We’re Babywearing Wellington, but we’ve been around for well over a year now, and our babies have grown up a lot in that time so we have a bit to say about how wearing an older baby or child differs from wearing an infant and why you might want to consider it.
One of my favourite memories from his first year is from when he was just over 6 months old and I had him on my hip in a ring sling. We were walking through town and he was looking around at the world and then turning back to look at me with a delighted “Did you just see that?!” look on his face. It was lovely to be able to share in his developing awareness of the world, and that’s one of the beautiful things about wearing babies and kids who are awake a reasonable amount of the time. They are getting to see the world from you level, where all the exciting stuff happens, where they are part of your interactions and conversations. You also get to talk to them about what you’re both seeing. And, when it all gets too much, you’re right there for them to snuggle into for comfort.
One of the reasons that a lot of people with small babies don’t envisage wearing them when they get bigger is that they think they’re going to be too heavy. My son is about 14kg, so he probably looks gigantic to those with little babies. If someone were to wear him for the first time now they’d probably struggle a bit, but I started wearing him when he was 3kg and have been wearing him as he’s grown, so my strength has built. It is a pretty good workout, to be honest. I can no longer wear him all day, but he wouldn’t let me, anyway.
These days I don’t wear him much around home, but he does sometimes get pretty clingy when he’s tired, sick or teething and wearing him allows me to get things done while also minimising tantrums and meltdowns.
Many parents still find it helpful to wear their toddlers to help them get to sleep, but unfortunately it’s incredibly rare for me to be able to successfully transfer him out of the carrier onto the bed. He’ll occasionally nap on me when we’re out, but I’ll admit that that is rather tough on me physically, so I try to avoid it.
More often I wear him in public.
He likes to walk places these days, but he gets tired easily so it’s great to have a carrier in the bag for when he decides to sit down in the middle of the pavement. It’s a lot easier to cart around “just in case” than pushing an empty stroller (unless you’re picking up groceries, in which case a pram can be pretty handy). We use public transport a lot so I definitely don’t want to wrestle a stroller on and off the bus when we might not even need it.
It’s also great for when he refuses to hold my hand and I don’t want him running off. I can put him on my back or I’ve been known to tie one end of a wrap around his waist and use it as a leash!
Many carriers are suitable for carrying larger kids but ones that can be used for back carries are ideal. Carrying a heavier child on the front of your body can be very tough on your back, and as they get taller they are more in your way as you have to reach around them and peer over them!
There are two common kinds of carrier I wouldn’t recommend for carrying larger babies, neither of which are suitable for back carries. Mainstream frontpacks are designed for babies up to a year old but many find them uncomfortable well before then. Stretchy wraps tend to sag a bit with a heavier child and are rarely wide enough to support the back of a taller kid.
SSCs such as the Ergo or Manduca are a popular choice and most of them have a weight limit of about 20kg, which could be around 4 years or older. They’re also quite quick to get on and off so can be good for a kid who wants to get up and down a lot or for putting them in it quickly when you’re out on the street.
We have started using a Mei Tai recently and have been enjoying it. It’s not quite as quick to put on as an SSC but it’s easy to wear higher up to let the wee bloke see over my shoulder and it folds up smaller than our SSC if we’re carrying it “just in case”.
Our personal favourite is the woven wrap. I learned to do back wraps from Emma about a year ago and it’s been brilliant. It was a bit of a learning curve but we soon got proficient with rucksack carries and I can quickly get M high up on my back where he can see the world, talk to me, kiss me and rub food in my hair. We find our Storchenwiege particularly supportive and I feel very confident about carrying him in it, despite his ever increasing weight, as the fact that it is one piece of fabric means that there is no stitching to possibly break or come undone.