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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Mamas are the same the world around

I love this video I found on YouTube. This mama in Africa is tying her baby on to her back, apparently to enable her to do her chores around the house. (it looks like she’s getting ready to take care of some laundry, but I could be wrong.)

Notice her bouncing the whole time, then reaching around to pat her baby’s bottom after she finishes tying up the wrap and blanket. How many of us mothers here in America have gone through the same rituals while tying on our babies?