THE BLOG

Babywearing Back Pain: Why It Happens and What You Can Do About It

babywearing back pain newborn pelvic floor postpartum toddler Dec 09, 2023

One of the complaints I hear most often as a babywearing consultant is about back pain.

 

It’s super common to experience pain in the lower back, shoulders and even neck when you’re babywearing…but that doesn’t mean it’s normal or something you have to put up with.

 

Usually, back pain while babywearing stems from two different sources:

 

  1. Your carrier isn’t adjusted properly, which means your baby’s weight is tugging on you in nasty ways, or 
  2. Your pelvic floor, and therefore your core muscles, are out of whack from pregnancy, birth, and motherhood and aren’t giving you the support you need 

 

As a certified babywearing consultant and pre/postnatal fitness specialist, I see both of these issues all the time, and rest assured it’s not just something you have to live with. Below, I’m going to share some of my top tips to begin figuring out which of these two sources is at the heart of your pain - and provide insight on how to move forward!

 
Make sure you’re wearing your carrier correctly

It’s imperative to make sure you’ve got your carrier adjusted properly to ensure your own comfort as well as that of your child. Many, many instances of back pain boil down to small issues with fit that can be modified for big results!

 

Here are some signs your back pain might be a result of poor carrier fit:

Your baby is sagging down low on your chest

You’re wearing a buckle carrier and the chest clip is sitting on your neck or shoulders

You’re carrier or wrap is too loose or has hidden slack (fabric that loosens/sags as you wear, large gaps under the shoulder straps, etc)

The fabric of your wrap, sling, or crossed shoulder straps is riding up tight on the inside of your shoulder/neck, or is twisted up or bunched across your back.

Your waistband is sitting on your hips (unless you have a toddler) instead of your natural waist.

If any of this sounds like you, you’re in luck! These are often pretty quick fixes. If you want help troubleshooting your fit and figuring out just the right adjustments for your body and baby, this is what I do in my 1-1 consultations. I can work on it with you too!

Book a 1-1 session here.

 

Consider your carrier style

Sometimes, although not commonly, you’re just asking too much from your carrier.

Many companies like to market their products as “newborn to toddler” and provide weight limits up to 45lb…but that doesn’t mean that the carrier will be equally comfortable at every age and weight.

Sometimes this is just a matter of being a bit more careful and attentive with your tightening and adjustments, sometimes it requires making changes to the carrier (fiddling with PFAs on the shoulder straps or widening the panel, for example, if your carrier has those features).

If you’re using a wrap, there may be new ways to wrap your child onto your body that are more comfortable than the techniques you used with them as a newborn. 

 

In addition, carrier issues and pelvic floor issues sometimes walk hand-in-hand. If you’ve got a weak or over-tense pelvic floor, using a carrier that shifts pressure downward towards your abdomen can exacerbate the problem and cause back pain, even if you’re wearing the carrier correctly. 

That being said, I’m a big fan of trying to work with what you’ve got before rushing out to buy a new carrier.

If you suspect that your carrier might not be the right fit for you or your child, that’s another great thing to work through together in a private consultation - we can explore new techniques and adjustments to see if we can make your carrier work for you, and if we truly can’t, I can advise you on other options to consider.  

 

Evaluate your pelvic floor

When I bring this up, I usually get one of two responses - 

  1. “What’s that?”
  2. “Oh that’s not the problem, I do my Kegels/I had a C-section.”

So let’s clear this up.

The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles that work like a sling/trampoline/powerhouse in your pelvis. They support your organs, posture, breathing, balance and more. When functioning optimally, they are flexible and strong, and work in harmony with your other core muscles (your deep abdominal muscles, spinal muscles, and diaphragm). 

Whether or not you’ve given birth vaginally, whether or not you pee when you laugh, whether or not you’re the Olympic champion of Kegel squeezes…most of us have some form of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Kegels are overrated and research has shown they do little to support pelvic floor health, yet that’s often what we’re brushed off with by doctors and other health professionals.

Truly supporting your pelvic floor comes down to how you breathe, how you stand (your posture), how your other core muscles are doing, and how you move.

And darn near all of that gets out of whack during pregnancy and birth, no matter how you evict your baby from your belly.

It’s really common for pelvic floor issues to cause the other muscles in your core to overcompensate, which often causes referral pain to other parts of your body…including your low back, shoulders, and jaw. And like I mentioned above, some carriers are easier on the pelvic floor than others.

If you feel like you’re experiencing pain while babywearing due to some sort of issue with your pelvic floor, I encourage you to work with a pelvic floor physiotherapist if it’s available to you. If not, shoot me an email or join my next local Pelvic Floor Workshop to learn how to make simple changes in your everyday life to support pelvic floor recovery and balance. 

 

Give it time

I know it’s not what you want to hear. But sometimes even wearing an 8 lb baby in a carrier can be taxing to your body after going through the marathon of pregnancy and birth! You’re often using muscles you haven’t used like that before. Sometimes it takes a while for them to build up strength.

 

Build up to long bouts of babywearing with small sessions to increase your strength. If you do that for a few weeks regularly and don’t see any improvement at all, check your fit.

If your fit is perfect and you’re still not getting relief, that’s when it’s probably time to look for an underlying issue in your pelvic floor, daily movements, or other aspects of your health and wellness.

 

Try a new position

This depends a lot on which carrier you’re using and how old your baby is, but there are lots of different ways to wear your child!

If your baby is ready and your carrier supports it, learning to wear your child on your back often distributes their weight more optimally and can actually relieve a lot of back pain.

Forward-facing in a carrier is notoriously uncomfortable on the wearer’s back - if you want your baby to look around, try a hip carry if you can and see if that provides better support for your body.

If you’re unsure about the guidelines for your carrier or what positions your baby is ready for based on their development, reach out to me for a private session and we can find a comfortable position for both of you! There are always options, mama.

 

I hope that this list will help you figure out why you’re experiencing back pain while babywearing, as well as give you hope that it doesn’t have to stay that way forever.


If you’re ready to get professional, personalized support to get comfortable and confident in your baby carrier, book a private session with me today and let’s banish back pain together!

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