Zoe Masters (oschaslings.com) explains that carrying your older baby or toddler is no different to give them a piggyback with your hands free and in greater comfort.
If you are trying to introduce a child who has previously used a buggy to being carried in a sling, one tip is to play with using the sling with your child. Put them on your back, gallop around the house, make a hammock of the sling and swing them in it, there’s lots of creative ways you can get them used to it and used to going up and down from your front or back. Even though they aren’t used to the sling, you might find that they are very happy - there is often a phase when a child starts to walk when they really don’t want to go in the buggy or a sling, they’re so excited about their new skill and being able to explore. After a while they start to appreciate the rest they get in a sling and the cosy snuggles too and you might find they ask to go up more and more again.
Its a funny thing - tiny babies in slings get lovely feedback about how sweet and cosy they look, but as the child gets bigger, their place in the sling is called into question more and more often. We all know that research shows that securely attached children tend to be more confident and lead happier lives¹ yet the prevailing view that children must be taught to stand on their own two feet, let go of the apron strings and become independent is deeply embedded in our culture and psyche.
The simple fact is that using a sling places your child at your centre of gravity, you don’t need to use your arms to support them and their weight is well distributed. It is no different to giving your child a piggy back ride or placing them on your shoulders, except for one thing - its a lot more comfortable! We know that little legs get tired, long past when the pram has gone out of use, we know that toddlers and pre-schoolers need a lot of comfort and affection. A sling packs up small, is easy to carry around, and the benefits for both parent and child are great!
Hannelore Silvestri at didymos.com says that babywearing toddlers is not much different to carrying babies.
‘Older and heavier babies/toddlers prefer to be carried on their parent’s hip or on the back. In this way they can see more of the world around them and they can participate more actively in family life and their surroundings. Moreover, it is more comfortable for the caregiver to carry a heavier and bigger child on the back than in front. Toddlers who most often are very curious to discover the world and who want to do many things “on his/her own” will constantly want to change from being carried in the arms to “walking alone”. These frequent changes can be handled very comfortably with the help of a short wrap or DidySling. This can also be folded up small to fit in a bag when you are out and about with your toddler.
STARTING OUT GENTLY
Joanna Mockford, is a Baby Carrying Consultant and founder of carrymybaby.co.uk.
She suggests starting out with a hip carry. ‘For a parent looking to carry their toddler who is used to being pushed in a buggy, I would suggest taking time to build up your muscles to accommodate carrying a weight that your body isn’t necessarily used to, so to carry for shorter periods to begin with. It may take time for your child to get used to being carried, so involve them in the process and go for a walk. A great way to start could be a hip carry, as this is most like how you might carry a toddler in arms. A ring sling can be great for this. There is no reason why you couldn’t carry on your front, as it’s a wonderful way to feel close, but for walks and other activities a back carry can be more practical. You might use a woven wrap for this with multiple layers of fabric for more support, or a mei tai or soft structured carrier. Depending on your child’s size a standard sized carrier may be suitable, but for longevity of use it is worth exploring larger sized carriers in toddler or preschooler sizes. The Beco Toddler Carrier and the Wompat in Toddler size are very comfortable, well padded, buckle carrier options. For more advice and to find a comfortable carrying solution consider consulting a Babywearing Consultant or visiting your local Sling Library.’
TIME TO CUDDLE AND REFUEL
Jen Topping at firespiralslings.co.uk still uses her carriers long after her children have started walking.
‘Slings remain an essential piece of my parenting toolkit even after my children become independently mobile. There were times when toddler legs just couldn’t keep up with siblings, or cover the distance that we walked. A wrap could double as a scarf on a trip out or be easily stowed away in a bag, leaving my hands free to guide my toddler as he walked but at hand ready for the many instances that he invariably needed to go “up”. That constant flitting between wanting to be carried and walking to walk by themselves was indicative of the emotional ambivalence I saw in my boys as toddlers. They were seeking independence yet still needed to be babies at times. A cuddle in the sling seemed to refuel them; the contact between us renewing the energy they needed to go out and bravely explore their little worlds.’
LOVE OF BABYWEARING
Kiri Porter used a Sleepy Nico toddler carrier (sleepynico.com) for her two year old son, Clark on her wedding day.
This carrier was perfect for when Clark was feeling a bit tired and allowed him to be included in the photoshoot. Kiri is a babywearing consultant for Carry Ar Kid (carryarkid.wix.com) so it was an important part of her day. ‘My love of babywearing began when Clark was just one week old and now we carry less it’s a joy to help others to discover their babywearing journey,’ she says. Sleepy Nico carriers are available made to order, so they are all very personal or unique - see sleepynico.com/pages/made-to-order. The carrier design featured here is called Midnight Children and Kiri was delighted because the theme of her wedding was Midnight Garden.