In their first few months of life, babies are worn in a front carry position, often with a soft, cozy newborn baby carrier. At a certain point, as your baby gets bigger and stronger, you’ll probably wonder if it’s the right time to try out the back carry position. I know I did!
When can I wear my baby on my back?
It’s safe to begin wearing your baby in the back carry position when your baby shows strong neck and head control and can sit independently, which is usually around 6 months.
I waited a little longer than 6 months to use the back carry position with my own kids, but that was just due to my comfort level. By around 8 months or so I felt more confident in using the back carry position, mostly because my babies felt bigger and sturdier at that point. Feeling comfortable with any baby carrying position is important, and this Babywearing for Beginner’s Guide might be useful if all of this is new to you.
That being said, Ergo and Lillebaby both recommend the 6 month mark as the age at which back carrying becomes an option. At that age most babies do have the head and neck control they need, as well as hips and legs that naturally open into a spread position.
Some parents may choose to wait until their baby is a bit older, perhaps a year, only because you can’t keep as clear an eye on a baby while they’re on your back. Baby Bjorn actually recommends this older age for using the back carry position.
Personally I’ve found having the option of a back carry position to be super useful well before my kids hit their first birthdays. Once you’re comfortable and your baby is ready, the back carry position can be a lifesaver.
Tips for safely back carrying a baby
- Practice over a bed or couch! Not in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s. You’ll need to get your confidence up before taking this show on the road. But once you get it down it’s really not very hard. I promise!
- Make sure the straps are tight enough that your baby feels snug to your body, but not pushed super hard against you.
- Check the baby’s position in a mirror or even using your phone’s camera feature if you’re out! I always like to do a quick check to make sure that my baby looks happy and well-positioned in the back carry.
- Make sure your baby is centered and sitting fully in the pouch of the carrier. If the carrier seems to be down too low on your baby’s back, you’ll need to pull on the shoulder straps and do some gentle bouncing to make sure your baby drops down fully into the seat.
Can older kids use the back carry position too?
Yup, they sure can. Even bigger toddlers (and even some preschoolers) are able to sit comfortably in the back carry, which might be handy in certain circumstances – at the end of a long hike, at the airport, at an amusement park. You get the idea. You might even try tandem babywearing if you need to take your toddler and baby somewhere that a stroller isn’t an option.
This video gives a good tutorial on how to properly get your baby into the back carry position. This happens to be for Ergo, but it will give you a general idea of the maneuvering you’ll need to do for any similar soft structured carriers.
(I should note that around the world some babies are worn on their mother’s backs from a much earlier age. I’m sure there are ways to do this safely, but I didn’t look into that for the purpose of this post, since I’m focusing on standard structured carriers, rather than woven wraps. Woven wraps always seem a bit too tricky to me, although lots of people love them).
Now that we’ve talked about when you can wear a baby on your back, I want to briefly talk about why you’d want to do this.
Why is the back carry position so great?
Of all the ways to use the baby carrier, the back carry is by far my favorite option. I like it much more than the forward facing option (which I don’t find particularly comfortable or practical). The back carry allows your older baby to look around, but from a much more ergonomically comfortable position.
The back carry’s biggest asset is that it lets you be hands-free. I really cannot overstate what a big deal that is! With your baby content on your back, you’re able to move around easily to do chores, food prep, shop, push another kid on a swing, go for a walk – whatever! It’s so freeing!
It’s true that the front carry position is cozy for young babies, but once you’re lugging around an older baby or toddler, the back carry is where it’s at.
For anyone who gets back or shoulder pain (I’m looking at myself right now) this particular carrying position is a huge help. Even after over an hour of wearing my baby on my back I really don’t feel much strain. The way the baby’s weight is distributed just doesn’t cause me discomfort.
I know a lot of people feel intimidated to give this position a try, but I am telling you, once you do it a few times (again, practicing over a bed until you feel confident) it is so simple, fast, and really not a big deal at all. And I am someone who does not excel at things like this. I’m honestly kind of surprised I can even do it. If I can do it, you can do it.
Go get ’em! (Unless your baby is under 6 months old or still doesn’t have great head and neck control. In that case calm down and wait or borrow another baby. Probably just calm down and wait).
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