There’s no doubt about it, comfort is essential to carrying. This simple but obvious point was underlined by a host of responses to a recent MBS Facebook post on the subject of back pain. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this topic struck a chord with many and people’s experiences were very varied, ranging from those who were still happily carrying children of 3+ to those who found carrying uncomfortable and worried that they were doing something wrong.
Given this diversity of experience, we thought it would be helpful to say something more around the subject, so we’ve designed a 2 part blog post to answer some of the common queries that you may have. In part 1, we’ll aim to help those of you who are wanting to carry but are worried about – or currently experiencing – discomfort. Next week, in part 2, we’ll focus on some of the myths around carrying and back pain. This may help those of you who are very comfortable carrying but dealing with “isn’t he/she a bit heavy for that now?” or “that will ruin your back!” comments from friends and relatives.
So, back to today’s topic – what if carrying hurts?
Carrying should always be comfortable for you and your baby. If something is pulling, twinging or rubbing either of you, then that’s a sign that something isn’t right and it needs sorting. Thankfully, most of these issues are easily resolved and this is where your local sling library can help. Here are some things we can help you consider:
- Wrong sling. If carrying is uncomfortable for you then it’s common to blame yourself. You might worry that you’re doing something wrong or that you can’t do it. And you might assume that every sling will feel like this. However, the truth is that different slings feel very different to different people. This means that a sling that your friend loved may feel like torture to you. Equally, a sling that was very comfortable when your baby was 3 months old may feel very uncomfortable for one or both of you by the time your baby is 6 months old. So it can be hugely helpful to try new things as your baby grows, and this is one of the major benefits of a library – why buy when you can hire?!
- Sling not adjusted correctly. Again, this may not mean that you’re doing something drastically ‘wrong’. Sometimes even the smallest of adjustments from an experienced pair of eyes can transform the experience of a sling for you and your baby. This can be particularly true if you’ve learnt from an instruction leaflet or YouTube video. Both can be great methods of learning, and sometimes they may be all that’s available to you if you aren’t within easy reach of a library when you start to use a sling for the first time. However, learning to carry is an incredibly tactile thing and there’s really no substitute for having a trained person show you face-to-face in an environment where they can make hands on adjustments, if needed. They can then watch you do it and spot where any issues might be occurring. With a few little tips and tricks, pain issues will often vanish instantly.
- Special circumstances. Perhaps you’re wanting to carry but struggling from discomfort as part of an existing back condition. Perhaps you’re pregnant and finding that carrying is becoming difficult. Perhaps you had a difficult birth and find your body is struggling to recover. Any or all of these factors can make you nervous about carrying, and understandably so – it’s always important to listen to your body and ignoring pain is never a good idea, but that’s particularly the case if your body is already vulnerable in some way. So the first thing to state is to go back to where we started: carrying shouldn’t be uncomfortable and you shouldn’t feel pressured into doing something that you don’t feel is right for you at that point in time. Everyone is different and it’s normal to have very different feelings about what works for you. Take carrying in pregnancy, for example. Many women experience discomfort and fatigue during this time and may want or need to stop carrying as a result. However, others find that, with the help of some ideas from a sling consultant, they can enjoy carrying comfortably quite late into their pregnancies, sometimes much to the dismay of friends and relatives who think they should be putting their feet up! In this case, learning different ways to carry which work with the changing shape and weight distribution of your body can make a world of difference to carrying easily and safely, as this excellent article on carrying in pregnancy from Rosie at the Sheffield Sling Surgery explains. So there really is no ‘normal’ or ‘right’ thing to do here.
Equally, as the responses to our Facebook page show, many people with pre-existing back issues find that they can carry perfectly comfortably: indeed, in some cases, they find their backs even improve as a result of the increased core strength and body awareness that can come from carrying. And of course, pushing a pram can also put considerable strain on the back, albeit in a different way: sometimes, people who worried that they wouldn’t be able to carry as a result of back pain are surprised to learn that the sling is more comfortable for them than a pram. So, to summarise, listen to your body and try to be open minded about what might be possible. Next, get some advice from a qualified sling professional who will take any physical conditions into account and try to find something that’s comfortable to you.
Next week, we’ll move on to Part 2 by exploring some of the misconceptions that you might encounter about comfort and carrying – and perhaps some creative ways to address them!