When Can I Back Carry in An SSC? (or, why your three month old should be on your front)

abcLately, there’s been a trend of mamas back carrying little babies in SSCs (soft-structured carriers like Ergo, Beco, Tula, etc.). These mamas post pics on Facebook groups, expecting nothing but “Aww, how cute.” And mostly, they get it. When that picture stays up, more mamas think, hmmm, maybe little three-month-old Jaylynn is ready to go on my back. So now another mama’s improperly positioning a baby, and possibly putting him in danger.

Ergo’s instructions state that in order to back carry, baby should be sitting unassisted. Other sources say baby should be six months old, or sitting with assistance.Because you should always use your carrier according to its instructions, we’ll go with six months.This isn’t because Ergo wants to kill your joy and keep your baby on your front. It’s because of serious safety reasons.

SSCs give you a relatively low and loose back carry when compared to a woven wrap or a mei tai (the only carriers safe to back carry a teeny-tiny). That means baby isn’t held as tightly against you. Baby needs the muscle control to compensate for that looseness.

If baby doesn’t have muscle control to compensate, he can slump down or to the side. This can cause oxygen desaturation in the brain, or, at worst, positional asphyxiation. That means your baby is unable to get enough oxygen to live. The vast majority of sling deaths happened for this reason.

Because baby is low on your back, you’re unable to monitor his breathing as closely as you could on your front or in a high back carry. Many mamas scoff at this and say they’re aware of their baby. But since baby isn’t tight against you, you can’t feel or see his breath.

You should also be familiar with your carrier. For a baby over a year, it’s no problem to attempt a back carry with minimal wearing experience. But for a smaller baby, you’ll need to get used to moving the fabric around without the ‘help’ of an older child. Front carry for a while before you decide to make a back carry attempt.

Back carrying is a great tool for a babywearer. Your hands are free; your baby’s out of the way. Just be sure baby is old enough and strong enough – and you’re experienced enough.