your ability when putting your baby on your back, but most parent and baby-pairs can do it. An exception is if your baby is medically fragile or has a compromised respiratory system, low tone or another condition that makes observation of their respiratory signs critical. Speak to your doctor if this is the case.
You can back carry your child from newborn, but this as an advanced babywearing technique as you will not have your baby in view at all times as per the TICKS guidelines.
A newborn in a back carry should be high enough to rest his/her head on the nape of your neck and you should be able to feel them breathing. If you cannot get your newborn this high, take the baby down and try again later. Another way of checking on your newborn in a back carry is to tickle his/her feet. A great video which covers the basics of newborn back carries safely is found here.
When you start to learn back carries, the common recommendation is practicing by kneeling on the center of a large bed. There may be some instability or you may make quite a mess of it the first few times. Rolling the baby or child onto the bed when you’re in a tangle is a safe (and very fun) way to get out of a sticky situation. Practising with a doll or bag of rice is another way to learn the basic passes and tosses before adding the complication of a baby.
When back carrying, always be aware of your position in relation to the objects around you. The babywearer with a child on his/her back is larger than usual and it can be easy to back into things accidentally!
Some carriers are not suitable for back carries. Although woven wraps are used extensively for back carries, very few stretchy wraps can be used in this way. This video shows why. Unless your stretchy wrap is specifically recommended for back carries by the manufacturer, do not use it in this way. A helpful article on this subject can be found here.
Other carriers such as pouches can be used for back carries by advanced babywearers with older children, but are not suitable for newborn back carries.
As will sometimes happen, a parent may be ready to babywear, but an older baby, toddler or child is most certainly not. Protests ensue. Tantrums, even. It can be embarrassing for a parent, frustrating and sometimes you have no choice but to leave with your child. Please be aware that while there are some advanced techniques that can get your child onto your back in the midst of a storm of physical protest- doing so is the biggest risk for a babywearing fall. Back carrying a tantrumming child is extremely difficult to do safely.
Back carrying is safe, but it’s an advanced technique. Lots of practice in front of a mirror, youtube or at a sling group is the best way to increase your skill level. Good luck!