Special Needs Babywearing: Scoliosis and other back problems

“I have scoliosis, so I can’t wear my baby.” “I have back problems, so I need a carrier with X feature (or I can’t wear a carrier with Y feature).”

I hear these comments a lot, whether from customers or just while reading online, and I wanted to address them.

Having a back issue or back pain or scoliosis doesn’t necessarily mean anything re: babywearing. Like everyone else, people with preexisting back conditions will need to experiment with different carries and different carriers to find what works for them.

In our family, I have scoliosis and my husband has other back issues. I should pause here to note that seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis has made a world of difference for both of us. Go see one now, then finish reading this post later!!

My scoliosis does affect my babywearing. I cannot wear babies or toddlers on my hip – either one – without significant pain. That’s it. No hip carries. The most common misconception I hear is “because I have scoliosis, I need a heavily padded carrier.” While you may certainly have a preference for a padded carrier (whether that be a ring sling or an Asian style carrier), it’s is not necessarily related to the scoliosis. In fact, when you think about how scoliosis works, and then how padding on a sling works, it’s unlikely that a padded carrier would make any difference for the back pain associated with scoliosis. Padded carriers largely relieve pressure points on shoulders – they don’t help soothe your back!

Now this makes no nevermind to me, until the preconceived notion of needing padding prevents someone from wearing their baby. Padded ring slings are less adjustable than nonpadded ones, and many people who limit their babywearing experience to padded ring slings give up fairly early on. Others who feel they MUST have a padded sling never venture out into the world of wraps or other carriers, which they might find even more comfortable than anything padded, thus extending their babywearing experience.

Randy has problems with his lower back/upper hips. There’s a name, I’ve forgotten it. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to wear Wally as a baby, and then even less sure he’d be able to wear Wally as a toddler. But he has been pleasantly surprised to find that wearing Wally in the wrap is super comfortable for him, and the Asian carrier is also comfortable, though it is his second choice in carriers. The wrap distributes the weight around enough that his lower back and hips don’t feel any strain. And he was at first reluctant to even try it, certain it would hurt! Fortunately, I don’t give up easily, but others who dont’ have nagging spouses might not be so lucky!

The important lesson here is to not be afraid to experiment, to borrow carriers from friends, to go to a NINO meeting, etc. You never know when you’ll find something you thought you’d hate, but it turns out that you LOVE it!

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About sarahtar

Our Family lives in central Iowa. We are Christians, conservatives, and crunchy granola heads. We love the outdoors, photography, and lindy hop. Turn ons are people who are polite, honesty, and really good root beer. Turn offs are mean people and people who make my life more difficult.

Posted on January 17, 2007, in Babywearing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Sarah, Thanks for posting those awhile back! My daughter is 6 weeks old, and I’m loving the notion of wearing her. I have pretty significant scoliosis (S-curve, right thoracic-left lumbar), and I have found that ring slings really cause a lot of pain in the mid-lower back. I have a Maya lightly padded ring sling. I have also tried Mei Tais and soft-structured carriers, and these have worked great. What was your personal experience with ring slings? Perhaps I’m just not wearing it properly, but I’m in agony after wearing her for more than 10-15 mins. I’m also thinking about trying out wraps. They look like they distribute the baby’s weight well, and many are beautiful, as well! Any favorite wraps and carries for those of us with back stuff?

    P.S. I agree with the chiro suggestion. I go at least twice a week! I also recommend going to see a rolfer or structural integration therapist. They helped my back tremendously!! Of course, carrying around LO and breastfeeding exclusively has brought along new back stuff, but it’s worth it :-).

  2. rolfer. The word just makes me laugh.

    I could do a ring sling with Wally for a little while – half hour maybe? But I also think I didn’t really take seriously how much discomfort I was experiencing at that time. I can do Genna in a pouch or ring sling for about the same amount of time, but with much LESS discomfort while wearing her than I had with Wally (after 4 years of regular chiro).

    That said, I experience the pain with Genna after I’ve taken her off. Mid-back. About where the curving starts with my scoliosis.

    And I don’t know how severe mine is. When I was in PT after a car accident, the therapist kind of yelped when touching my back at our first appt and said “why didn’t you write down that you have scoliosis?” I said I didn’t think I had it. He said, holy cow, hasn’t anyone ever touched your back before? It’s pretty pronounced. So… shrug.

    I find Wraps to be the MOST comfortable, with MTs right up there, too. Really, a wrap is a wrap is a wrap. There’s very little difference between the brands. Stretchy wraps are less supportive. I personally really love the Wrapsody, which is why I started carrying it (and why I practically stumble over myself with complimentary statements every time I re-order). I wear my Wrapsody more than any other wrap. My second favorite is my Solarveil wrap (not generally available any more).

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