Babywearing during Pregnancy
For many mums, babywearing is a normal part of their everyday. When the time comes for baby number two to come along, there can be some concerns about how to safely and comfortably wear their older child whilst also carrying their unborn child in-utero.
Before we go through the exact specifications of how to wear your child when pregnant there is one very important point that we must always stress,
Listen to your body!
Every woman, every child and every pregnancy is different. What works for one mother may not work for another. What worked when your child was 13 months may not work when your child is 18 months. What worked during your second pregnancy may not work during your third pregnancy. It is important to know your own body and listen to its cues. Babywearing should not be painful, even when pregnant. Always contact a health professional and/or a qualified Babywearing Consultant if you have concerns.
Wearing your child close in a properly fitted and adjusted baby carrier, wrap or sling is always going to be more beneficial for your pelvic floor muscles than carrying your child in your arms.
Remember to check your pelvic floor and complete your pelvic floor exercises regularly during pregnancy and to brace these muscles when wearing. Babywearing can place stress on your pelvic floor. For mothers who have been wearing their child for a long time prior to becoming pregnant, their pelvic floor muscles will have become accustomed to the load of wearing one child. However, now that there is a second child being ‘carried’ there is an extra load to bear. Regular pelvic floor exercises can help you retrain your muscles. If you are concerned about the impact of babywearing on your pelvic floor muscles whilst wearing, please contact a Women’s Health Physiotherapist who will be able to provide you with professional advice.
Safety for your body
Now is the time to get your body accustomed to wearing your growing child and another baby. If you continue to wear your child throughout your pregnancy (only stopping when you feel discomfort) you will ensure that your muscles adapt and strengthen to bear the weight of your growing child and also the weight of the child you are carrying in your belly.
It is important to gradually train your body to wear your child. Short trips are more beneficial and comfortable to your body than wearing for hours on end.
Avoid any sudden, twisting motions when babywearing. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin gradually softens all of our ligaments to allow for the safe passage through the birth canal and pelvic bones. Any sudden movements can be damaging for your joints and it is important to remember that the extra weight caused by babywearing can add extra pressure onto already soft ligaments. It can be difficult to achieve with a toddler, but slow and controlled movements are often the safest when wearing during pregnancy.
As you move into the second trimester, another of the symptoms of pregnancy arrives… dizziness. When babywearing, your centre of gravity can be affected so make sure you take caution when standing up or rising from a seated position whilst babywearing. Light-headedness and fainting affects even those pregnant women who are not wearing their child. It is important to also consider the effect of wearing on your centre of gravity and steady yourself when standing. If you wear your child high and tight on your back it will be closer to your centre of gravity and therefore easier on your symptoms during this time. Try not to rise too quickly and consider the safety of your worn child if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
What are the options?
Try to avoid placing any pressure on your bump. During the first trimester, most women can usually continue to wear as per normal. As our uterus grows, some mums find that they need to find options that avoid the bump and still offer comfort and support.
Wear your baby up high on your back if you can. A nice, high ruck with the straps supported by a chestbelt can be a lovely option that takes all the pressure off the bump. If you use a carrier with a waistbelt, try buckling the waistbelt (or tying) on top of the bump rather than on your waist. A kangaroo carry is also a good option for wearing your child on your front without placing excess pressure on your growing belly.
Ring slings and hip carries may not be the most comfortable option for pregnant women. The off centre nature of these carries and the weight being born on one shoulder means that we may find them comfortable at the time but the effect of relaxin on our system means that some women may find them uncomfortable in the hours after wearing. For women who are experienced ring sling and hip carry wearers, this effect may be minimal. As we stated above, it is important to listen to your body and remember that wearing during pregnancy will feel very different.
If your child is already walking, an onbuhimo is a great option to try. The onbuhimo has no waistbelt (only shoulder straps) and hence has no option to place pressure on your growing belly. Be aware that if you have not tried an onbuhimo before, this may be uncomfortable to begin with as all of the weight is now being born by your shoulders. Try wearing for short stints as your muscles retrain to accept this change in weight bearing.
Always have a back up option available. Exhaustion is a very common symptom in both early and late pregnancy. Take the pram with you. Have a friend or relative wear your child if you need a rest. Or simply take some timeout and sit down with your child.
Take it easy
Above all, it is important to remember that you are now carrying an extra child when babywearing. Your body is still becoming accustomed to this and you (just like your child) may take some time to adjust. Rest as often as necessary and don’t be too hard on yourself if you are unable to wear your child for as long as you used to before pregnancy. And most importantly….
Listen to your body!