Wearing a Toddler

by Amber Strocel on July 5, 2010

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My son Jacob is 22 months old. He loves to run and climb and jump and throw balls and all those things that toddlers do. He is no longer the babe in arms that he was for the first months of my life, carried from place to place by others. Today, he motors under his own steam and heads in his own direction.

I have been practicing babywearing with Jacob since he was a few days old. He is my second child – his big sister Hannah is 3 1/2 years older than he is. Babywearing was one of the tricks in my parenting toolbag that helped me meet the needs of both children. When Jacob was small he was frequently worn in a sling or mei tai as I took Hannah to the library or to the park. He came along for the ride wherever we went and I was like a walking billboard for babywearing.

Hannah trying the BecoI still wear Jacob regularly. It’s not the same as when he was little, of course. These days he’s not content to nap on my back while his big sister plays on the playground. He wants to get down and engage with the world. But when he’s having a hard time falling asleep, or when he needs to nap while I do other things, babywearing saves the day. Secure in the carrier he sleeps better than most anywhere else. And I know exactly where he is, and feel confident that he is safe and comfortable.

There are some tricks to wearing a toddler. Having a sturdy baby carrier that will safely bear your child’s weight is always important, but your options change as your child gets bigger. An exuberant toddler can really wiggle, so you have to make sure they’re secure enough that they won’t fall out when they suddenly decide to throw themselves to the left. You’re also working around a much bigger child, not a small bundle curled up in a sling – which is why I usually put Jacob on my back.

Babywearing hasn’t become uncomfortable for me as Jacob’s grown bigger. Sure, carrying 25 extra pounds around can be tiring. I feel it in my legs when I crouch down and stand back up. But with a good carrier that distributes weight well and fits me properly, I don’t find it painful. My back and shoulders don’t hurt, and I am able to wear Jacob far more easily than I could carry him in my arms.

As my daughter Hannah moved through toddlerhood, she drifted away from babywearing and returned several times. Just when I thought we were really and truly done, she’d pull out her favorite carrier and ask me to put her in it. I expect the same thing may happen with Jacob, as well. Some days he may want to walk, some days he may want to be worn, some days he won’t be able to make up his mind. But as long as he needs me and I am able I will be here, ready to wear him.

Have you worn a toddler? How did you make it work – or not? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks and stories!

You can catch up with Amber’s adventures in parenting and babywearing on her blog at Strocel.com.

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Amber Strocel (30 Posts)

Amber is a hippie mama to two, a writer, a dreamer, a student, an erstwhile engineer and a lover of chocolate. She lives in suburban Vancouver with her family and one very cranky tabby cat. Keep up with her on her blog at Strocel.com.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Guggie July 5, 2010 at 12:14 am

The only sling DD tolerated as a baby was a basic hotsling.

But recently I started looking for a good SSC for back wearing. I tried out a babyhawk, which is nice but tying it was just inconvenient enough that I remained on the look out… (I’m a tad lazy lol).

Anyways, I snagged an Ergo on babysteals and used it yesterday. Very pleased! It was an amazing sensation to carry my 20 month old on my back and not even “feel” her. I’m also 7 months pregnant and the band provided belly support!

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Meredith July 5, 2010 at 4:44 am

I just blogged about this exact subject the other day! I wear my 18 month old daily. Like your son, he is a busy little guy and very active. But a ride on mama’s back is still an important part of his day! I agree that the right carrier is key for toddler (and beyond!) wearing; my preference is for woven wraps but there are many great mei tais and soft structured carriers on the market now too that facilitate wearing our “big” kids ;-)

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Brittanie July 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

My daughter is 2 ½, and I still wear her. We still go for walks with her on me, or we wear her whenever we go out and about. Wearing also is great if she is having a bad day, the closeness calms her down. I only wear her in the ergo. It makes wearing comfortable for me, the woven wrap, ring sling, and mei tei are really uncomfortable for me with her size. I also noticed that wearing her on my back is easiest. Thanks though for this article:) It is nice to see that we are not the only family that wears their toddler. I see a lot of babies being worn, but not too many older toddlers.

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Jessica July 5, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I love my woven wraps. I wear my 15 mo and my 39 month old on my back using them.
My husband swears by his Manduca SSC. :)

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Maggie July 17, 2010 at 9:41 am

I would love it Jessica, if you would email me more about what carriers you use to wear your older child. Mine is 30+ pounds and 34 months, but I only wore him occasionally when he was under a year of so. I stayed home and even now still bf, cosleep, and stay home. I guess picking him up was easy enough and I never really thought about carrying until the last few months. My back and hip problems (I;m 45) have been another reason I haven’t entertained carrying much. But, I wonder if we should give it a try even in this late stage. I don’t think he’ll wean for at least another 6-12 months given our current routines. And we have no plan for ending cosleeping. I wonder if he would take to carrying? In the grocery store he sure would rather walk than ride. When we go on walks with the stroller or wagon, he wants to walk himself after only a short ride.

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Kirsten Branch July 5, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I still occasionally wear my 3 1/2 year old. It has come in especially handy as we have been moving through the transition of having a sibling (his brother is 10 mo old now). He is a VERY independent spirit that is usually running rather than walking everywhere, but it has provided a way for him to reconnect to me when he really needs it. From the time his brother was born when I would attend my weekly Bible study and he would go to his playschool class, when I went to retrieve him, he often asked for “mama, please carry me!” and I would put the baby (who stayed with me) in the stroller, and put him in the carrier. It made him feel important I think, and he would relax in what had been a tricky transition for him many times. I liked it to, since I missed him, and liked hearing what had been happening in his class…he seemed to feel like being there close into my face with my undivided attention (wearing on the front in my Ergo–worth every living penny I tell you!) and he happily would get right in the car. When he is unsure, such as when the holiday fireworks were going off, up he went and he was immediately calm. Sometimes on a busy day during the tricky late afternoon/evening witching hour, when I’m trying to get dinner on the table, I’ll put him on my back and he likes to feel a part of the process, but he isn’t underfoot.

I think that childwearing has so many benefits, and despite the questioning looks I occasionally get, I enthusiastically do it. I don’t consider it much different than when other parents pick up their kids to soothe them, I just don’t kill my arms and back when *I* do ;)

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Shen-Li July 6, 2010 at 6:11 am

My son is 3 1/2 years old and he still enjoys a ride in the carrier. He stopped when he was about 18 months but started again after I had my second son. I usually have my younger son in the carrier but whenever another family member takes my younger son, my older son will jump into my arms to be carried. At 15+ kgs, it is a lot easier to use a carrier than it is to carry him in my arms. I can also carry him for much longer than I would otherwise be able to if I had to hold him in my arms. It helps me meet his needs during a particularly trying time in his life – having to deal with a new addition to the family. I’ve used the scootababy and the Ergo and both work great for me.

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Beanma July 6, 2010 at 2:02 pm

We haven’t yet… but plan to!

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Whozat July 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm

My daughter is 20 months / 20 lbs and I wear her quite a bit. When she was little I pretty much exclusively used a wrap. After about 13 months, I started putting her in a hip carry using the ring sling for around the house, while I cooked, cleaned, or whatever else she wanted to “help with.” We still use it for that purpose (and I also use it for the 3-month-old that we’re babysitting on a regular basis.) but as she hit about 18 pounds, I switched to (a cheap knock off of an) Ergo for out-and-about.

When we take walks with the dogs, we usually start out with her on my back, then she generally gets down and walks around on her own for a while, and we return to the house with her on my front (often nursing).

We just got home from our fourth “solo” (just me and her) trip to visit my family in Texas, and I don’t know how I would manage flying alone with her if I couldn’t wear her.

I put her on my front, a backpack on my back, and drag the suitcase (which I check, so only have it for a tiny bit when we’re by ourselves).

I also use the “Ergo” for a back carry around the house when I’m cooking things that might be splattery, chopping veggies, vacuuming or other things for which I need to have her more out of the way than the ringsling allows.

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MamanADroit July 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm

My year-old baby is outgrowing the BabyBjorn, and I got a Moby wrap recently but it doesn’t feel secure at all. It just seems bulky(I’m only 5’2″) and unsafe. Plus I’ll probably get pregnant again sometime in the next year, and I’m concerned babywearing while pregnant might not be safe. Any tips?

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Amber July 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

A stretchy wrap, like the Moby, isn’t good with a larger baby or toddler. I would suggest a woven wrap (like a Didymos), a mei tai (I heart my Kozy) or a soft structured carrier like an Ergo / Beco. A mei tai is the most economical of the 3, most people find the Ergo / Beco easiest (and sometimes you can find them used) and the woven wrap is the most versatile.

I didn’t wear my daughter when I was pregnant. I think it’s perfectly safe, it was just uncomfortable for me. Also, she was 3 years old at the time, so I was comfortable saying no more babywearing for her. I know some people do babywear all the way through pregnancy, though.

A great place to go to find all sorts of info on babywearing / pregnancy is http://www.thebabywearer.com.

Good luck!

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YESnack July 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm

If you are in good shape and can manage the weight safely, wearing a toddler may be fine. But I think it could be a little unsafe and also cause shoulder or back problems for parents who may not be as amply fit, especially if you are pregnant. Safety first:-)

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