When Can I Back Carry My Baby?

Babywearing back carries can open up a whole new world for you and your baby!  Once you’ve learned how to back carry, you can chop vegetables without little hands trying to help you. You can carry something else in your arms.  You can see your feet when you walk! It’s the best!

Babies love being back carried as well!  From a back carry, baby can peek over your shoulder and watch what you’re doing.  Baby is also nice and close to you, so you can talk and sign to baby easily.

Back carrying is wonderful!  When can you start? The answer to this depends on your baby’s size and development, your practice and experience with your carrier, and what type of carrier you are using.  These factors are all related and play into the decision of whether to start a back carry in each carrier type.

In this article, we will cover:

  1. [print_anchor_link anchor=”factors” text=”Factors to consider when assessing your baby’s readiness to back carry.”][/print_anchor_link]
  2. Different types of carriers and how to assess when your baby is ready for each type.
    • [print_anchor_link anchor=”ssc” text=”Soft Structured Carriers”][/print_anchor_link]
    • [print_anchor_link anchor=”mehdai” text=”Meh Dai”][/print_anchor_link]
    • [print_anchor_link anchor=”wrap” text=”Woven Wrap”][/print_anchor_link]
    • [print_anchor_link anchor=”ringsling” text=”Ring Sling”][/print_anchor_link]
  3. [print_anchor_link anchor=”monitor” text=”Tips for Monitoring Your Baby on Your Back”][/print_anchor_link]
  4. [print_anchor_link anchor=”Howto” text=”Videos on How to Back Carry”][/print_anchor_link]

[print_anchor anchor=”factors”][/print_anchor]Your Baby’s Size and Development

Your baby’s size and development help determine if they are ready for a back carry. Very young babies usually need to be taken down to be changed or fed quite frequently. Back carrying isn’t as convenient with a young baby as it is with an older one.   

To do a back carry, the child must be big enough to fit in the carrier that you have and be able to maintain an open airway in that carrier.

Maintaining an open airway means that the baby is able to consistently keep their chin off of their chest and keep their body in position in the carrier without slumping or tilting to the side.  Maintaining an open airway can be more difficult for babies who are experiencing respiratory difficulty (such as asthma attack or a respiratory virus) and front carries are best until the respiratory distress has resolved.   If you aren’t certain that your baby is able to maintain an open airway, wait to begin back carries or visit your local babywearing educator before beginning back carries to get hands-on help and guidance.

Your Experience

Your experience and practice with the carrier makes a big difference too in whether or not you are ready to back carry your baby.  Babywearing is a skill, not a product. Regardless of what carrier you are using, it takes some practice and time to learn the skills needed to put your baby on your back.  Before trying to learn how to back carry, it really helps to be comfortable putting your baby on your back and taking your baby off of your back without the carrier. You can learn this by practicing with a doll or stuffed animal.  We’re including links to tutorials at the end of this post that you can use to help you practice!

Carrier Type

[print_anchor anchor=”ssc”][/print_anchor]What carrier are you using?  There are five main types of baby carriers.  Each carrier type requires different caregiver pre-requisite skills and fits babies at different sizes and developmental stages.  Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Soft Structured Carrier

Soft Structured Carriers have padded straps that offer plenty of support for baby’s weight and are quite comfortable.  

Infant Size and Development in a soft structured carrier

Always read the instructions that come with your carrier.  Your particular brand of carrier will have recommendations for baby size and development before back carrying.  Some carrier instructions require “strong and consistent” head and neck control or recommend that baby can sit unassisted because many babies have strong and consistent head control around the same time that they learn to sit unsupported.   In general, in order to back carry, the child should be able to consistently support their head and trunk without slumping or becoming positioned with chin against chest. The carrier must also fit the baby properly.

How to Tell if the Soft Structured Carrier Fits Your Baby

In a soft structured carrier, you can back carry when your child fits in the carrier without needing an infant insert or needing the panel size altered in a way that isn’t recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions.  If baby fits in the carrier, their entire head and face should be above the panel. The panel should go no higher than the bottom of baby’s earlobe. When baby fits in the carrier, the base of the panel should not extend past the bend of baby’s knee.  If the panel extends beyond the knee or needs to be scrunched or bunched up in order to allow baby’s knee to bend freely, then it does not fit.

[print_anchor anchor=”mehdai”][/print_anchor]Babywearer Prerequisite Skills for Back Carry in an SSC 

Before doing a back carry in a soft structured carrier, you should be comfortable loosening and tightening the shoulder straps of your carrier, making a “seat” with your carrier, and adjusting your chest clip.

Meh Dai

Meh Dai carriers best baby carriers for plus size

A meh dai does a comfortable back carry that is really easy to tie.  It may look a bit overwhelming because of the long straps, but many people find that a meh dai is the easiest carrier to for learning how to back carry because you can easily hip scoot baby onto your back while holding both straps securely in one hand.

Infant Size and Development in a Meh Dai Carrier

First, always read the instructions that come with your particular brand of meh dai to see if the manufacturer has any recommendations about when to begin back carries.  In a meh dai, you can back carry when your child fits in the panel without any cinching or rolling of the panel waist. Your child should also be able to support their head and trunk without tilting to the side or becoming positioned with chin against the chest.  

How to Tell if Baby Fits the Meh Dai

If baby fits in the meh dai, their entire head and face should be above the panel.  Just like an SSC, a meh dai panel should go no higher than the bottom of baby’s ear. In a back carry, the child should fit in the meh dai without needing the meh dai waist folded down.  Why? In a front carry, you can fold the waist of a meh dai down to make the panel shorter for a small baby. This does not work as well in a back carry because when you lift the straps to tighten, the fold tends to come undone, making the panel come too high on baby’s head.   

When baby fits in the carrier, the base of the panel should not extend past the bend of baby’s knee. If the panel extends beyond the knee and does not allow baby’s knee to bend freely, then the meh dai does not fit yet. Some meh dais include a cinching mechanism to reduce either the panel height or width.  In this case, consult your carrier’s instruction manual to see if you can back carry with the panel in the cinched position.

[print_anchor anchor=”wrap”][/print_anchor]Babywearer Prerequisite Skills for Back Carry in a Meh Dai

Before trying a back carry in a meh dai, you should be comfortable with a front carry.  Learning a front carry helps you to learn how to properly tighten the carry, how your particular carrier’s waist should be tied (apron or non-apron), and your options for tying off the shoulder straps.

Woven Wrap

Woven wraps are incredibly versatile and can do many different carries.  You can do carries that are thin and airy in summer or carries with multiple layers for warmth in winter.  You can do carries that tie with a half knot to help you secure baby while you are learning to do the next part of the carry.  Or you can even do carries with fancy finishes!

Infant Size in a woven wrap

Woven wraps can be used to back wrap babies, toddlers, or preschoolers of all sizes and stages of development.  Some experienced wrappers back wrap babies as newborns. This takes quite a bit of skill and practice, but it is possible.  Most people prefer to begin back wrapping when their child is supporting their head and trunk well. It also helps if the baby is tall enough that the wearer can reach their bottom to make a seat or spread passes.  

[print_anchor anchor=”ringsling”][/print_anchor]Babywearer Prerequisite Skills for Back Carry in a Woven Wrap

Before trying a back carry in a woven wrap, you should be very comfortable doing a front or hip carry. Learning front or hip carries gives you practice with making a good seat and tightening the carry strand by strand which are important skills for back wrapping.

Ring Sling

When-Can-I-Back-Carry-Me-Baby-ring-sling

It’s possible to back carry in a ring sling. A ring sling back carry can be a comfortable way to carry a toddler for short distances or time periods.  

Infant Size and Development in a Ring Sling 

Most people find that a ring sling back carry works best with a cooperative toddler or preschooler.  The baby should be tall enough that you can reach their bottom easily when you scoot them onto the back and should be able to support their head and maintain an open airway while being hip scooted to the back as well as once in the back carry.

Babywearer Prerequisite Skills for back carry in a Ring Sling

Ring sling back carry is an advanced carry and you should not attempt it until you are able to make a deep seat with a sling, tighten strand by strand, set up the sling to about the right tightness before beginning, and thread the sling neatly.  You should have enough sling experience to know what it feels like when the seat has “popped” and be able to respond and adjust the seat quickly.

[print_anchor anchor=”monitor”][/print_anchor]Stretchy Wrap

It is not recommended to back carry in a stretchy wrap.  The wrap stretches (hence the name) and can not be used for back carrying.  

Monitoring Baby When Wearing on the Back

When-Can-I-Back-Carry-Me-Baby-wrap-close

Sometimes people feel worried about monitoring their baby’s breathing when baby is on their back.  This is actually easier than you might think. Although you may not be able to glance down at baby as easily when they are on the back, but you can still monitor their breathing and movements – you just use different senses. Still yourself for a moment and feel baby’s breath on the back of your neck or feel the rise and fall of their chest. You can also listen to the baby’s sounds.  You may also be able to see baby’s face if the baby’s head is resting against your neck.

To monitor baby visually, some people like to put their phone camera on selfie mode to check on baby. Car windows also make a nice reflective surface to check your carry or check on baby after parking lot wrapping.  It can take some time to get used to monitoring baby on the back, but with practice you will probably find that you are just as in tune with baby during a back carry as you are in a front carry.

[print_anchor anchor=”Howto”][/print_anchor]Learning your First Back Carry

How to back carry: when you are learning how to back carry, it can really help to visit your local babywearing group or educator.  There is no substitute for hands-on work with a babywearing educator. They can help you choose the best carrier for your first back carry, spot you as you put baby on the back, check that your carrier fits your baby, and give you tips while you are doing the carry.  If you don’t have an educator or group near you, start learning how to back carry by practicing with a doll or stuffed animal. When you can do the carry with a doll, practice with your child over a soft surface or with a spotter.  

How to Put Your Baby on Your Back

The first skill in learning how to back carry is learning to be able to put a baby on your back and take them down.  The two video links below show how to put your baby on your back using a hip scoot or a superman toss.  These are the two methods most babywearers use. The videos go slowly so that you can use a doll or stuffed animal and follow along with the educator.  Babywearing skills require motor memory, so it can be really helpful to practice with a doll and give yourself enough practice repetitions to learn the movements. 

This video shows how to put a baby on your back using a hip scoot:

This video shows how to put a baby on your back using a superman toss:

Once you can put a doll on your back and take it down, try it with your child.  You can try it kneeling over a soft surface such as a bed or with someone spotting you.  When you have this movement mastered, you’re ready to try a back carry.

How to Back Carry in a Soft Structured Carrier

This video shows how to  back carry in a soft structured carrier using a hip scoot:



This video shows how to back carry in a soft structured carrier using a superman toss:  

How to Back Carry in a Meh Dai

This video shows how to use a hip scoot to put your baby on your back in a meh dai:

How to Back Carry in a Ring Sling

This video shows how to do a back carry in a ring sling:  

How to Back Carry in a Woven Wrap

There are many carries that you can do in a woven wrap.  These are three that most people like as beginner carries and for learning how to back carry.

Secure High Back Carry

Secure high back carry is a wonderful first carry that starts with a half knot.  This carry works really well with the hip scoot method of putting baby on the back because after you hip scoot, your tails land in just the right spot to begin this carry.  After you put baby on your back, you tie a half knot. This gives you time to stand, check your seat, talk to baby, and take a short break before finishing the carry. The Secure High Back  carry works really well with a wiggly baby or toddler.  This video shows how to do a Secure high back carry in a woven wrap:

Back Wrap Cross Carry

Back wrap cross carry is an easy first carry that starts with a half knot.  This carry is symmetrical and has easy to remember steps. This carry tends to work very well with toddlers and preschoolers because it sits the baby slightly lower on your back, a position that is quite comfortable with an older baby or toddler.  This video shows how to do a back wrap cross carry in a woven wrap:

Ruck Back Carry

Ruck is a wonderful first carry as well.  This carry positions the baby nice and high on the wearer’s back with their head just behind the wearer’s neck.  This carry works really well with a superman toss because the wrap tails land in just the right place to begin this carry.  Many people love this carry with younger and smaller babies because it places baby’s head just behind the wearer’s neck where it is easy to feel baby breathing.  The carry is symmetrical and has easy to remember steps. This video shows how to do a ruck carry in a woven wrap.

We hope you have a wonderful experience getting your baby on your back!  Learning how to back carry opens up a new world for both of you! For more tips and tutorials, please visit our learning center.  (Link: https://www.carrymeaway.com/learn-center/)

When Can I back Carry My Baby?

 

About the Author

Rachel Boarman is a Certified Babywearing Consultant trained by the Center for Babywearing Studies and volunteers as a babywearing educator for Patuxent Babywearing.  Rachel writes a babywearing educational blog at www.wrappingrachel.com and maintains a YouTube channel of babywearing tutorials under the username “Wrapping Rachel.”  Rachel is a passionate advocate of babywearing and loves helping caregivers and babies get comfortable with their baby carrier.

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