Permission to get carried away
It turns out the working mother juggle is an age-old phenomenon. Cradleboards like the one pictured below were carried by Native American mother’s who needed to be mobile for work. Their sturdy design not only protected young babies, but — craftily — could be stood up against a large tree or rock, or even hung from poles, branches or horses when required.
Thankfully, baby carrier design has evolved with modern times and we are free from using cradleboard "burden straps” around our foreheads, chest and shoulders. I can’t help but note how the brilliance of naming these straps frees one of any unrealistic expectations of their future fate.
Our society has learnt a great deal from cradleboards, in that babies who were carried this way had a higher incidence of developmental dysplasia of the hip. As a result, we have understood the importance of a free hip position when we swaddle or carry our babies. For normal hip development, the legs should be able to bend at the hips with the knees apart.
Baby-wearing is a practice that bridges not only time, but culture. I love that these African babies are being carried on their mother’s backs, telling a story of community and bringing life to the adage ‘I’ve got your back.’
When your baby has started sitting up by themselves, I encourage you to learn the skill of carrying your baby on your back. Once you’ve wrestled with the idea and practiced the mechanics of getting your baby safely there, my personal experience is that it feels right. After all, can you imagine living in a world of piggy fronts and front-packs?
Only a small amount of work has been done quantifying the effects of carrying your baby on your own posture and walking mechanics. It makes sense that carrying your baby as they grow, or for long periods, has the potential to overload your muscles and joints -- even more so if you hold or carry your baby without a baby carrier. Research shows you will lean body away from the load, and exaggerate the spinal curves of your lower and upper back. You may also compensate by walking slower, and taking shorter steps.
With a dash of awareness these compensations are reversible, and should not cause you discomfort or injury. If this isn't the case for you, find a health professional that can help you improve your posture. Carrying your baby should be an empowering experience that will make your muscles stronger over time. If you add to that the documented benefits of baby-wearing for both you and your baby, including less crying and a strengthened bond between you and your baby, I can't encourage you enough to get carried away with the prospect of baby-wearing. For movement's sake.
Dr Suzanne Long does not endorse carrying your baby with one of the methods pictured. The baby physio clinic is a proud supplier of Ergobaby carriers.