Help! My baby hates my carrier! Tips for helping your baby to like being worn

“My baby hates the carrier” or”My baby doesn’t like to be worn”, I hear these statements frequently through my work as a babywearing educator. During the first two years of life, your baby has rapid growth in their physical, emotional, and social development. What many caregivers don’t realize is that the protesting that can occur through each stage is – almost always – just another baby stage to get through!

my-baby-hates-the-carrier-newborn

My baby hates the carrier: Newborn (0-3 months)

The first thing to keep in mind is that your baby is still brand new. They are getting used to being outside of your womb and that makes them super sensitive to everything! Likewise you, as a new parent, also may be nervous or confused about using a carrier. This combination may cause your baby to feed off of your emotional state (1) and be upset alongside you making it seem as though the baby hates the carrier.  Babywearing (and motherhood in general) becomes easier with practice, but also take comfort in knowing that this is a perfectly normal response in the beginning stages of your baby’s life.

When you are ready to get started:

  • Practice. Try your carrier with a stuffed animal or a doll to learn all of the functions before using it with your baby. When you are confident enough to wear with your baby, make sure they are fed, clean, and in a generally good mood when you begin.
  • Take Your Time! You can put the carrier on slowly stopping between each step to soothe your baby. A pacifier (if they take one) and shushing while swaying or patting their bottom can help to calm them.
  • Walk with purpose! If you are putting your baby in the carrier just to put them in there they may get frustrated. Try to use the carrier when you know you will be doing something. Like loading the dishwasher or taking out the trash.
  • Get outside. A change of scenery and the breeze in their face.
  • Don’t give up.  If it doesn’t work today it very well may work tomorrow. Your baby will go through cycles like anything else in parenting.
  • Find hands-on help. Reach out to a local Babywearing Educator or group for a troubleshooting session to see if there is anything you are missing.

my baby hates the carrier young-infant

My baby hates the carrier: Young Infant (4- 7 Months)

There is a window of time from about 4-7 months during which your baby may seem more fussy than normal. As your baby enters their first huge developmental leap, they will move from the newborn stage to the more alert and responsive infancy stage (2). Their brain development has flourished and there are so many exciting things to explore that they may seem uninterested in being worn in a baby carrier.

You may consider changing position at this point. A hip carry is a great transitional position.  Some buckle carriers offer hip carry as an option, but woven wraps and rings slings really shine for this position. Placing baby on your hip can give them a new perspective while still offering the safety of your body when they become tired or overstimulated.

Baby May Be Ready for World-Facing

If you have picked a carrier that has a world facing view, such as the ErgoBaby Omni 360 or Tula Explore you may consider testing this forward-facing position to see if it helps. Be sure that your baby has reached the proper milestones for facing out. Milestones for facing out are:

  1. Baby’s airway should always be clear and their face should not be obstructed by the panel of the carrier (this includes their chin!).
  2. Baby should not need any insert or hack to allow them reach the first guideline.
  3. Baby should have excellent torso control. Always remember to turn baby back towards you if they are getting sleepy to prevent the chin to chest position that can obstruct baby’s airways.

my baby hates the carrier - older infant

My baby hates the carrier: Older Infant (8-12 Months)

With older babies and young toddlers, You may find that they are happy to go in your carrier and then suddenly show signs that they are ready to get down. This does not mean that your baby hates the carrier.  Rather, your baby is learning about independence! They are learning to crawl, take the first steps, or even started walking. This opens up a whole new world and it’s way more fun to be exploring their environment with no restriction.

Babywearing can still be an important part of your parenting journey through this stage. Most caregivers will find that their babies and toddlers go through phases where they need cuddles more often. Examples are when they are in an unfamiliar situation (3)  or cutting teeth. On the flip side, there will be phases where they prefer to be more independent. Both situations are perfectly in line with their current developmental stage!

Go into the older infant stage with the expectation that there may be a lot of ups and downs in the carrier. You may want to try a hip carry in a ring sling for easy transitions. Or, if your baby is sitting independently, you can try a back carry for a different perspective. Snacks, soft toys, or silicone teething beads are a great way to keep them distracted while you putting on the carrier.

my baby hates the carrier -toddler

My baby hates the carrier: Toddlers (12 Months & Up)

Oh toddlers. These little humans have begun to really understand that they have control over their own bodies. This is the major protest stage to almost everything. Your toddler may know and use the word “no” and show interest in doing things themselves. (4)

This can make babywearing challenging! Keep in mind that you are still your child’s safe space. While the initial protest might seem extreme (like all toddler feelings!), once they realize how comfortable they can be in the carrier they will settle.

Distraction is a major player this stage. I am not above stickers and have been covered in them. Soft toys and snacks may work as well! Make going into the carrier extra fun with songs and dances and lots of enthusiasm. Communicate with your toddler. Let them know what is coming and why. “In 5 minutes I am going to need to put you in the carrier. We are going to go for a walk and I need to make sure you are safe.” You would be surprised at how much your toddler understands!

I’ve tried it all!

If you have tried all the tips and still have a baby/toddler who is not happy in your carrier, check the sizing and settings on your carrier.  The issue may be as simple as a setting on your carrier that you didn’t even know was there or that the carrier is not the right size for your baby.  (Editor’s note: this  especially likely with a buckle carrier -see below for a few articles that can help you figure this out).  

In situations like these, hands on help can save the day! Contact a local babywearing educator or group to troubleshoot your fit. An educator can spot the issue quickly and help you learn how to fix it on your own. Most groups and educators also come equipped with a library of carriers for you to test in person if you want to try something new.

**This information does not replace the advice of a doctor, If you suspect there may be a medical consideration for your baby, always reach out for an assessment and support.

References:

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797613518352)
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/infant-development/art-20048178
  3. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/pages/Cognitive-Development-8-to-12-Months.aspx
  4. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/ue5418

About the Author

Kristina is passionate about supporting new families during pregnancy and the postpartum period. With a goal to encourage caregivers to find their own way, she offers expertise & insight coupled with the tools necessary to make the adjustment as smooth as possible.

Kristina lives in Los Angeles with her partner Dave & 2 children. She enjoys cooking, being creative, and road trips with her family. Besides her work with families, she is active in her community through volunteer work and homeschooling her children.

Kristina Pulistar – Los Angeles Babywearing Consultant, Postpartum Doula, Traditional Belly Binding, & Nursery/Gear concierge.

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