“Oh, my baby didn’t like being worn.” It’s something I’ve heard lots of moms say. And while there certainly are babies who don’t like it and won’t like it ever, there are some tips and tricks you can use if you want or need to wear your baby and baby (or toddler!) is not cooperating.
It takes some getting used to
First off, remember that this is a new thing and it takes some getting used to. The younger you start, the easier it will be to get them used to it – but expect some whines and cries at first, even from a newborn. It’s different, and you both are still learning and probably a bit awkward. Practice putting on the carrier on your own (even with dolls), and let baby “practice” being worn for shorter time periods. Try different carries or carriers to see which is the most comfortable for both of you. Some babies also prefer movement when being worn, so try taking some laps around the house. Don’t get discouraged!
Babies are whiny
One week, your child may love the carrier and fall asleep instantly when worn. The next week, he or she may be screaming like a crazy kid in it or refuse to get in (if they are older). (This change will inevitably happen when you are in public, causing other people to assume that you are torturing your poor child by carrying them in “that thing” instead of in a stroller) when really, your kid is just cranky and would probably be crying no matter what. It happens. Babies and toddlers cry. Don’t feel bad. Just do your best. Don’t think that tears one day are the end of babywearing forever or that they hate it and always will. My daughter has flipped out when I’ve tried to wrap her one moment, then I try again 5 minutes later and she is totally into it.
Do something fun
Especially as your baby gets older and learns that it’s possible to do awesome things like crawl and walk, they may lose interest in the carrier for a while and whine when you put them in it. Don’t stress – your babywearing days are not over. Let them have their independence! My daughter knows that if we were going to go out and take the dog for a walk, it will have to be in a carrier. So when I tell her we are going for a walk, she’ll often change her tune. In the evenings now in the winter, I will sometimes wear her out to go look at the moon. Even though she can certainly walk on her own now, she knows she isn’t walking in those places by herself, so she’s willing to give in to go out. Often, kids will be more open to wrapping in busy public places like a fair or farmer’s market, where they want to be close to you AND see all the action. If you are dealing with a wrap strike at home, try going somewhere fun where they will be distracted – it can help them get used to the feeling again. I’ve even had instances when out that my daughter clearly did not feel comfortable (was very apprehensive and not her normal, friendly self) even when I was holding her. Only when I wrapped her did she really seem to feel OK about the situation.
Make it part of the routine
This may not always work, but we always use a ring sling when we are going out shopping somewhere. So even if she wasn’t in the mood for a walk earlier, when we go to Target or Kohl’s or whatever, she knows she’s getting in the ring sling to go into the store and very rarely puts up a fight. If we are going someplace with a cart, she will usually go back and forth between the cart and the sling while we shop. If there’s no cart, she is generally happy in the sling the whole time, because it’s all she knows! I guess eventually, I will have to let her on to the fact that she CAN walk around in stores. Eventually 😉
Bring something fun. A bribe, even!
Many a time I have “tandem wrapped” my daughter and one of two of her dolls and stuffed toys. I am also not above bribes, such as a pacifier, string cheese, crackers, or a cold teether. They keep her happy and distracted until I can get her up and wrapped and out the door to look at the cool stuff outside. I also almost always turn on the TV for a sec so she can watch that while I am wrapping her up. I also talk to her a ton while she is wrapped, pointing things out on our walks for her to see. Some of our best conversations happen during babywearing!
Try a different carry or carrier.
Often when my daughter goes on mini-wrap strikes (“NO WRAP ME!”, she yells), she is not so into being wrapped on my back, but still may be up for some front snuggles in a good old Front Cross Carry. Her favorite carrier is the ring sling, and when she’s not into anything else, I can still often convince her to go up in that (which is great for me, too, since it’s so quick and easy). So try a different carry (even just a different or quicker back carry if you are wrapping) or a different carrier – even a specific different carrier of the same kind that is in your kid’s favorite colour or has a favourite print on it. I convinced my daughter to wear bow barrettes in her hair by calling them all “Minnie Mouse bows” and would not be above slapping a pair of mouse ears on an Ergo to convince her to go up ;). Make them feel like they have some ownership of the situation by letting them pick things. For smaller babies, they may prefer one carry or carrier over others for comfort reasons, so try a few options and see what works.
Try again later
Sometimes your kid just does. not. want. to be. worn. And that’s fine! But I encourage you to try again. And before long, your kid will want to go out for an adventure and ride on your back, or snuggle in close for some love. Your kid is really only too big to babywear when it becomes uncomfortable and unenjoyable for both of you. I only get a chance to wear my 2 year old a few times a week (especially now that it’s dark out almost as soon as I get home from work), but I cherish every moment and keep the skill in my pocket for when it’s needed to calm down a crazy toddler at a party, snuggle one up before bedtime, or wrangle her at an outdoor event. Until then, don’t force the issue, try again later and enjoy every second of the babywearing-snuggles you get.
In the end, we always do what we think is best for that time – For your child. And for yourself.
You are doing an amazing job. Well done!