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

Summer Baby Carriers – My Top Picks for Warm Weather Babywearing

While carrying in warm weather is more about common sense than anything else, there definitely are some carriers that are cooler to wear and fare better as temperatures rise. If you are prone to overheating, live in a warm climate or want a summer friendly baby carrier (or want to hire one from Sheen Slings for an upcoming holiday or just for the summer) – here are my top picks:

1. Kahu Baby Sunshine Carrier

There are two reasons this carrier tops the list. The first is its genius lightweight design. The Kahu Baby is ultralight, packs down small and does not compromise on comfort or fit. Part of the genius of this carrier is how simple it is.  Designed to be really intuitive to use, without any added bells or whistles or fiddly extra bits.  Just really clever minimal design that ensures it fits a huge range of sizes and shapes of parents, men and women and is supportive enough for long walks while remaining light and soft enough to happily wear all day around the house too. Likewise it fits a huge range of babies ages and stages, from just a few weeks old through to 4 years. Offering 4 carrying positions and loads of versatility without adding loads of bulk and thus without adding any extra warmth.

The second reason is the Sunshine fabric. Kahu Baby carriers come in a few different fabric options, and while the are all lightweight and perform well in warmer weather, the Sunshine fabric absolutely excels as temperatures rise. Made from a woven polyester that is rated UPF50+, this fabric blocks 99% of the sun’s harmful UVA & UVB rays.  The fabric feels soft, breathable, silky and actually cool to the touch!  It’s also a wicking fabric, meaning you won’t feel sweaty in this carrier and that it dries extremely quickly (either after getting wet or washing).  Making the Sunshine the ultimate warm weather sling. 

The Kahu is available to purchase here, and you can see my full indepth review here.

2. Izmi Baby Carrier

Izmi Grey Mesh
Izmi Grey

The Izmi Baby is another absolutely genius incrediably lightweight carrier. It offers 4 carrying position and is one of those very rare buckle carriers that really really works brilliantly for newborns. In fact, it is a carrier I have had success over and over again with babies who are born prematurely because with its optional booster and ability to adjust the width – it is possible to make this carrier really very small to ensure a great fit even on tiny babies. The adjustable width and flexible neck support panel means this carrier can also grow with baby, continuing to fit all the way from teeny tiny to at least 12 months and often further. The flexibility doesn’t end here – this carrier also offers 4 carrying positions (front inwards, Front outwards, hip and back) and fits a absolutely huge range of different parent shapes and sizes. Particularly fitting petite parents well. Many carriers will fit a huge range but won’t go small enough for the very petite – but the Izmi will go so small my 3 year old can use it to carry the demo doll!!

As well as its all round brilliance, the Izmi Baby is one of my top summer picks because it’s lightweight design paired with thin breathable cotton means that it is genuinely one of the coolest baby carriers on the market. And if you are particularly prone to overheating or live in a very warm climate, they sell a mesh version too, where the centre portion of the main panel is replaced entirely with an airy breathable mesh.

The Izmi Baby is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here.

3. Beco Gemini Cool

Gemini Cool
Gemini Cool Black
Gemini Cool Navy
Gemini Cool Navy

If your looking for a bit more padding than offered by the Kahu or the Izmi, then the Beco Gemini Cool is definitely worth considering.

You will note that there are no heavily padded carriers on this list at all – and the reason for this is padding can be a bit of a double edge sword when it comes to summer babywearing as that extra bulk can really suddenly feel very warm as the temperature rises. So while you might find heavily padded carriers comfortable the rest of the year round, you may well find your sweltering come summer. Even with a supposedly cooler mesh version.

The Gemini Cool is a great option if you do prefer a bit of padding because it has a really sturdy supportive waist band, but the wide shoulder straps are very thin and very softly padded. It is often the bulk at the shoulders and across the back that causes a lot of this hot and sweaty feeling and so by having very softly padded shoulders the Gemini feels a lot cooler. The Cool mesh version also feels a lot cooler than the standard cotton counterpart because of the materials it is made from. The panel features a center portion made entirely out of breathable soft, supple yet really strong and supportive mesh. The rest of the carrier is made from this same mesh combined with a really soft, thin, cool to the touch fabric. The result is a supportive carrier that performs really well in the warmer months and year round! It fits an absolutely huge range of parents shapes and sizes, and fits babies from just 2-3 weeks old through to at least 18 months, offering 4 carrying positions (front inward, front outward, hip and back).

The Beco Cool is available to purchase here, and you can read my full indepth review here or see the standard cotton and the cool variants compared here.

4. Melliapis Ring Sling

Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling
Petrol Melliapis Ring Sling

Ring Slings are fantastic options for summer. Made from just a loop of fabric these are as a general rule cooler to wear than any buckle style carrier (even the super light ones outlined above). And of all the ring slings I have ever tried, the Melliapis basic ring sling is my absolute top pick for warm weather. Made from two layers of muslin woven together to create a material that is surprisingly strong, the Melliapis Ring Sling is one of the most lightweight slings on the market. Super soft on newborn skin but easily strong enough to carry an up down toddler too. It folds up absolutely tiny to easily fit inside a bag, or even to be worn as a light scarf while your not using it! It feels light and airy to wear – making it an excellent option for summer.

The Melliapis Ring Sling is available to purchase here and you can read my full indepth review here.

5. Mini Monkey Mini Sling

At just 187g the Mini Sling is the lightest and smallest carrier on our list. Made from a silky soft smooth mesh and covering only 1 shoulder, it is definitely the sling that will keep you and baby the coolest too. Similar in style to a ring sling, the Mini sling is a loop of fabric with strap to tighten at the back and a fine adjustment strap for supporting the neck and upper back at the front. It is one of the absolutely simplest carriers to use, but not nesicarly the most comfortable to use. Rather this carrier has been designed for speed and lightness in mind, so excels best as a “just in case” sling that slips into your bag (or even a large pocket) or a “just while I quickly do x” sling. Great for holidays too as the thin mesh drys quickly and so is a great beach or poolside choice.

You can read my full review of this sling here.

6. JPMBB Physio Carrier

The JPMBB Physio carrier zips open to reveal the best mesh panel I have ever seen. The top layer rolls up to expose a huge section of light and airy yet strong mesh. Making this carrier one of the absolutely coolest of the padded buckle style carriers. Even the padding is cooler than on most carriers due to clever combination of mesh and breathable cool fabrics. The Physio fits babies best from about 7 or 8 months through to 3 or even 4 years of age. You can use it with a younger baby too – you’ll just need the infant booster pack that includes a booster pillow and a neck pillow. And as such this carrier is always popular for summer holiday hires.

What’s not on this list….

There are a great many other carriers that feature mesh panels and advertise being great for summer. Carriers like the Ergo Omni 360, the Tula, the Lillebaby Complete, the Baby Bjorn Air Mesh, the Beco 8 and many many more besides. When it comes to these carriers, ultimately how warm you and baby will feel is more about the padding and the bulk and much less about the presence and absence of mesh. Yes it can be nice to get the mesh version of one of these carriers for a bit more breathability but these are all a good step warmer compared to anything on this list. Great all year round carriers but just don’t make the grade if you live in a warm climate, looking to borrow something for holiday or particularly prone to overheating in the summer months.

Another type of carrier missing from this list are the stretchy wraps and Caboo type carriers. Again there are options amoung these that are cooler, but with three layers over baby – none of them would be my first choice on a truly boiling day! Plus there are really quite a few options when it comes to stretchy wraps so I will save summer stretchy recommendations for a future blog post.

-Madeleine

How to do a Hip Carry with a Buckle carrier

Many of us naturally will carry baby on our hips when carrying in arms, as doing so gives one arm free for making lunch and puts baby in a position where they can see what we are doing and and chat to us while we potter about.

Ever wondered if you can carry your baby on your hip in a buckle carrier?

Many baby carriers do offer this option (but its not always wonderfully clear or even in the manual).  Here is my method, shown with an Izmi Baby Carrier but this same method will work just as well with an Ergo Omni, Adapt orEmbrace, Connecta, Kahu Baby, Mamaruga Zen or Zebulo, Beco Gemini, Beco 8, Lillebaby, Manduca, JPMBB, Sleepy Nico and many others.

Developmentally, the hip position is one that works best once baby has “some” head control… so generally around 2-3 months onwards.  It is an absolutely great position for “nosy” babies who want to see everything while still getting a good view of their caregiver.  It’s a great position for communication and shared moments.  As such, hip carries can be a great alternative to forward facing, as it gives baby the same view but makes it easier for them to see you, for you to read their cues and also for them to tuck in and relax ready for a nap when needed.  It can also be less harsh on the parents back compared to forward facing.

Happy hip carrying!

-Madeleine

Carrier shown here is the Izmi Baby carrier and is available here.

FAQ – How do I get my baby onto my back in a buckle carrier on my own?

Carrying your child on your back can be truly freeing!  Back carries completely free up your hands to get on and get stuff done, and they are generally more comfortable too as most of us load bear better on our backs than our fronts.  Plus once your child is tall enough to see over your shoulder they can have an absolutely great view of the world and can chat to you right next to your ear where you can hear them even on a busy street.

There are so many pros! But, actually figuring out how on earth to get them onto your back can be pretty intimidating.  There are actually loads of different methods and this is where a trained Sling consultant can be really helpful, they can work with you – with your individual flexibility, coordination and learning type to help ensure you are completely confident moving your baby on and off your back on your own unassisted!

While there are many many methods, the “secure hipscoot” method is the one I teach most often.  Or at least this is the starting point I teach most often, I will frequently modify it here or there depending on the individual and depending on the carrier used… but the video below shows my starting point.

Carrier in the video is a Beco Gemini, but this method will work with the vast majority of buckle carriers including Ergo Omni, Adapt, Original and 360 models, Lillebaby, Boba carriers, Manduca, Kahu Baby, Connecta and many many others.

It is my personal favourite method because it feels really secure at all times! It doesn’t rely on cooperation from the child, and in fact can be done with a very active wiggler once your confident.  I once used this method to put my then 2.5 year old onto my back on a moving tube train while he was in a full temper tantrum… I simply would not have managed to get off the train with him and our bags and coats and other stuff any other way!

If you are giving this a try at home, do give it a go over a soft surface like a bed or a sofa.  I learnt to back carry when my son was about 8 or 9 months old and he absolutely loved a controlled fall when I messed something up and got stuck!!  But if your struggling at all do remember that this is by no means the only method!  One of the downsides of this method, at least in this form, is that it does rely on a fair degree of shoulder motility, and as such isn’t a great option for those with stiff or injured shoulders.  So if this is you or if your struggling at all learning to back carry do contact your local sling consultant who will be able help you find the method that works for you

Happy Back Carrying!

-Madeleine