Today we'll talk about:
- How you know when you're ready to start back carrying.
- What steps you can take to build your skills.
- My two favorite back carries to teach beginners.
For this week's companion video I'm wearing my little guy in this lovely pink and black wrap from Cassiope; this is called Castalia Hummingbird and it is my base size, which for me is a six. Again a big thanks to Cassiope for sponsoring our live tutorials in January and now early February. They are the first creative manufacturer I'm featuring with Mat York in our Art in Babywearing series this year. Thanks to Cassiope for helping us spread wrapping education!
I'll let you know where to jump to in the video in my text below. That way you can go straight to just what you need!
What's the magic formula for assessing readiness for back carries? Well unfortunately when it comes to woven wraps there really isn't one. You're ready for back carries in a woven when you want to focus and learn the skill. Back carrying with a woven wrap is typically not a skill that comes with one try. It takes several practice sessions and often a good amount of sweat before confidence begins to build. But you can do it, and once you do get past the learning curve you have this amazing and super convenient skill. So that's how you know when you're ready: you have the drive and desire to succeed. Of course, knowing the basics that you can pick up from front carries can help a ton too. Things like solid tightening and making a seat can be learned with back carries but most people find those fundamentals come faster when practiced in front carries first.
Now, how do you know a baby is ready for back carries? Well, because we're working specifically with woven wraps we have some leeway on that one too. With some more structured carriers, the recommendation is that baby either has some torso control or baby is physically large enough to minimize risk of slumping in the carrier. With a woven wrap, though, the carrier molds to the body of the passenger, and wrapper, so we don't have gaping sides or tall panels to worry about overcoming. Babies can go on the back in a woven wrap as soon as the caregiver feels comfortable in doing so.
But wait, how am I supposed to know if I'm comfortable if I've never back carried before? Ah now we're getting somewhere! For this reason, I recommend starting back carries in baby steps...
2. An action plan to build skills
Step one - practice getting baby on your back. Just a quick up then down, no carrier. This gets BOTH of you used to this new concept. You build muscle memory and confidence while baby gets used to a new view and new position. Don't underestimate baby's need to get used to this just as much, if not more, than you.
Step two - start practicing the full carry but without baby. Use a doll if you have one or a stuffed animal or sometimes in a pinch a pillow or rolled up blanket. No it's not the same as your baby and once you add baby you'll learn you need to make further adjustments. BUT you'll already have muscle memory built up for the bulk of the carry, which will free up your brain to focus on your baby and not all the things your muscles need to be doing in order to get the wrap on. Babies can totally sense when we're feeling nervous about things. The more confidence you can build before adding baby back into the equation, the less anxiety you'll both have.
Step three is to put steps one and two together and practice getting your real baby on your back with the wrap and to tie on the carry you practiced. I'm going to say bye to my real baby now because he's going to go play and we'll use my doll from here.
How do we physically get baby back there? For all babies other than newborns I use two ways to get baby up: the Superman toss or the hip scoot. I tend to Superman younger babies and hip scoot toddlers, but you use whichever technique works for you. I'm going to move us over to my soft surface here and we can practice together. When you're learning, always practice over a bed or soft surface, and if you have someone that can spot you that's great too.
Let's practice together now. In real life, practice this bit with a real baby, not a doll like I'm using for this part in the video (I start to Superman at about 9:50). To Superman, I start with my right hand. My baby is going to go over my right shoulder and I'm going to use my right forearm to lift him. I use my right hand to cup his right shoulder joint - not just his arm but the whole joint. When we add a wrap my thumb will hold it in place. My left hand is really just stabilizing the other side. Now I'll shift my baby's weight onto my right forearm, lift him straight up, then place my shoulder under him to give him a place to land. Once he's up, we'll both kind of acknowledge what we did, then he comes right back down. We're both just getting used to the idea here.
Okay now let's hip scoot. In the interest of time, I'm going to show a hip scoot with the first beginner back carry I want to show today...
3. Two carries to try
We'll start with a Secure High Back Carry (at 12:20 in the video). It's kind of an odd name because it isn't a super high back carry like a ruck, but it does have some cool bonuses so we'll forgive it. This carry can start without your baby - we'll make a pouch first. And again, try to practice carries with a doll first, then add your baby when you've got confidence.
To start, place the wrap over one shoulder and under the other so it runs across your back. The end under your arm should be slightly longer so the middle marker is in front of you. Tie a single knot up by your shoulder to make a pouch for baby. Definitely stop here and make sure nothing is twisted like I do at 13:10 in the video. Hopefully you recall this trick from our beginner tips live tutorial! No twisting between the top edge at the pocket and the same edge at my neck.
Load baby in like a ring sling - the seat should support from knee to knee with knees higher than bum. We'll bring the top edge of the wrap up baby's back nice and high so it cups baby's shoulders, securing them really well. To hip scoot, take the tails in one hand (the side with the wrap going over shoulder) while you lean forward, bringing your other arm around to support baby, and scoot, scoot, scoot baby around to your back. And they are up!
From here if you need baby higher, lift baby's weight with your forearm and pull the tails out away from your chest with the other hand to get baby higher on your back. I demo this at 14:45 in the video - when the segment starts a child screams in the background so do be sure to adjust your viewing experience accordingly. When you've found a comfortable height, tighten up the knot just enough to keep tension and pin these tails between your knees. We still need to check the seat to make sure it is still knee-to-knee and knees are higher than bum. While the tails are safely pinned, reach back under baby's knees and pull the wrap down baby's back and make sure the middle of the wrap is spread well between baby's bum and thighs. If the wrap is too tight, give yourself a little slack in the tail that is under arm. Remember to hold both tails in one hand or pin them between your knees to keep tension.
Now let's tighten. Figure out which tail is which as it comes through the knot - which tail is coming from under arm and which is coming from over shoulder? We' the lower tail that came from under arm to be pinned in place so we can tighten the tail that came from over shoulder. Watch out for twisting again - at 16:10 in the video I caught that my upper tail was twisting through the knot which would have made for some difficult tightening.
As we tighten, remember the "tightening in thirds" that we've been doing in all our live tutorials. I start at 16:45 in the video by pulling a bit at the inside edge to tighten the top rail around baby's shoulders. The middle is where baby's weight sits so give that a good tug. Then the outside edge under baby's knees is the seat so we don't want to pull that out. Just give it a gentle tug and then we'll move all the slack through this single knot here.
This tail that came from over shoulder is now going to get placed on the opposite shoulder - remember how we placed the wrap in shoulder flips for back carries? I show the move pretty quickly at 17:40 in the video. After you place the wrap on your shoulder, reach behind you with the opposite hand and pull the tail straight down, then bring it over baby's first knee and under the second knee. Pin it between your knees again and return to this other tail. This one goes under arm, then again - over baby's first knee and under the second*. Now we can tie our tails in a double knot and we're done!
So the pros of Secure High Back Carry is that the seat is made in front of us so I can verify it, we use the wrap as like a third arm to scoot baby around to our back, baby is already secure when they get back there, and we only have to tighten over one shoulder. The cons, though, is that it's harder to tighten this one really well and it's harder to get slack out of the carry when it inevitably starts to sag because feeding slack through the half knot isn't super easy. Once you get really great a tightening, sagging becomes less of an issue but while you're learning it can be frustrating not being able to get that slack out.
Enter the ruck: this carry has a little more of a learning curve. It's like learning to drive on a stick shift versus an automatic. You have to do more work learning this way but when you get it you'll know more about how back carries work and you'll have more experience with seat-making and proper tightening.
For this ruck I'll start with the Superman toss we did before, obviously this time with a wrap. In the video at 21:00 I remind you that when I place my right hand on baby, I'm cupping baby's whole right shoulder joint and using my right forearm to elevate baby to my back. Once they're up, I need to pin these top rails right away to prevent leaning. I use my teeth, so before I pin I'll also explain that the next move is to make the baby's seat while these rails are pinned. I'll reach under my baby's knees and pull all the excess fabric down, then use the bunching to lift baby's knees and I'll pin the excess fabric between us.
Did you see that at 22:05 when I lifted the fabric up between us, my baby's knees went up and his pelvis tilted forward? Well, his doll plastic uhh... non-existent pelvis I guess. Anyway, a good tilt to the pelvis and knees higher than bum is nice and ergonomic for baby and provides good knee-to-knee support. Once the seat is secured, I'll gather these tails up, keeping tension in the top edges to prevent leaning, and then we can tighten. Starting at 23:05 in the video: pull a bit at the inside edge closest to my cheek to tighten the part around baby's shoulders. The middle of the wrap is where baby's weight sits so give that a healthy tug. Then the outside edge is the seat under baby's knees and tucked between us so we don't want to pull that out. Just give it a gentle tug and then we'll tuck it up under the bunching we've created at shoulder to make a second layer of cush on the shoulder and keep that outer edge from running down my arm - I demo this move at 23:30. To finish with this tail, again bring it back and always over baby’s first knee, pinning the seat in place, then under baby's second knee. Now repeat on the other side - tighten the top, middle, and just a bit of bottom third, then pin that bottom rail under the top rail, bring the bunching under arm and over this knee, pinning the seat in place, then under the second knee. Once again, tie a knot here and we're done!
This carry is a little easier to adjust. If baby is sagging, I show my trick again at 25:00 in the video - use your forearm to lift baby's weight, then pull the ruck strap down at shoulder, feeding the slack behind you and through to the knot. Repeat on the other side if needed.
Okay all, those are my tips and steps to back carrying success! Of course there are way more than just two back carries, though, and next week we'll show off the versatility of wovens with the start of the second annual running of the Wrapped in Love and Luck challenge! This challenge is really.... a challenge! It's 32 straight days of only back carries, packed between Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. There's a ton of variations and fancy finishes and new stuff to try so I hope you join us, even if you pop in and out of the challenge when it works best for you. So until next week, happy wrapping!
Our LIVE videos for late January and early February 2017 are sponsored by Cassiope Woven.