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

What Can I do with a Stretchy Wrap?

Stretchy wraps are amazing.  They are super soft, snuggly and one of the best options for a newborn.  They are amazingly versatile.  They fit all body shapes and sizes because you tie them to yourself and when you find the right carry will work for all newborns because you can adapt them to fit however baby most likes to be held.

But there is a catch…  most manuals only show one way to use them.  And consequently most parents only really feel confident using these really versatile carriers one way.  And sometimes that one way doesn’t work well for them, or baby or both.  Or more normally is fine sometimes but on some days baby won’t tolerate it.

In this article I will explore several different ways a Stretchy wrap can be used.  The videos demonstrate how the carry is done, while the descriptions of each carry discuss the pros and cons of each carry.  What that carry is best for and what its worst for.  It’s by no means meant to be an exhaustive list but rather a starting point to inspire you to explore further.  To empower you with a great grounding in what can be achieved so you can get much more out of your carrier, whether that’s finding some carries that suits your and baby better or simply adding in a couple to your repertoire that offer you more functionality and/or longevity from your sling.

 

#1 Pocket Wrap Cross Carry (AKA the normal one, Hug hold).

Pocket Wrap Cross Carry is the most commonly taught method for stretchy wraps.  It gives a lovely snuggly carry that is perfect for the 4th trimester period and is one of the easiest ties for a beginner because you tie it off first before putting baby in.  Once tied you can then can simply pop baby in and out as needed (without need to re-tie in between each time you take baby in and out).

This tie will works well for many babies right from day 1 and continues to be amazing until they start to go through the developmental leap at around 3-4 months.  Not all babies will be developmentally ready to sit astride the cross (particularly those born early, lower birth weight or ones that are just very curled up), and there are positions below that work better in this case for the first few weeks until baby is ready for this position.  After 3-4 months, you might still enjoy this position for nap times, but often during more awake periods baby might fuss for more freedom and a better less enclosed view.  This position can also become less supportive for the parents back around this time.  Again there are alternative positions below that can often be a better option for older babies.

Finally, because Pocket Wrap Cross Carry is pre-tied this is a tie that works much better with a 2 way stretchy wrap than a one way stretchy wrap.  This is because there is a much greater window between too tight and too loose on a 2 way wrap than a 1 way (more on the differences here).  If you have a 1 way stretchy wrap you might struggle to get this tie perfect reliably, and again there are other options below that work better for 1 way stretchy wraps.

 

#2 Front Double Hammock Variation

 

The Front Double Hammock Variation is tied exactly the same way as Pocket Wrap Cross Carry (#1), but baby is placed inside the sling differently.  Rather than sitting astride the cross baby sits on the cross with no fabric dividing between the legs.  Instead the fabric rests just in the back of the knee pit, similar to how you would sit in a hammock.

This makes this carry ideal for babies who are not yet opening out their knees and spreading their legs around their parents when they are held simply in arms.  Babies vary a lot in terms of when they are ready to do this.  Some are born already fairly opened out, while others remain much more curled up for a few weeks.  This is particularly true of babies born prematurely or babies born at a lower birth weight.  By sitting on the cross rather than astride it, their natural position is respected and maintained, allowing them to open up naturally once they are ready to do so.

This can also be important for babies who have hypermobility (such as commonly see in Downs Syndrome) or another medical reason to avoid material between their legs that might over spread them.

Another advantage of this position is that is is easier to breastfeed in because without material between baby’s legs it is easier to adjust baby’s position to bring them to the breast.  However, without the material between the legs this is a position that can feel less secure with a more wiggly older baby.

Finally it is worth noting that, again because this carry is pre-tied this is a tie that is easier to do with a two-way stretchy wrap where you have a wider window between too tight and too loose compared to stretchy wraps with only one-way stretch.

 

#3 Front Wrap Cross Carry

In contrast to the two carries above, the wrap is not pre-tied for Front wrap cross carry.  Instead baby goes in at a much earlier stage and then the wrap is tightened and tied around baby.  This means that you don’t have to guess or measure how much space to leave for baby as you simply fit the wrap to baby and yourself exactly.  This means this tie is a great option for one-way stretchy wraps or for anyone who is having difficulty getting the tightness correct using the pre-tied Pocket Wrap Cross Carry method.  In fact this tie works better for one-way stretchy wraps than two-way ones because in general one-way stretchies are less stretchy than 2 ways and thus require less tightening using this method!

The downside of this method is simply that you tie it from scratch each time, so lose the convenience of simply popping baby in and out.  Although you do quickly become very speedy at tying!

Front Wrap Cross Carry is also the same method that is most commonly used for woven wraps so if you are thinking about trying a woven and not sure if you could do it or not you can give this a go with your stretchy wrap and see how you find it!

 

#4  Adjustable Pocket Wrap Cross Carry

In this variation of the standard carry, the wrap is pre-tied but it is pre-tied using an adjustable knot at the shoulder.  The knot is placed at the shoulder to make it easy to get to and using a slip knot means the wrap can very easily be tightened and loosened, without untying or taking the wrap on and off.

This makes this tie particularly great for;

  • breastfeeding in the sling (as easy to lower baby ready for a feed, then raising them back up after the feed without waking them)
  • for older babies – where the sling needs to be tighter to support their weight but getting it tight enough doesn’t leave you with enough space to get them in!
  • for one way stretchy wraps for anyone having difficulty getting the tightness correct using carry #1.

This carry does work just as well with a two-way stretchy wrap too, it can be a great option to have in your tool box, well worth giving a go!

 

#5 Seated Sideways (Pocket wrap cross carry variation).

In this position the wrap is tied exactly as for pocket wrap cross carry (#1), but this time baby is loaded in completely differently.  Instead of going “tummy to tummy” with the adult, baby sits upright, side on to the parent.

The advantage of this is the baby has no pressure on their tummy, so this is an excellent position for babies with reflux or any baby who is have a painful digestion day or currently struggling with a poo.  Or for any baby who has had to undergo chest or abdominal surgery.  It’s also fabulous for communication as baby can stare up at your and you can see each others faces much more easily than in the standard tummy to tummy position.  Some babies simply prefer being held this way.  Or enjoy it as a change.

When I work with new parents I always watch how parents hold babies in arms and often parents hold baby naturally like this and so are really excited to find that is a position that the sling can replicate.

The one thing to be aware of when using this position is the important to having baby sat upright in the sling.  As long as baby is upright their head will nicely stack onto their spine and should be easy to support by either tucking their head or using a muslin roll in the 3rd layer.  If baby is not upright there is a danger baby can slump into the pocket and there is a danger the fabric could cover them or place pressure on the head resulting in a chin on chest position that can restrict airflow.  So when using this position it is key to ensure the sling is tight enough and baby is upright so that you know they are safe and comfortable.

 

#6 Simple Hip Carry (pocket wrap cross carry variation)

Hip carries can be great for babies who have reached “nosy baby” phase.  This typically starts in earnest around 3 to 4 months (although sometimes a little earlier or later) and around this time you will notice baby starting to fuss and craning for a better view when awake in the stretchy wrap on your front.  A hip carry gives them that better view while still giving them a snuggly carry they can relax and fall asleep in if they wish.

There are other ways you can use your stretchy on your hip but this method is the simplest because you start by tying it exactly as you would for carrying baby on your front using the pocket wrap cross carry method.  There is just one change – once you have tied you work out which hip you’d like to carry baby on and then drop the strap on that side off your shoulder and bring it under your arm.  The tightness of the wrap will then need to be adjusted and then your ready to simply load your baby into the wrap on your side!

Because this method is pre-tied again this is a method that works best for a two-way stretchy wrap.  It is important to ensure it is snug before you start because as this is a one shouldered carry you will find it will put more strain on your back if it is loose.

 

#7 Robin’s Hip Carry

Robin’s Hip carry is a carry I often teach with a woven wrap, but it does work just as well with a stretchy wrap.  For this carry you start by creating a pouch that you then tighten around baby and then reinforce with additional cross passes.

Because this carry is tightened around baby, this is a carry that works just as well for one-way and two way stretchy wraps.  It’s also great for bigger babies, as you can allow enough space to get them in easily and still get it tight enough to support their growing weight.

It’s a fabulous option for nosy babies, and can be a more comfortable option than the simple hip carry because of the double layer on the shoulder and how the straps spread out around parent.  It is a few more steps, but can be worth it for that extra comfort.

 

#8 Double Hammock Back Carry

Of all the carries shown here, this is the one that I would say is quite advanced and needs good deal of practise and confidence.  Again this is a carry that is commonly used with woven wraps, and is one that many babywearing consultants choose not to teach with a stretchy wrap because it is that bit harder (compared to a woven) to really get as tight as you need to.   

However, it is possible.  Not with all stretchy wraps, but ones that are wider and stronger like the one shown in the video (a JPMBB Original) it is possible with practise and understanding.  While often when it comes to back carries there are other easier options (like buckle carriers or a woven wrap) it is something that some parents do want to have in their repertoire and it is a fun snuggly bouncy carry for an older baby.  If you would like to learn how to do this, I would highly recommend face to face support with a consultant as there are many methods for getting baby onto your back and getting the passes into place behind you and having input can really help flatten the learning curve and help you gain confidence with tightening.

This is definitely a carry where tightness is really important – you can see this at the end of the video when I ask my daughter if she can break out.  Funnily enough in our practise 5 minutes before she couldn’t get her arms out at all, but when I filmed it was a tiny bit looser and you can see how much further she can get! 

 

#9 Pregnancy Support

Did you know you can actually use your stretchy wrap before baby arrives?  Wrapping your bump, back and hips with a stretchy wrap can provide some short term support to your growing body.  It is worth noting that this is something I’d advise for short time periods in the later months of pregnancy only, as its important for your body and muscles to strengthen up as your bump grows.  But in those final months, on longer days, this can provide some very welcome short term relief to your back and hips!

Any stretchy wrap 1 way or 2 way will work equally well as a pregnancy support and that time spent wrapping your bump will translate into muscle memory and confidence using your wrap when it comes to actually wrapping baby.

 

#10 Carrying Twins (Pocket Wrap Cross Carry variation)

A stretchy wrap can also be used to carry newborn twins!  The simplest way to do this is tie the wrap just like in carry #1 – Pocket Wrap Cross Carry but instead of loading one baby into both sides of the cross, you load one baby each into either side of the cross.

This carry works really well right from newborn, and can be a lovely way to carry newborn twins as it gives them the comfort of each other (just as they had in the womb) and the comfort of being on their parents chest!  When they grow out of it varies a lot between twin pairs, depending on size and how early they arrived etc, but typically somewhere around 8 weeks (give or take!) they will start to feel like they fit less comfortably.  You can use this carry for as long as you still feel comfortable – even if that is a lot longer than 8 weeks!  While there are dedicated Twin carriers available, none work as well for these first few weeks as a Stretchy Wrap.  It can be a really lovely option to start with, and then decide if you want to invest in a twin sling or other options later once babies start to grow out of this, and once you know more about how you will want to carry them (whether singly or together).

In terms of which stretchy wrap are best for this carry – generally wraps that have a bit more width can be helpful when wearing twins in this way.  As are wraps that are fairly supportive and not too stretchy.  Again two way wraps can be easier as it is a pre-tied method but many stretchy wraps are very stretchy and that can be less helpful!  In particular the JPMBB Original wrap, Izmi Baby and even Kari Me wrap are among my top picks for twins as they are all two-way wraps but have have less stretch than many other 2 way wraps and are wide and strong!  A good quality strong one-way stretchy wrap like the Moby can also be a good bet, because while they are harder to get the pre-tie right, the additional support and strength can make up for this when it comes to wrapping 2!

 

#11 Kangaroo Carry

The Kangaroo carry is another option where there is no material between babies legs.  You start by creating a pouch on your front, slip baby in and then tighten the wrap around them creating a snug pocket which is then reinforced with 2 further layers of wrap across babies back.  For older, stronger and more wiggly babies you can then pass fabric between the legs and tie under bum, but for smaller babies you don’t need to bring any material between their legs at all.

This means this is a great option for premature babies, low birth weight babies or babies who are simply not opening out their legs yet.  Likewise babies with hypermobility (such a Downs Syndrome) or other medical reason to avoid pressure on their legs.  It’s also the option that of all the carries shown here give the biggest surface area between parent and baby and so can be great for skin to skin cuddles.  Again great winner for premature babies! But also any baby that’s feeling a bit under the weather and needs the extra comfort and temperature regulation.

Because this carry is tied around baby it works really well with 1 way stretchy wraps, it works well with 2 way wraps too but can feel a bit easier with a 1 way.

Finally, while I have shown the tummy to tummy position here, this same carry can also be used with the Seated Sideways position.

A final note…

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that all the carries I have shown here show babies legs outside of the sling.  You can read more about why I generally only teach legs out here.  I am aware that this is in contrast to many manuals that suggest the legs in position should be used until baby is ready to sit astride across, however, legs in comes with its own challenges which are often not made clear in manuals.  Experience has taught me that alternatives such as the double hammock variation or even the Kangaroo carry can give the best of both worlds, allowing baby to sit comfortably on their bottom without being overspread while still having their legs and feet free to move naturally.

Hope these tutorials help inspire you!  Happy Wrapping!

-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.

9 Ways to Wear a Close Caboo

The Close Caboo is an excellent and very popular newborn specialist baby carrier, it’s a hugely popular option both in the library and the webshop.  I have blogged before about its pros and cons and compared the different models available.  Here I wanted to focus on what you can do with it!  Most people only ever use the Caboo in one way.  The one and only carry that is shown in the manual that comes in the box.  This is a carry that works for most, but not all and even those it does work for sometimes another carry might be a nice option from time to time.  While the manual shows only one, there are more suggested on the box and more on their website and even more that are possible according to individual needs.

In fact I can do 9 different carries with a Close Caboo!  And I am sure this is by no means an exhaustive list but rather a comprehensive starting point for you to get creative and find options that work for you!  Let’s take a look at each in turn:

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#1 Double Cross Carry – aka the normal one, the one in the manual.  The key features of this carry are that the carrier goes on with logo upright on your back, rings and the side and baby’s legs straddle the cross at the front.  The material is then spread so it supports from knee to knee and shoulder to shoulder on both sides and the tie on 3rd layer completes the carry.

This position is one that works for most adults and most newborns.  It works best for babies in the ‘fourth trimester’ (newborn to 12 weeks).  Babies older than this can often grow out of this position developmentally – often finding it too enclosing when they start to become more awake and more naturally inquisitive (at this point one of the hip positions below can work better).   Smaller, more curled up babies and those who are born prematurely may prefer not straddle the cross (if they do not yet open their legs this wide) and for these babies position #2 is usually a better option.  Likewise there are other positions that change the fit for the adult below.

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#2 Double Hammock Carry – Very similar to the first carry, this main difference with Double Hammock is simply that baby sits on the cross rather than straddling it.  Carrier goes on exactly the same way for the parent and feels broadly the same for them, but for the baby both legs go through both straps.  The material is then spread so it supports from knee to knee and shoulder to shoulder on both sides, and twists at the shoulder helps keep the top of the carry snug and face clear of material.  Finally the tie on 3rd layer completes the carry.

This position can feel better for a very new baby.  Particularly smaller babies or those born early.  Or simply those that love to sleep really curled up.  Sometimes for these very tucked up babies it can feel wrong to try to tease them apart to get one leg either side… instead using the double hammock variation allows them to remain very tucked up and doesn’t change their position at all and doesn’t open their legs any wider than they would by themselves.  This is a position I teach regularly to parents of babies born early, or parents of babies who have low muscle tone.  Not every baby needs it, and some who are born at term just prefer it anyway.  Or at least for the first few weeks and then they might progress to using the Double Cross carry instead.  Again like the double cross carry this position works best for the 4th trimester/newborn position.

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#3 Seated sideways – In this position baby literally sits sideways in the sling.  The carrier goes on the same way, and distributes the weight the same way for the adult but again what has changed is how the baby sits within the carrier.  In seated sideways baby sits at a 90 degree angle to the adult within one layer of the sling with their legs together sticking out of the sling, and then the second layer comes up and over the legs to support baby’s back and to close the gap, and finally the 3rd layer completes the carry.

Because baby is not chest to chest with the parent and instead has no pressure on their chest or tummy at all this can be a great position for babies with reflux, or any baby where pressure on these areas might want to be avoided (i.e. post surgery or for any other reason).  It can also be a great position for babies who simply don’t seem to like the chest to chest position, or find the double cross or double hammock positions too confining.  Or for those babies who simply seem to just want to have a better view!  Seated sideways allows babies to see their care givers faces better and see outwards a little better – while still giving plenty of support – hence it can great option for babies who are starting to want to look out more but maybe aren’t ready for a hip position yet.

Or simply any baby who just needs a change of position (because lets face it we all like to change our position from time to time to stop us getting too stiff!).  This position is also one of the best options for a baby who is wearing a sleeping bag or sleep sac!  Generally it’s pretty difficult to put a baby in a sleeping bag in a sling but because the legs are together and stick out to one side, Seated Sideways is one of the few positions that does work well with a sleeping bag.

Seated Sideways can be used right from newborn for as long as it is still comfortable for you and baby – as long as care is taken to ensure baby is upright within the sling and that the sling is tight enough to keep them upright and to keep them from slumping.  I do like to stress that it is key to ensure baby is upright, because when upright their airway is protected by supporting their head and neck in a neutral position, while if more horizontal/cradle it is more difficult to ensure this neutral position and there is an increased risk of baby adopting a chin to chest position which can restrict airflow.  But as long as baby is seated up right and sling is well-adjusted this can be a fab position for any baby.

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#4 Upside Down – This position completely changes the fit for the adult. Turning the carrier upside down doesn’t alter baby’s positioning, but will feel very different for the parent.  Specifically, by putting the carrier on upside down the rings are now at the parents shoulders rather than under the arm at their sides.

So why might you want to wear the Caboo upside down?  A small number of parents find the rings dig into their sides.  I should stress that most parents don’t notice the feel of the rings at all but a small number of parents do.  It really depends on body shape and where those rings end up on you.  For most, the rings sit at the parent’s side over a relatively fleshy part of their torso and as such the parent doesn’t notice them at all.  But for a few parents, often those who are particularly petite the rings come more to the front of their body and maybe sit over the ribs or less fleshy part of their body and dig in.  For these parents the solution is simply to turn the Caboo upside down.  This gets the rings off the ribs and up onto their shoulders where they feel more comfortable. It is worth noting that while this position does tend to work really well for more petite frames, it doesn’t work as well on broader or longer torsos because having the rings at the shoulders constrains where the cross sits on your back.  On a more petite frame this will still be mid back whereas on a longer or stockier torso it will be higher up on your back and this maybe less comfortable.

Another advantage to wearing the Caboo upside down is it changes the direction in which the sling is tightened: loose material is moved upwards toward the rings and then pulled downwards through the ring. Compared to moving downwards and then pulling forward when wearing the Caboo the rightway up.  Many parents find moving loose material upwards more intuitive and thus find tightening easier in this position.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Caboo can be used upside down to acheive either a double cross carry (as shown in the photos) or a double hammock carry – depending on how you thread baby’s legs.  Either position for baby works equally well in combination with wearing the Caboo upside down.

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#5 Double Cross Carry Shifted to the Hip – as the name suggests this position is really similar to #1 Double cross carry the only difference is the fabric is simply shifted over towards the hip first and then baby placed in the fabric now off to one side near the hip.

This carry is good for fairly young babies who still need a fair amount of head and neck support but are starting to become more interested in the world and want to have a better view of what’s going on… or at least while they are awake! It can be a tricky age … where baby fusses to get a better view but they aren’t yet developmentally ready to go into a full hip carry carry or to forward face.  So this position, which still has all the same support for baby can be really useful for those couple of weeks while their neck strength plays catch up to their noseyness levels!!  It’s also a good option for adults with weaker backs because it is still is a two shouldered carry (most hip carry’s are one shouldered only) so it still spreads the weight across both shoulders and across the back evenly.  So the adult doesn’t usually feel more strain on one side than the other despite baby being on one side.

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#6 Hip Carry – More of a true hip carry than #5, the carrier goes on sideways across one shoulder with baby on the opposite hip.

This carry is a great option for slightly older babies who have reasonable head control and have gone through that developmental leap from a sleepy newborn into the “nosy, must see everything” baby phase!  This is often the age many parents move away from the Caboo as they start to find baby gets frustrated with too much material near their face and an obstructed view in the standard double cross carry.  The hip position usually solves all this frustration by giving baby a much better view while still feeling secure and supported.  In fact, assuming baby does have good head and upper torso control, they can even have their arms out, which again can make this carrier much more fun for them while they are awake and alert.  Generally this position works best from about 4 months (give or take) for as long as it is still comfortable for the parent.    

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#7 One Shouldered Front Carry – While most parents prefer a 2 shouldered carry, there are sometimes circumstances where this is non ideal – shoulder injury, weakness on one side, etc.  Or even temporary factors – maybe you slept funny last night and now have a massive crick in your neck and can’t stand having weight on that side…  or maybe you sat out in the garden and managed to sunburn on shoulder… either way you’ll be alright in a day or two but still need to use your carrier in the meantime.  In any of these circumstances it is useful to know that the Caboo can work just as well as a one shouldered carrier.

To do a one shouldered carry you simply slip one shoulder strap under your arm instead and then retighten the carrier as need.  For the baby the carry is much the same as positions #1 and #2.  And much like both of these positions, this carry works really well with newborns as it’s a really snuggly comfortable position for baby.

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#8 Torso Carry – Continuing on the theme from #7, it is also possible to do a “no shoulders” or Torso carry with a Caboo.  For most parents this is nowhere near as comfortable as the standard double cross or double hammock variations… BUT on just a handful of occasions I have met a parent with terrible neck pain or shoulder issues that mean any pressure at all on their shoulders is unbearable.  And on these very rare occasions a torso carry was the answer.

Additionally, without any fabric on the shoulders, the Torso carry is a lot cooler for the parent than other positions so great for those absolutely boiling days (or great if you’ve got absolutely terrible sunburn across your shoulders and/or back).  This is a position that can work well for newborns and older babies alike.  It works particularly well for babies who don’t like any fabric anywhere near their face!

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#9 Twin Carry – last but not at all least the Caboo can actually be used as a tandem carrier to carry newborn twins!  This carry works best for twins under about 8 weeks (give or take depending on their size), and gives them a lovely snuggly carry which helps ease their transition from the womb by providing closeness not only with their parent but also with their twin – with whom they are used to spending the last 9 months closely nestled to!

Babies are positioned similarly to how they are in carry #1 but instead of sitting astride the cross, each baby straddles one of the two straps only and then the final layer acts to close the gaps and provide overall support and stability to the carry.  You can also use the Caboo upside down to carry twins too, and some parents find this easier to tighten.

All in all the Caboo, like many baby carriers on the market, offers a huge range of flexibility and the possibilities go much farther than a manual ever does.  I hope this helps inspire you to have a play with your carrier and try new carrying positions and find the things that work for you.  Whether you have a Caboo or another carrier entirely, this is something a Sling Consultant can help you with – help you assess your needs and see if your carrier can meet them.  See if there is a way to use that carrier differently to get more out of it.

-Madeleine

PS if your interested in purchasing one, Caboo Lite cost £55 and can be purchased from Sheen Slings webshop here, or by arrangement at sling library meets, consults, workshops or doorstep collection.  We also hire them out ensuring you can try it before you buy.

Lillebaby Complete All Seasons Review

20170427_080049 (2)The Lillebaby Complete, as its name suggests, has and does everything!  It has a frankly staggering 6 carrying positions, works from a newborn (or maybe a month old) until at least 3, maybe even 4 years old.  Its filled with clever design features and has a emphasis on parent comfort with oodles of padding and lumbar support.

So what’s the catch?  …It is not small.  All this padding and features means this is a pretty bulky carrier.  If your after a lightweight travel sling or something that folds up pretty small to slip into your change bag or under your pushchair – this is not it.  However, if you’re looking for something you can wear a growing baby in for hours on end during long Sunday walks or on buggy free day trips this maybe just what you’re looking for.

Like ALL buckle carriers, it’s definitely worth trying this on before you buy.  All buckle carriers fit different body types better or worse.  In particular, as the Lillebaby is bulkier, it tends to work less well on a more petite frame.  More slender parents usually find the level of padding too all encompassing, and find a better fit with a less bulky carrier.  The length of padding on the shoulder straps also means that this carrier works better for taller parents, parents below around 5’4” ish or whom are very petite will often struggle to the straps tight enough when back carrying.  This is definitely a carrier that works best for more average to bigger builds.

For those it does work well for – it has some really lovely parent comfort features.  First and foremost is the lumbar support.  This was one of the first carriers to add a lumbar support panel, and I still think it’s one of the best because of how it’s shaped.  Its shaped so it sits right in a the middle of your lower back and support radiates upward.  I also love the fact its removable!! Because while its fab for front carries, when you move to back carries you might not want a lumbar support panel right in the middle of your tummy.  Secondly, the straps can be worn crossed or rucksack style across the parents back according to personal preference and comfort.  Again choice is great as often different partners have different preferences and the Lillebaby is a carrier that will often work really well for partners who have very different body shapes and difference preferences.  And the straps tighten in two directions so you can either pull forward or backward so works well with different mobility levels and relative wrist strengths!  Many carriers tighten in only 1 direction and some parents find tightening backwards a real challenge! So two way tightening can be a real boon.  Thirdly, it has a very wide firm waist band that really anchors the carrier combined with firm long padded straps.  As discussed above the amount of padding doesn’t suit everyone but for those it does fit well, the firm padding does make for a supportive comfortable carrier.

For the baby, the Lillebaby complete is weight tested from 3.2 to 20 kg (7 to 45 lb) and the manual demonstrates 6 different carrying positions.  These are;

  1. Fetal – wide seat setting.  Suitable for first few weeks only, if at all.  In this position baby goes legs inside the carrier.  You start by rolling up a blanket to make a little cushion for the baby to sit on, then sit the baby on it and bring the whole carrier up and around them.  Lillebaby suggest this for newborn – 3 months.  In reality, I don’t like this position and only very rarely show it to people.  I don’t like it because by having the legs in the carrier this can put extra stress on developing ankle joints.  Also parents are often confused by the whole blanket thing and essentially making their own infant insert out of a rolled up blanket.  Most babies can actually skip this stage and go directly to the second position.  It’s only really the very curled up babies who would benefit from this position and usually most parents with a very curled up baby find this carrier too all encompassing for their tiny baby and opt to use something like a stretchy wrap or Caboo until baby is a bit bigger and fits in one of the other positions anyway.
  2. Infant facing inward – narrow seat setting.  Suitable from a few weeks old until around 6 months.  In this position baby sits directly in the base of the carrier using the narrower seat setting.  In this setting the bottom of the panel is tapered, which allows you to fit a smaller baby by putting them in the part that is narrowest and then as they grow you sit them deeper into the panel where it is wider … so that in this way you can get a great knee-to-knee fit for babies all the way from a few weeks old upto 5 or 6 months.  Likewise you can alter the position of the neck support to ensure baby is supported upto the nape of the neck but no higher as they grow.  So in theory as soon as baby can open their legs wide enough to sit astride this narrowest part, this carrier can be used.  This varies from baby to baby but for most this is usually from a few weeks.
  3. Older baby facing inward – wide seat setting.  Suitable from 6 months onwards. This is actually the same position as number 2 in that baby sits directly in the base of the carrier with legs out either side, but differs in that now you use the wider setting.  The Lillebaby is so wide on this widest setting that babies are not usually big enough to do this until they are around 6 months old – often older.  This wider seat position will then go on supporting them until they are at least 3 years old (although many parents will prefer to use the back carry position from a year or 18 months onward for their own comfort).  Likewise the infant neck support can be used clipped up to extend the height of the carrier to continue to support a growing toddler.  Often parents are worried about knowing when to move from the narrow seat to the wider one – and it’s simply a case of being guided by your child and how long their legs are!  Once baby is long enough to sit comfortably in the wider seat without any material passing the backs of their knees they are ready for this position and will find it more comfortable verses the narrower setting as they are better supported.  While, if the material does pass the backs of their knees then they will be more comfortable in the narrower seat position.
  4. Infant facing outward – narrow seat setting.  Generally from 6 months plus.  In theory the forward facing position can be used once baby has strong neck and head control (for more facts on forward facing and how to tell if your baby is ready please click here), however they do also need to physically fit the carrier in that position.  And because the Lillebaby is a relatively big carrier, while many babies might be developmentally ready earlier… few actually fit the Lillebaby Complete in this position before 6 months.  This can sometimes be frustrating for parents who feel they’d like to forward face earlier and there are other – smaller carriers – where you can forward face earlier.  The flip side is that because this carrier is bigger it can be more comfortable in the forward facing position as baby is more contained and thus puts less strain on parents back (as the forward facing position is, for absolutely any carrier, the position that puts the most strain on parent’s backs.  The physical size of the Lillebaby carrier can help mitigate this, but the con is baby has to be bigger too which of course means more strain anyway… so it is all a bit Catch-22!).
  5. Hip Carry – either seat setting. Suitable once baby has reasonably good neck and upper torso control.  The hip position can be a lovely alternative to forward facing, as it affords the same view for baby while giving both them and you a little more support.  It’s a particularly good option for babies who’d like to forward face but are not quite big enough yet.  The one downside to this position with the Lillebaby specifically is the firmly padded shoulder straps often don’t sit as comfortably over the shoulder in this position compared to lighter weight/softer straps.  If the hip position was one you were using a lot a more softly padded strap would be more desirable, although as this is a position people tend to use more infrequently it’s not really a big critism. 
  6. Back Carry – wide seat setting. Suitable once baby can sit independently, roughly 6 months onward and can last realistically to around 3 years or even beyond.  Last but not least the back carry position is one where the Lillebaby really shines!  An adjustable chest strap and all that padding means many parents will continue to be comfortable carrying their growing toddlers on their back to at least 3 years of age!  The one thing to check is that you can get this carrier tight enough!  Because the padded shoulder straps are relatively long, more petite parents can find that they simply can’t get the carrier tight enough to be comfortable on their back.  It is really worth being aware of this and checking before you buy – parents of young babies must always think I am mad when I make them try this carrier on their back with a doll before letting them buy one but there is nothing worse than shelling out for a carrier for your 3 month old, happily use it on your front and then discover a few months later that it doesn’t fit you on your back!!

 

There are a whole host of other cool features on this carrier too, including:

  • head support panel attaches via buckles that are on elastics which allows this panel to support gently and move with baby rather than being rigidly fixed into place.
  • If your not using the head support the buckles neatly tuck away and the panel poppers into place.
  • There is very soft light padding under the side buckles to ensure that these do not dig uncomfortably into parents side or into breast tissue.
  • A breathable zip down mesh panel to give the “All Season’s” aspect of this carrier.  This panel can be neatly tucked away to help keep baby cool during the summer months then zipped back up to help keep baby snug on cooler days. It’s definitely a nice feature although, how much cooler it is I have never been too sure – I’ve always found padding level and bulk to have more of an affect on overall warmth of a carrier than the presence or absence of mesh.  

 

My one complaint about this carrier, however, is that it is not easy to switch between the narrow and wide seat positions.  If your are only using this carrier to face baby inwards this is not so much of an issue as you’ll only have to do this once when baby grows out of the narrow seat position.  But if you are using this carrier to carry your baby facing outwards – you’ll need to swap ALL the time.  Forward facing is a position best done in short bursts, and I encourage parents to follow their baby’s cues and turn them inward before they get too tired or overstimulated…. HOWEVER, because the Lillebaby requires you to take the carrier off and put the baby down and faff for 2 minutes completely reconfiguring the waist band, this is A LOT easier said than done. It’s a real shame as it’s often this that puts parents off and they choose a carrier where they can switch back and forth more easily.   

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All in all the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons is a feature packed, long lasting behemoth of a carrier – perfect for those looking to carry for long periods and use their carrier for a long time.  It’s well made and very well designed.  Like all carriers it’s well worth trying before you buy as it doesn’t fit everyone, but for those it gives a good fit to this can be a great versatile option.  The Lillebaby Complete costs around £140.

 

-Madeleine