Things People Say … to Babywearers … and what to (maybe) say back
Someone’s got an opinion about everything you do while raising your child.
When your choices are visible (like using a baby carrier) those someones may make a real effort to share their opinions with you.
Sure, sometimes that advice can lead you to learning something new and making better decisions. However, sometimes those opinions are complete garbage and undermine your confidence in solid choices you’ve already made. We don’t support the latter.
So how do you decide whether to accept critique and change what you do or reject it and carry on? You do your own research, of course; that’s why you’re here. But we know it can be hard to squeeze in the time or overcome a feeling of being overwhelmed. To try to help with that, we’ve put together a list of opinions we’ve encountered about babywearing and a brief breakdown of what’s behind them, just to get you started.
As always, please make sure to be critical of information no matter the source, making sure you check your instincts as well.
Myth: Babies who are carried a lot will be spoiled. Also phrased as a passive-aggressive, ”Aren’t you worried you’re spoiling them?”
Breakdown: People raised in subcultures that are not used to babies and young children being nurtured and included might not perceive attachment or touch as a basic need. They may think that a child who has their needs fully met or exceeded — which they think you are doing by babywearing — will result in the child being “spoiled.” And for them, “spoiling” means raising someone who believes they are entitled to having all their needs met regardless of others’ needs or real-world limitations.
These opinion-havers may believe that your child being spoiled will make life worse for themselves. They may even think you are setting up your child for disappointments in the future (because they think disappointments in the present are not as important) and that they have an obligation to help you avoid that.
They might not factor in whether you enjoy carrying the child or consider it convenient. They might be jealous that they did not get to be carried or carry a child of their own. They might not consider that your child will eventually learn that no one gets everything they want all of the time or right away (if you know anyone who does, please contact us right away for an interview).
These people, as adults, may get worried when they see you doing something they believe is wrong or harmful. Maybe they feel that if you do something different than was done with them or different from what they did if they raised children, that *you* think *they* are wrong. In rare occasions, these people may know of a specific situation in which this fear of theirs was confirmed.
Status / category of comment: False. This is an opinion about a non-life-threatening parenting choice.
Our recommendation: Pfff. Ignore. If you’re feeling polite, you could just answer, “No, but thank you for your concern.” If you’re ready to open up a complicated conversation — perhaps the person who has these concerns is part of your daily life — you can try asking them to explain why they are worried and how it affects them. If you keep listening, you might be able to learn what other closely held beliefs they have that are tied to their worries about what you do, and you can make a decision them about whether more discussion will be worthwhile.
If you yourself are worried about spoiling your children, it might be worth thinking about your child’s stage of development. What are their needs, and are they being met? What does being “spoiled” mean? How does using a carrier affect the child and other members of their circle? What are your options?
For an article that makes a lot of sense to me on this topic, read this one by Dr. Sears: https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/child-rearing-and-development/spoiled-children
Myth: Babywearing creates dependent and clingy babies.
Breakdown: We see this as parallel to the myth about spoiling babies. Really, we have reason to believe that meeting the needs of babies to be close to their caregivers helps babies feel more confident about exploring the world whenever they are ready to do that, rather than pushing independence too early.
Status / category of comment: Opinion not based in fact.
Our recommendation: Keep on wearing!
For more, please check out the second section of this post from Babywearing International: https://babywearinginternational.org/2015/08/03/babywearing-research-part-2-relevant-research/
Myth: Babywearing hurts your back (or arms or neck). Asymmetrical carriers (also known as one-shouldered carriers) are especially bad for you.
Breakdown: When analyzing general statements like these, it can help to start by getting specific. For now, let’s not worry about other caregivers. Does this concern actually apply to you, and if so, to what extent?
Babywearing affects your body, as other physical activities do, and we think that if you stay aware of how babywearing is affecting your body, you will be able to figure out whether this “myth” is true for yourself. Many caregivers use carriers specifically because babywearing helps them avoid or minimize pain from carrying a child in arms, but it is also true that some carriers are not useful for some caregivers.
Some people believe these kinds of universal statements because they have had poor experiences with carriers or only know of people who have, and they have not understood that people can have different experiences — that more than one opinion can sometimes be true.
As for asymmetrical carriers like pouches, ring slings, and hip carriers, and some carrying positions used with other carriers, we do think that it is worth being a little bit more careful to monitor how you position your child’s weight and how you move around when babywearing. But we have a lot of anecdotal evidence to back up the claim that asymmetrical carriers can absolutely be used pain-free.
Status / category of comment: Depends on caregiver. Not necessarily true or false.
Our recommendation: Keep carrying on as long as you are comfortable. If you have pain when babywearing, definitely take a break and seek good help, whether online or in person. It could be that there is something you can adjust that would help, or you might need a different carrier. Just don’t let others’ negative experiences or unverified assumptions block you from trying out a child-rearing technique that could vastly improve your life!
For more about ring sling and pouch positioning, please check out these articles:
Myth: If you wear your child, they will never learn to walk. Or they will take longer to learn to walk than if you didn’t carry them.
Breakdown: People who are concerned about children walking probably don’t understand how it is that children “learn” to walk or that your child does not spend all their time in the carrier. Especially if they are not used to babywearing because it was stigmatized or absent from their own cultures, they may be so shocked at the practice that they forget that it is probably appropriate to ask whether you are interested in their opinions before they offer them.
Some people also value physical ability so much that they devalue children (and grown people) who can’t do something they think of as “normal” — and often, these harmful and “ableist” attitudes are attached to the opinion that a disabled child’s caregivers must have done something wrong, so they want to stop you from doing what they think may harm your child. These kinds of attitudes are complex and misinformed, but sadly common.
It may be a long time before we have evidence from peer-reviewed research about how babywearing affects when able-bodied children learn to walk, so while we don’t believe those elements have a cause-and-effect relationship, we also don’t have evidence to refute the claim. We don’t think it’s an important concern, though, when we consider how many, many “worn” babies now walk. Some caregivers think babywearing helped their children learn and feel confident about walking earlier than they would have without babywearing; others may feel there was some delay — but we know that babywearing itself does not prevent a child from learning to walk.
Status / category of comment: False. This is another fearmongering opinion with zero basis in any fact we have been able to locate.
Our recommendation: This myth is so false, we almost want to suggest that you ask anyone who presents it to you why they believed they should share the thought with you, and ask you to let us know what they say.
In short, please disregard this as a concern. Do give your child ample time outside of any child-holding devices when you have the opportunity so they can move their bodies without restriction. This applies to this carriers, carseats, strollers, bouncers, swings, and high chairs. Also, if you do have your own concerns about your child’s physical development, definitely check with whoever provides health care for your child.
Babywearing International published a series of posts about research on babywearing, which you might enjoy reading here.
Myth: Babywearing is selfish. It’s just for the grown-up’s convenience. Babywearers are just trying to control their children. They are disregarding or dismissing their children’s needs, and that causes emotional damage in the children.
Breakdown: These objections to babywearing are slightly indirect — they don’t try to say that babywearing itself is bad. Instead, they start out with the implication that being selfish is bad, which, to be fair, is in line with the beliefs of many cultures. But to offer some pushback on that idea, we think that a caregiver should feel validated in making a choice that is convenient or meets their own needs. Caregivers can be wonderful at raising children without sacrificing their own well-being.
As for these myths, there is a lot to break down.
First, these kinds of critics try to position children and caregivers as completely separate, which we think is overly simplistic. Instead, we believe that the needs of children and their caregivers are intertwined. Anything that benefits the caregiver will probably help that caregiver be better able to meet the needs of the child. (And things in the wide world that benefit children can also benefit their caregivers, who then have fewer of those children’s needs to meet on their own).
Second, these critics position children and their caregivers as adversaries and seem to believe that a choice can only benefit one person at a time. Unlike them, we believe choices — especially ones like using carriers — can allow many members of a family to benefit at the same time.
Third, these objections make assumptions about a babywearer’s motives and overgeneralize babywearing as something that is always done the same way for the same reasons. In fact, we know that many babywearers often place and remove children from carriers as the child desires, and that when the adults do insist or refuse (apparently, these critics don’t believe babywearers ever refuse to sling a kid), they have a number of different reasons — and that these reasons often do include a consideration of the child’s needs. They also don’t understand how it is possible for a caregiver to acknowledge a child’s desires and still make a choice that is not what the child wants
A fourth problem with the whole line of critique is that it reflects a lack of trust for the caregiver’s ability to make good decisions for their own family.
Finally, the last part that we will touch on — that notion that disregarding a child’s needs will cause emotional damage. While we do agree that overly controlling parenting, when it fails to respect children as humans worthy of respect, is a form of psychological abuse, we honestly think most babywearers pay attention to their children and try to make choices that do not harm their little ones.
Status / category of comment: False, and in some very twisty ways!
We will note, though, that while we grant that it is possible for a caregiver to be as controlling and narcissistic as the caregiver these critics fear, we just don’t seen it often.
Our recommendation: When people who don’t use carriers express these thoughts, keep in mind that they are approaching without an understanding of your daily life and the reasons behind your childrearing decisions. You don’t have to take their value judgments or opinions to heart.
If we assume they have only the best intentions, it could be that they are criticizing you because they have an overwhelming desire to make sure children are protected, or they feel responsible for your children. In this case, it becomes a problem when they only see one right way to do it — and from what they know of babywearing, they believe babywearing is not a part of that right way. Perhaps without their realizing it, they are being just as overbearing to you as they think you must be to your carried child.
If they’re someone you want to invite into a community, you might want to ask more about why they hold these beliefs and help find ways for them to understand how they could use babywearing to achieve their own child-rearing goals, whatever those may be. For example, we think babies carried higher up makes it more natural for them to be included in socializing, which can help with language acquisition and emotional regulation.
If they are not someone whose views you need to correct, it might just be a better use of your time to end the interaction and move on. Whether you choose to let them know what you think of their opinion is completely your decision!
Myth: Babywearing is bad for babies’ hip development.
Variations: (1) Using carriers that allow babies’ legs to hang straight down damages their hips. (2) Carrying babies on the front, facing outward (FFO) is bad for their hips.
Breakdown: Because this topic has been so thoroughly covered elsewhere, we are going to keep it simple for this article and say that hip health is important, but we have never encountered a situation in which a carrier was definitely the cause of a child’s hip problems. In the one case for which a carrier might have contributed, the child was in the carrier at least 8 hours most days for a long stretch of time. So if you have concerns about your child’s hips, please consult with a babywearing consultant about the carrying position and carrier you’re using or your pediatrician about your child. (We don’t recommend asking your pediatrician about your carrier or carrying position until more of them are aware of what good carrying practices are and how to help you achieve them. Almost all of the time we encounter it, babywearing is simply not a medical issue.)
Status / category of comment: False, unless your child is already at risk (usually through genetic predisposition) for developmental dysplasia of the hip.
Our recommendation: Ignore for now, and be open to new information if we get it.
More about fears around hip development, check out these two articles: https://www.carrymeaway.com/learncenter/baby-carriers-and-healthy-hips-busting-some-myths/
Myth: Babywearing is dangerous. Babies fall out of those carriers. They could be suffocated. Baby carriers were recalled.
Breakdown: Caregivers definitely have accidents. We usually hear about them having happened when they are learning how to use carriers and when they have gotten distracted or careless while using them. For us, that doesn’t make babywearing dangerous. To us this is an indication that life is full of risks, and dangerous things can happen whether we are babywearing or not.
But acknowledging these risks is good — doing so lets us learn how to reduce them.
If you’re worried about your baby falling, you can make sure to learn how to use your carrier and how it feels when the baby is loose or secure. If you’re worried about a fall while loading or unloading a baby, you can work with a spotter, over a soft surface, or close to the ground. Or you can make a soft surface that is on the ground, so that even if there is a fall, it is unlikely you or the baby will be hurt.
If you’re worried about your baby’s breathing, you can make sure to learn how to tell when your baby’s airway is supported and their access to air is good, as well as how to make adjustments to your carrying to improve either of those.
If you’re worried about recalls, you can check whether your carrier was part of one, and if it was, get it replaced.
Most of the time, we know caregivers to be instinctively cautious, and we recognize babywearing as inherently safe. This is even more clear when we compare the outcomes and numbers of babywearing mishaps with those from other objects we use in raising children.
Status / category of comment: False, but with a grain of truth.
Our recommendation: Don’t get caught up in fearmongering, but do consider all the elements of babywearing safety.
For more babywearing safety tips, go here.
Myth: Babywearing is a new trend in parenting. (Often expressed as, “I wish they had those things when I had my kids.”)
Breakdown: Often, people express something that’s true for themselves using words that make it sound like their experience is true for everyone, that it’s universally true. So yes, for some people whose ancestors became disconnected with babywearing practices, and for some who have come from cultures that did not carry babies this way, it would probably be part of a consumer-based trend that they pick up babywearing.
However, in a more general sense, humans have been carrying their babies in fabric, baskets, and anything else they could make for as long as they have had to get around and handle the work of surviving. It is definitely not new, and many cultures have maintained babywearing practices (even if they may not use that word or an equivalent) alongside (or even despite) the introduction of carriers that rely on newer technology (zippers, plastic, or synthetic textiles) in their designs.
Status / category of comment: False. That said, we could agree that there is a subculture of caregivers for whom babywearing is very trend-based, and companies that sell baby carriers and accessories definitely respond to trends in their product design and marketing.
Our recommendation: Go ahead and offer information about the long and global history of babywearing if you think it would help open value cultures and people other than the ones they come from. If you want to take a more passive role, you can ask them why they think it’s new and go from there. Or you can just smile and nod and move on.
Myth: Babywearing parents are snobs about babywearing and hate strollers. If you use a stroller, you will be made fun of if you go to a babywearing support meeting.
Breakdown: We have run into a handful of jerks who actually do believe people who use strollers are somehow less worthy of respect than those who use carriers. We don’t believe that one bit. Furthermore, we don’t know of any respectable educators or advocates who would scorn a caregiver for using a stroller. Sure, strollers might not work for some families, but carriers might not work for some either.
It could be that a caregiver who is new to babywearing and very excited about it could talk about an unhappiness with strollers that led them to learn how to babywear, and that could sound like someone being negative about strollers. Or perhaps a babywearer who has felt scorn from people who use strollers is venting about receiving unsolicited advice and exaggerating their opinion of strollers in frustration.
In our experience, many families enjoy both carriers and strollers. Sometimes, they use the stroller to hold both their child and carrier. Other times, they use a stroller for groceries and put the child on in the carrier. Of the babywearers we have encountered who don’t use strollers, none we can remember cared whether other families use strollers — well, except when the strollers take up a lot of room, which is inconvenient, or when someone with a stroller lets them put a heavy diaper bag in it, which is likely appreciated!
Status / category of comment: Mostly false. We hope it comes to be completely false.
Our recommendation: If you encounter a meeting at which leaders are hostile to families with strollers, please let us know, and we’ll have someone send them a nice letter. If you are a babywearer, please consider watching your words and actions to make they aren’t easy to misconstrue as snobbiness about strollers. If you are a stroller user who isn’t interested in carriers, just ignore the negativity and roll on! But if you are curious about carriers, welcome! And please check out our articles about getting started choosing a carrier here: https://www.carrymeaway.com/learn-center/
Myth: Babywearing is difficult.
Breakdown: This is phrased as a statement of universal truth. In fact, there’s so much to babywearing, it’s hard for this to be completely true or completely false. Some caregivers found it easy to pick up with certain children or specific carriers, some find all of it difficult, some find it all to be a cinch.
Status / category of comment: Opinion.
Our recommendation: If you think babywearing would help you meet your family’s needs, we encourage you to give it a try. If you know how you learn best, try to find articles, videos, meetings, consultants, or friends who can help you pick up the skills you need. If you can’t find those around you, please feel free to reach out to us, and we will try to help you or get you connected with someone who can.
Myth: Babywearing is expensive.
Breakdown: Babywearing can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Babies can be carried in household fabrics that you may already have. Carriers can be used over and over, and they’re often passed from one friend to another or used from one child to the next, which means their cost per use could be quite low.
Status / category of comment: Depends on too many factors to call it one way or the other. Basically an opinion.
Our recommendation: Know your budget, and be aware of resources for yourself or others that can help get you a carrier if one is needed.
Myth: Babywearing is just for moms.
Breakdown: One of the things we love most about babywearing is that almost anyone who is caring for a child can “wear” that baby. No special genetic connection or identity characteristic limits who can carry or who can be worn. We may learn about physical or emotional characteristics that stop someone from babywearing, but not ones based on parental role.
Status / category of comment: False.
Our recommendation: If you are ready to have a conversation with someone about why they have come to believe this, it could be worthwhile. It would likely involve tackling a broad range of social issues, so you might want to practice and role play among other babywearers first.
Otherwise, just go out there and help anyone you can learn to use or find a carrier if they need one.
Myth: Babywearing is just for babies.
Breakdown: Well, the word “baby” is in the name, so if someone interpreted the word literally, we could completely understand how they got that impression. Also, some people have had negative experiences with carriers being uncomfortable with even small babies, so they might believe it is nearly impossible to carry an older child like a toddler or preschooler.
Status / category of comment: False.
Our recommendation: Keep in mind that how you position a child and carrier might need to change as the child grows, especially if your body changes.
Myth: Stretchy wraps are only good for newborns.
Breakdown: This belief largely comes from the fact that stretchy wraps mostly use their elasticity to hold a baby’s body securely to their caregivers. This means that the heavier the child, the more the fabric will sag without springing back — making for a carry that is less efficient and therefore, usually less comfortable, too. The belief seems to be supported by manufacturers’ recommended weight limits, which is usually lower than for carriers made with woven fabrics, like buckle or soft structured carriers, meh dai, and woven wraps.
Status / category of comment: False as written above. In reality, as with most any carrier, whether a stretchy wrap is “good” depends on the caregiver and baby concerned.
Our recommendation: If you like the look of stretchy wraps or have one already, go ahead and give it a try. If it meets your family’s needs, you’re all set, no matter what anyone else thinks. If you don’t like it, we can work on finding you something else.
Even though this article has been long, we’ve only touched on some of the most common myths and objections to babywearing. What else have we missed that you’d like to see us break down? Please drop us a line and let us know!