Why I carry my big kid

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It’s been nearly four years since I first got into slings when my eldest son was born. I don’t think I could have foreseen the joy babywearing has brought to our lives. I remember when he began walking at around 12 months, thinking ‘ahh, our slingy days will be numbered now!’ – little did I know that three years on, we’d still be enjoying slingy cuddles.

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Carrying a toddler or preschooler has lots of the benefits that carrying a baby does. There’s practicality: tiny humans have little legs that get tired easily, and a sling takes up less space than a buggy for a day out! We’ve often ventured out with our twins in the double buggy and our biggest in a sling, thankful not to need a triple buggy. In busy cities, or when travelling, even big kids can get overwhelmed and a quick up in a sling or carrier can avoid or derail a meltdown. And perhaps most significantly, it can help you to reconnect with your child and strengthen your bond – more on this later.

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When I share photos of my husband or me carrying our eldest in a sling, friends sometimes express surprise. We are asked “doesn’t it hurt your back?” or told “surely he should be walking” (he often does of course – he is three). It’s a common assumption that you must have to be very strong in order to carry your child in a sling once they are past infancy. However, lots of my clients tell me that they end up carrying their toddlers of preschoolers in-arms – to stop a tantrum, speed up the journey, or simply enjoy some affection. Research shows that carrying in a sling uses 16% less energy than carrying in-arms(1), so it might even tire you out less!

Babywearing has always played a big part in strengthening the bond that we have with our children. When my son was a baby and I suffered from postnatal depression, carrying him in a stretchy wrap kept him calm and helped me to feel like a competent mother. During his toddlerhood, we enjoyed holidays and days out and thanks to slings, the fun didn’t have to stop when he got tired.

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At 20 months, our son began going to a childminder one day a week. When my husband dropped him off, he’d often use the sling to ensure they arrived on time. It also provided them with some lovely one-to-one time and they’d stop to watch the trains go by – a delight for our train-mad boy! This continued after his brother and sister were born when he was 2.5. I began carrying him home in a sling, pushing the babies in the buggy. As well as helping me to regain core strength after my pregnancy, this gave us the chance to talk while the babies were soothed by movement. He’d tell me about his day and I’d feel us reconnecting, finding our way through our new normal.

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Opportunities to carry our biggest are few and far between now. He walks to and from his childminder’s house and it’s mainly when he’s feeling tired or unwell that he asks to go up. We still take a sling for him when we are out for the day, and I secretly feel warm fuzzies when we are able to use it! I take lots of photos as I’m never sure whether it’s the last time. I know we will enjoy looking back at them and talking about how we loved our slingy cuddles.

If you’d like to chat about options for carrying your older child, please get in touch.

References and further reading

1: Wall-Scheffler C, Geiger K, Steudel-Numbers K. Infant carrying: The role of increased locomotory costs in early tool development. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 2007; 133: 841–846. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20603 

Carrying Older Children‘ – The West Yorkshire Sling Library

Bonding with your Big Kid‘ – Sheffield Sling Surgery

Wrapping your Toddler or Preschooler‘ – Wrap Your Baby

Comments: 3

  1. Nickie says:

    I love this. I carry my 2.5 year old most days on dog walks or round the supermarket (can’t bear the trauma of him attempting to climb out every few seconds!) & sometimes get odd looks.
    I’ve been called a hippy 😂😂 but i mostly get positive comments from the older generation.
    My son loves to interact with people when he’s on my back as he’s at their level & we chat away, sing songs, practice our counting, play squirrel spotting.
    I had to nod along to your comment about people asking ‘doesn’t he hurt your back?’
    Well yes, if I carried him for hours then obviously I would begin to feel it…but it’s much easier than carrying him in my arms!
    Our trusty Tula has been a total godsend at airports too. I’ve watched frazzled parents chase their over tired toddlers & seen them have to deal with meltdowns while my son has snoozed away on my back oblivious to the carnage around him.
    So many positives for carrying & like you, I dread the day my son decides he doesn’t want to be on mummy’s back anymore.
    Almost makes me want to have another baby just to get to sling them again…. 😜

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