“I’m pregnant can I still carry my baby/toddler?”
As frequently as I am asked or see the question: “Can I carry after a caesarean?” I read the question: “I’m pregnant can I still carry my baby/toddler?” Whether it has been posted publically or sent via private message (I have been privy to many an early announcement), it is a question I am asked a lot. Pregnancy can be a very scary and stressful time and it is perfectly understandable that women may feel pressured to stop carrying as heavy lifting is generally advised against during pregnancy. But does she need to stop?
It is important to note that I am not a Midwife or Doctor. I am a sling librarian and babywearing consultant (and a mum) who has both worked with pregnant women in order to help them find comfortable carrying solutions, and carried a toddler myself during pregnancy. If you have been told you CANNOT carry during pregnancy by your doctor or midwife please DO NOT ignore their advice.
We are simply going to consider whether it is possible to use a sling while pregnant, ways in which it may be made more comfortable and look and times it would not be advisable. For many mums using a sling has allowed them to get out of house, calm upset baby or toddler, keep them safe in chaotic environments, security for the child, it isn’t just a form of transportation. For many mums and children there is an emotional aspect which cannot be discounted. How would you feel if you were told you could not do something you enjoyed doing? What do you do if your baby is still that, a baby? Unable to walk (or walk far) and needing reassurance of mum? Do you simply put them in a pushchair and hope for the best? What if they hate the pushchair? What if you don’t own one?
I am well aware that for many mums to be carrying during the first trimester may be the last thing on their mind. That morning sickness, tender breasts and just a general “odd feeling” may mean they simply don’t want to carry. I know I couldn’t stand anything touching my tummy for the first 10 weeks and although I did carry as Henry wanted me to I wasn’t that comfortable, so I completely understand that you may simply want to have a break for a few weeks. Although do remember that you may not have the same level of stamina when carrying when you restart, so take it slowly and build up again. For example, do not assume that because you could walk 3 miles with a 25lb toddler on your back a few weeks ago that you will be able to do that straight away after having those weeks off.
Pregnancy is not an illness and typically for most pregnancies we are told by our midwives that we can and should stay active during pregnancy. It has been shown that the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it is for body to cope with changing shape and weight, it can also help you cope in labour and can reduce problems in late pregnancy and labour. The NHS website says we should keep up our “normal daily activity or exercise….for as long as you feel comfortable. Exercise is not dangerous for the baby”. So, whether it was swimming, Zumba or carrying a toddler in a sling, exercise started before pregnancy can be continued during pregnancy for as long as you feel comfortable. It is however, not advisable to start a new activity during pregnancy unless under specific instruction from a medical professional.
The key with any exercise in pregnancy is to not exhaust yourself and to listen to your body. You should be able to hold a conversation; not working to your maximum, unable to speak. As using a sling is unlikely to exhaust you and likely to have been part of your daily routine, there is no need to stop doing it unless you want to in most cases. When lifting it is important that care is taken to lift correctly, remembering that your ligaments will be stretching and relaxing due to the hormone relaxin in your system. Bending at the knees keeping your back straight, and remembering your pelvic floor muscles at all times.
For mothers with complications in pregnancy it is crucial that you listen not only to your body but to your health care professionals too: physiotherapists, midwives and obstetrician. They have yours and babies best interests at home. Therefore if they say you cannot carry it is worth listening to them. Typically this will be in cases of unexplained bleeding for example but not exclusively. There were times during my own second pregnancy where I was desperate to carry but knew I could not (on bed rest due to threatened preterm labour), but also times where I was advised to do it (was easier for me to transport a toddler on my back than push a buggy and battle walking sticks when I prolapsed a disc in my lower spine). I had to listen to them. Then as I got better we carried more often. Most famously a trip to the labour ward to pick up my prescription for pethidine for my planned homebirth. That got the midwives chatting as I stood waiting at the desk for the script to arrive.
So how or what can you use to carry your child when you are pregnant? Do you have to stop front carrying? Are hip or back carries the only option? Can you use a soft structured carrier? All important questions and all are pretty individual answers. Firstly there isn’t a carrier you can’t use. It will personal preference. If you wish to use a carrier with a structured waistband having it sitting above or below bump will be more comfortable than sitting on it. Those without a structured waist band such as a onbus, pods or Connecta Baby Carrier allow you to have carrier above bump, as do wraps and mei tais. Ring slings because of they are one shouldered can be harder to use but useful for a toddler who wants to sit on your hip. The size of your bump will play a part in when and if you wish to back carry. The key with carrying while pregnant is to listen to your body and only do what you feel comfortable with and remember that sling cuddles might just have to be shorter than normal sling cuddles.
Carrying our children should be fun. It shouldn’t feel like a chore, so if you don’t want to do it because of bump don’t feel bad for wanting to use a pushchair. We all have individual experiences of pregnancy, our own reasons to want to sling, or not to sling. It is your choice. Whatever you decide enjoy your pregnancy, enjoy your bump and enjoy your cuddles with older children in whatever way you choose to get them.