How to support your baby’s head and neck in a Stretchy Wrap

Stretchy wraps are amazing. They are super soft, snuggly and one of the best options for a newborn. However, often parents are worried that they don’t give baby enough head support or are worried about how they are ment to support baby’s head and neck. Instead parents often find themselves needing to hold baby’s head, or worse get so worried they lose confidence and stop using the stretchy.

But actually stretchies do have more than enough support built in! A couple of simple tweaks in how you are using the wrap can make all the difference in how much support baby’s neck has. There are 3 things to check, you can see talk through each of the 3 in the video or scroll down for each of the 3 described in detail below:

  1. Check how baby is sat in the sling. Ideally we want baby sat comfortably on their bottom, with their knees higher than their bum and their spine gentle curving bring their head to a gentle rest on your chest. However, babies can often end up a bit straightened up (with their knees lower than their bum and straighted spine) – particularly if they grumble and wiggle when going in. This isn’t dangerous but it is less comfortable for them (as their weight is on their inner thighs rather than their bottom) and more importantly because of the way the pelvis, spine and skull connect means that their head is much more likely to roll backwards away from you. If this happens its an easy fix – simply slip your hands into the wrap and gently tuck their bum towards you gently lifting the legs and allowing baby to settle onto their bottom. Finally readjust the fabric so both layers support baby all the way to the backs of the knee. Viola! Now, due to the way the pelvis, spine and skull attach and how the verterbra stack… baby’s head should gently rest on your chest and not be able to roll backwards dramatically.
  2. Pull the outer 3rd layer of the wrap up – right up to the back of babies neck. In fact ideally you want actually roll that top bit of the wrap so you have a couple of rolls sitting behind the back of baby’s neck to support their head and neck. Often parents simply don’t pull this layer up high enough. Often they leave most of the fabric near baby’s bottom to support their weight and “stop them falling out”, but actually it is the two straps crossing under baby’s bottom that supports their weight and stops them falling out. The outer/3rd layer is there to hold the top part of the crossing straps in place and to support the upper torso and head. And to do this is needs to be pulled up – all the way to the top of baby’s neck or base of their ear!
  3. Use a muslin to create a neck pillow for more support. In theory, provided your wrap is tight enough 1 and 2 should be enough to support baby’s head and neck and you shouldn’t need any other support. However, sometimes parents don’t feel it is enough and if that is the case then you can build in more support in one of two ways. The first way is to use one of the cross passes to cover the back of baby’s head. This is the way shown in most manuals. However, most baby’s hate this and certainly won’t tolerate it while awake (many won’t tollerate it while asleep either). Instead the second way is my preferred method – roll up a muslin and tuck it into the top of the outer/3rd layer to create a neck pillow. Providing lovely soft but robust head and neck support … and having the added side benefit of ensuring you have a muslin ready should you need one!

Voila! Nice, soft but securely supported neck!

As ever if you are struggling with your stretchy wrap, please do get in contact. A quick online consultation (or in person mini consult lockdown/tiers allowing) where you can receive real-time input and we can work together to get the root of the issue can make a huge difference! Clients are always suprised and releived to discover what difference just 20 minutes talking it through step by step can make! So please do get in touch if you’d like help with this or anything else.

-Madeleine

PS the wrap shown in the video is the Hana Baby Wrap and you can purchase your own here or do get in touch if you’d like to hire one – either to try before you buy or to hire for the whole fourth trimester period.

Isara Quick Full Buckle Back Carry Tutorial

The Isara Quick Full Buckle is a bit different to most other buckle carriers on the market. It’s mismatched straps are designed to snap together, rather than into the panel. That means how you do it up is a little different to the method you’d use for most other carriers.

Here is how I do a Back carry with this carrier;

If you have this carrier or are thinking about purchasing one – I hope this helps! Any questions please do comment below or get in touch! My full review of this carrier can be found here, and my method for the front carry can be found here.

-Madeleine

Isara Quick Full Buckle Front Carry Tutorial

The Isara Quick Full Buckle is a bit different to most other buckle carriers on the market. It’s mismatched straps are designed to snap together, rather than into the panel.

That means how you do it up is a little different to the method you’d use for most other carriers. Here is how I do it;

The video shows first how I do cross straps and then how I do ruck sack straps too.

If you have this carrier or are thinking about purchasing one – I hope this helps! Any questions please do comment below or get in touch! My full review of this carrier can be found here.

-Madeleine

High Shoulder Carry with a Lightweight Buckle carrier

One of things that I love about being a carrying consultant is that I get to go off manual. I get to apply my knowledge of how carriers work, of infant positioning and development and I can use that to go off piste when needed.

A couple weeks ago I had a client come to me for help troubleshooting as her little one was really unsettled in their Ergobaby Embrace. She was following the manual to perfection, positioning was fab but baby was unhappy. So we put the carrier down and I asked her to show me how she held her little one when he was unsettled, how he liked being held in arms. She immediately popped him high on her shoulder.

This is such a common position for parents to hold their little ones when they are unsettled. I have so many photos of my husband and I carrying my son in this position when he was sad. We used to call it “the bouncy shoulder”. It pretty much never failed at calming him down and settling him!!

And so it got me thinking – there must be a way of facilitating this with her carrier. So while she calmed down her little one, I got a bit creative and worked out how to support a high shoulder, burp type position with an Ergobaby Embrace. And you know, it worked pretty well! Mum tried it and baby was instantly happier, instantly more settled.

Here is how to do it;

While I have shown it with the Ergo Embrace as this was the carrier my client had, this carry should work with any lightweight buckle. Particularly any that offers the option to wear the the carrier “apron style”. By this I mean that the panel hangs down from the waistband and then goes round baby’s bottom and back up (rather than one where the panel comes straight out the top of the waistband). Just because the apron style means you can sit babies bottom lower that the waistband, which is useful if like me you have boobs and thus are constrained in where you place the waistband to either above or below your boobs (for comfort reasons!). If you don’t have boobs and wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing the waistband slightly lower on your chest then essentially any carrier will work as you can simply place the waistband at the height you need to get baby where you want them on your shoulder. Other apron style lightweight carriers that do work well for this carry include the Kahu Baby carrier, the Izmi baby carrier, the Marsupi, and Meh Dai carriers (like the Hop-Tye and Didy-Tye) work really well for this too.

Being brutally honest, while this carry was more comfortable than I expected it to be, it isn’t the worlds most supportive position for a long period of time. The carry is very high so the weight it all on your upper back, so this will start to feel heavy quicker than compared to wearing the waistband at your waist and transferring more of the weight onto your pelvis.

But, what it is good for is those moments when you need it. When baby is really unsettled and unhappy in another other position, but your arms are knackered from the holding or you need your arms to get something done. Then when baby is more settled or has fallen asleep it is actually a simple job to loosen the straps and slide the baby and whole carrier back down to a more normal and more supportive carrying position. Or likewise once you’ve finished the thing you needed to do you can go sit down and rest! Either with baby still in the carrier or slipping it off and cuddling them as needed.

For my client, I viewed this carrying position as a “circuit breaker”. I see this regularly with so many parents; what happens is baby cries in the carrier (maybe they are tired, hungry, unsettled etc) and parent is worried they’ve done the carrier wrong or that baby doesn’t like the carrier so parent quite naturally and quite understandably becomes tense. Babies are amazing at reading their parents emotions and picks up on their parents tension and worry, and they don’t like seeing their parent tense so they cry. And then parent is more worried because baby is crying more now, and baby senses parent is more worried….. and on and on. It very quickly becomes a viscous circle. Then next time parent picks up the carrier they start feeling tense and worried baby won’t like it before they even put it on…. and so the viscous circle continues. Until we find something to break the cycle. In this case this high shoulder position – one baby is used to and loves and parent feels confident baby will like – was able to break the cycle, and I very much hope will later open up all the other positions to them too.

So many of my consultations are about working with parents to find the circuit breaker, the thing that breaks the cycle. For many it is simply going through their carrier in detail, step by step, allowing them to gain confidence using the sling and knowing that their baby is comfortable and supported and safe. For others its something else – each consultation is different, because we are all different!

If you’re feeling stuck please do reach out as I honestly, finding the solution that works is my absolute favourite part of this job!

-Madeleine

How to do a Hip Carry with an Ergobaby Embrace

The Embrace is a lovely soft newborn suitable carrier. The manual demonstrates both a parent facing carry from newborn onward and a outward facing carry once baby is strong enough to be faced outward. But did you know you can use it in a hip carry too? The method isn’t shown in the manual but actually this carrier works really well in this position.

Here is how to do it;

The hip carry is a great option for when baby starts to enter what I call nosy phase – where they want to look round and see everything. Often babies start to want to see everything (and start to fuss when faced in toward their parents) before they are physically able to be carried forward facing in a carrier. Carrying them on the hip can be a great solution as it gives them the same view as forward facing while still offering neck support and stabilising their torso against the caregiver.

Even once baby is strong enough to be outward facing while awake, the hip carry can be really useful for times when they are getting tired and need to sleep. It can be particularly helpful at times when baby is sleep resisting!! As it will allow them to look around but as you walk they will be gently rocked to sleep. Once asleep it is easy to shift them to your front (if this is more comfortable for you) or you can keep them on your hip safe in the knowledge that they are adequately supported in this position.

As ever if you are unsure about how to do this position, if your baby is ready to forward face or anything else to do with this carrier or any other do feel free to message me and I can offer suggestions or set up an online consult to help you troubleshoot!

-Madeleine

How to switch between a Front carry and a Hip carry without taking your carrier off or your baby out

Hip carries can be so helpful one baby hits what I call “nosy baby phase” where they want to see everything and anything. Learning how to switch between front and hip carries can be a powerful tool in your parenting toolkit. Particularly when

  • Baby was sound asleep in the carrier on your front and has now woken up and is starting to cry because they want to see more or feel like they have more freedom. But you are out and about its its not convenient to take them out right now – instead switching to a hip carry will help you get to your destination while giving them more to see and the feeling of more freedom to stretch and kick as they wake up
  • Baby is fighting sleep and refuses to go into a front carry as they want to see everything and definitely not sleep. So you put them in a hip carry and 5 minutes later they are sound asleep on your hip. Being able to switch to the front will keep your back more comfortable for the duration of the nap

Fortunately, it’s actually really easy to switch between Front and Hip carries in a buckle carrier without taking the carrier of or the baby out. Here is how to do it

This method works for any buckle carrier that allows you to cross the straps at the back. The video shows the Beco Gemini but this method works just as well for the Ergobaby Omni, Adapt, Izmi Baby, Ergobaby Embrace, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Mamaruga, Kahu, Connecta, Manduca and a great many others besides. Provided you can cross the straps across your back you can do this.

-Madeleine

How to Wrap a Stretchy Wrap without Putting Baby Down First

While all stretchy wrap manuals and video tutorials always show tying the wrap first and then picking up baby, it is actually possible to tie a stretchy wrap without putting baby down first if they are already in your arms.

It is of course faster to just pop them down for a few seconds while you tie (and I am sure this is why all the manuals show this method!), but it can be really really inconvenient if say

  • Your baby has reflux and popping them down even for just a few seconds will cause a whole world of pain and discomfort for them
  • Your baby just fell asleep in your arms and you know the second you pop them down that will be game over for that nap
  • They are just really really sad and need the comfort of your arms right now

And I am sure a great many other reasons! Feeling like you might need to put baby down can be an real obstacle to using a carrier – leaving you sitting on the sofa while your baby snoozes for 90 minutes wishing you’d got the wrap on before they fell asleep so you could go to the toilet, get a cup of tea and do all those other things you quite wanted to do during this nap.

So know how to put a wrap on around a baby already in your arms is definitely a life skill! Here is how to do it;

The key is to take your time! It won’t be as fast as tying it without baby in your arms, so just relax and take the time you need to sway/bounce/rock baby as you gentle move the fabric and tighten it up around them. Then celebrate regaining your arms by making yourself a well deserved celebratory cup of tea!

-Madeleine

PS the Stretchy wrap shown in the video is the beautifully soft Izmi Baby Bamboo wrap which you can purchase through our webshop here.

How to tighten a stretchy wrap without taking it off.

Ever had it where you tied your stretchy, put your baby in, started walking and realised baby is slowly migrating down your chest, sinking lower and lower? Let’s be honest it’s happened to all of us! And you know that its a sign that you’ve tied the wrap too loosely and that next time you should tie it tighter BUT that doesn’t help you right now!! Because really taking the whole wrap off, putting baby down and re-tying would be a massive faff!

Here is how to tighten your wrap without taking baby out:

You’ll notice the key thing is to support baby’s weight while guiding the fabric under baby’s leg. Simply pulling on the straps won’t work, because the combination of baby’s weight pulling against the elastic material and the friction at baby’s legs will stop the fabric from being tightened… hence why you need actively lift baby and guide the fabric under their legs.

It is a faff! Although less of a faff than taking the whole wrap off and on again!! And of course the long term solution is to learn to get the tightness right at the start (you can see tips on how to do this is carry #1 here), but for those days when it has got loose… it is really useful to know how to fix it!

-Madeleine

How to do a Back Carry with a Half Buckle or a Meh Dai, using the “secure hip scoot” method for getting baby onto your back.

Half Buckles or Meh Dai style carriers are extremely versatile, offering a range of carrying positions and options for tying. Fitting tiny newborns and growing toddlers alike. Often parents don’t realise that these can be used for back carries, when in reality it is often easier to get a baby onto your back in a half buckle or Meh Dai than it is in a full buckle carrier. The reason that they are easier is to do with the straps – you don’t have to worry about when to get your arms in or need to let go of anything to get your arms in, you simply tie the straps around once baby is on your back.

While there are various methods that will work, my favourite is the secure hip scoot method because

  • you can check baby is well positioned and comfortable in the panel before you bring baby onto your back
  • it feels secure at all times so you know baby is safe and securely held even if they wiggle or start to fight when you are bringing them onto your back

Here is my full video tutorial, including 2 ways of tying the straps at the end – a straight forward knot at the waist and a “tied Tibetan” style knotless chest band which is helpful if you find the shoulder straps are liable to fall off your shoulders or dig in:

This carry can be used once baby has good neck and trunk control, typically around 6 months. Although it is worth mentioning that many babies don’t enjoy this position until they can see over their parents shoulders, typically around a year. Placing the waistband higher on your waist can help give them a better view earlier, although many parents simply choose to wait until baby is taller.

It is worth noting that generally most parents will find baby feels lighter on their back, because as a species we generally load bare better on our backs than our fronts. So mastering the back carry can be a really good option if your starting to find baby is feeling heavy on your front. Back carrying is a skill and does take practise, so if you are finding it hard it is well worth looking up your local babywearing consultant for a face to face consultation or booking an online consultation as often one to one real time help can really flatten the learning curve.

The carrier shown in this video is the Limas Baby Plus carrier, but this same method will work with many if not all half buckles and Meh Dai including the Didymos DidyKlick, DidyTai, Hoppediz Hop-tye and many many others.

-Madeleine

When can I start carrying my baby outwards facing?

The answer to this question comes in two parts;

  1. When they are developmentally ready
  2. When they physically big enough to fit facing forward in the carrier you have for them

This can vary a lot from child to child so I will discuss both in depth below to enable you to judge for yourself when your baby is ready. Parents often ask me for an age, but because babies develop and grow at different rates there isn’t a magical age where all babies all suddenly overnight become ready to face outwards! For most babies this is somewhere between 4-5 months, but equally some babies won’t be ready until nearer 6 months. Better to know what we are looking for developmentally and in terms of physical fit and be led by your baby.

It is also worth considering the pros and cons of forward facing too, this position more than any other comes with distinct factors for consideration. You can read more about the facts surrounding carrying babies outward facing here.

Developmental Readiness

In terms of developmental readiness, what we are looking for here is primarily neck strength – they need to have excellent head control and upper body strength. The reason for this is simply because when forward facing the carrier is unable to provide any head support.  And because they are facing outwards their head and uppermost torso isn’t even supported by your body either. So they must be able to hold their heads up themselves for the full duration you will be wearing them outwards.

I often encourage parents to think about how they naturally hold babies in arms, and then see if a baby carrier can be used to emulate and replace their arms. But it worth realising that you can hold your baby in arms looking outward much earlier than you can use a sling. This is because you naturally will hold your arms in a way that supports their head if they need it. And your arms are responsive, so if baby starts to tire or starts to slump – your arms will automatically respond to this and adjust the support for baby or automatically turn them inwards. Next time you are holding baby like this, do think about how long you hold them facing outward. How long can they hold their own head for? How steady is their head? Do you use your arms or body to help stabilise?

It is important to realise that carrier can not be used to support their head while forward facing without risking impinging on their airway. So developmentally they need to have rock solid head control. I remember my daughter went through a distinct ‘nodding dog’ stage where she could mostly hold her own head but she looked a little bit like one of those nodding dogs.  I could quite happily hold her looking outwards in arms but she wasn’t strong enough to do this in a carrier. It was a few more weeks until she reached rock solid.

The other developmental sign to look for is time spent awake. As I mentioned this position relies on baby supporting their own head – which is something they need to be awake to do (even fully grown adults will lose tone and their head will loll if they fall asleep sitting up!). So if you are planning to go out for 30 minutes wearing your baby outward facing, you need to know that they will be happy to remain to stay awake that whole 30 minutes. Or be prepared to stop and change them to inward facing long before they start to get sleepy. Hence, ideally we are looking for babies who have reached an awake cycle of at least 2 hours to give you a decent 30 minutes or so within that awake cycle where they are the most awake and inquisitive to forward face.

Typically babies will reach these developmental considerations somewhere between 4 and 5 months. It is extremely rare a baby is genuinely ready before 4 months.

Ergo Baby 360

Physical Fit

As well as being developmentally ready, baby also needs to physically be large enough to fit forward facing in the carrier you have for them. Their head needs to be able to clear the top of the carrier (so they can breathe!) and they need to be able to do this without over extending their back. They need to be able to sit comfortably in the carrier, with their weight on their bottom, legs comfortably supported and not overly splayed out. When they are able to do this will depend on their size (primarily their torso height and inner leg length) and the carrier you have.

There is a HUGE variation between different carrier brands. Some like the Lillebaby Complete and Beco 8 are huge. Great if you have a child tracking on the upper centiles for weight and height because it will continue fitting them longer, but frustrating if you have a smaller framed baby as it could be at least 6 months (maybe more) before baby fits. Others, like the Izmi Baby carrier will fit much much sooner, even for babies who are right on the lowest centiles (I once got a great facing outward carrying on a 6 month old who was born early so while 6 months old and developmentally ready, was still the size of an average 2.5 month old!). The Beco Gemini is another good one for fitting babies slightly earlier if they are ready. Carriers like the Ergo Omni 360 and the Tula Explore are much more in the middle, most children will start fit well in these somewhere between 4-5 months.

Beco 8
Lillebaby Complete
Beco Gemini

But my baby really hates being held inward and wants to forward face already!!!

This the the really hard bit. The fact that most babies will hit what I call “nosy baby phase” long before they are ready to be carried outwards in a carrier. Generally, nosy baby phase starts right around the time the huge developmental leap that happens at the end of the fourth trimester. As baby transitions from a sleepy newborn into a much more awake, more alert and far more interested in the world baby. And as baby become more interested they will start to strain to see more and might start fighting a carrier if it is impairing their view. Typically this starts happening around 12 weeks or so.

And parents will start finding they hold baby looking outward in their arms and/or on their hip more and more. But for all the reasons above discussed above, baby is not yet ready to be carried forward facing in a baby carrier. I honestly understand why parents feel frustrated! So what are the options?

The first is to see if you can tweak the fit on your current baby carrier to give them a better view. For a stretchy wrap this might be twisting the straps near the shoulder to safely move the fabric further from baby’s face, giving them clearer sight lines. For a buckle carrier or meh dai this might be fitting it slightly differently so the panel doesn’t come up as high, or so a strap isn’t sitting across baby’s field of view.

The second, and arguably more successful thing to try is a Hip Carry. Hip carries can be a fantastic solution as they give exactly the same view outwards as carrying forward facing, but without any of the cons. Baby can safely fall asleep or get tired in this position because their head can be supported in this position – both by the carrier and because baby’s head will naturally rest against their parents body in this position. It also overcomes worries of overstimulation, as baby can turn their head away as they are starting to become tired. Even once baby is ready to forward face – this is a hugely useful position to know for those times when baby is tired but fighting sleep! And many of the carriers that offer forward facing, offer a hip carry too so you can use either depending on which one works for you and baby on any given day!

You can see how to do a Hip carry with a buckle carrier here.

Once Baby is ready – how do I carry them forward facing?

Once baby is ready, here is how to position them in an outward facing carry

-Madeleine