Carrying your child without ruining your back

Dear Mr. Dad: My two month old wants to be held all day long. Everyone I know is telling me that she’ll grow up spoiled if I don’t put her down. Am I spoiling her?

A: Not a chance! Here’s the only math formula that new parents need to know: wants = needs. It’s absolutely impossible to spoil a baby that young. The concept of manipulating you with his tears is months away. Here’s what’s probably going on inside your baby’s head. For nine months he was living in a cozy, warm environment and was used to being constantly held. Now that he’s out in the real world, he craves the security of his old womb. But as he gets older, he’ll gradually need that security less and less.

Studies have actually shown that children who are carried more, actually cry and fuss 40-50 percent less than those who aren’t carried as much. Every time you pick your baby up, you’re telling him that you’re there for him, no matter what. That bit of knowledge will come in handy a few months from now, when he starts crawling. Knowing you’re there to come back to will make it easier for him to do the kind of exploring and mischief making that will eventually become independence.

That said, carrying your baby around all the time is going to be hard on your arms and your back. Fortunately, there is an alternative: give babywearing a try. Baby carriers have come a long way in recent years. From slings to frontpacks, they’re a great way for dads—and moms—to snuggle with their new babies.

The most popular frontpack is the Baby Bjorn, which allows your baby to face in or out and is adjustable so both parents can use it. But a lot of new parents find that their babies quickly outgrow the packs—even before they reach the recommended weight limit—and continuing to use them is uncomfortable for baby and wearer.

A more comfortable alternative is an Ergo Baby Carrier or the Beco Butterfly. Both use straps, buckles and a defined seat for the baby. The main difference between these and the Baby Bjorn is the comfort level for the wearer. These carriers have a padded waist belt to distribute the bulk of the child’s weight to your hips—kind of like a well-made camping backpack does. Plus, these carriers can handle babies up to 40 or 45 pounds so there’s a good chance that your child will outgrow the desire to be carried long before he outgrows the pack.

Another option is a sling. A pouch sling is a tube of fabric that you fold in half, slip over your shoulder like a Miss America sash (don’t feel like you have to wave), putting the baby into the pocket made by the two layers. The most challenging aspect of a pouch is the fit. If you and your spouse aren’t pretty much the same size, you won’t be able to share the sling and one of you will be miserable wearing it. Brands like Hotslings and Peanut Shell are widely available in stores and online. Ring slings (which have rings that you thread the fabric through before putting it over your shoulder) are similar to their tubular cousins, but it’s easier for two different sized people to share.

There are literally hundreds of options, so whatever your size and preference, there’s something out there for you. And they’re widely available online at places like www.attachedtobaby.com , or in store, where you’ll be able to test drive them with your baby.

Bottom line, as long as your back and arms allow, don’t miss an opportunity to hold your baby. Before you know it, he’ll be running around on his own and won’t want to slow down long enough to be held.

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