Toddler Wearing or “Why, Yes, I Do Still Wear Him!”

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Coming home from a day at the beach

Callum turns 18 months old tomorrow (sniff!); every day he is more and more “little boy” and less and less “baby.”  Even so, I still “baby”wear almost everyday.   The truth is that babywearing is a parenting tool that carries well into the toddler years.  I’ve had lots of people ask me if it’s uncomfortable to wear Callum now – maybe he’s too big and heavy.   I can honestly say that I can comfortably wear Callum for hours still (not that I often have the opportunity to wear for that long, but I physically could!).  Others wonder if he’s too old to be worn.   I see plenty of kids his age and quite a bit older in strollers or carried in parents’ arms (often while mama or daddy pushes the empty stroller) – he’s definitely not too old!

Toddlers are worn differently than pre-walkers.  For one, they are eager to explore the world on their own once they can walk.  But little legs do get tired and little arms reach up to be held.  There are also times when it simply isn’t safe for toddlers to run free; a carrier allows a toddler to take in the sights of a crowded place from a safe vantage point.  Toddlers are rarely worn for long periods of time; they like to be up and down a lot.  A good carrier will save your arms and back, let you leave the stroller at home when you don’t really want to hassle with it, and of course snuggle your big kid close when he needs it.

I wear Callum still when we go out and about if we aren’t in a place were he can roam freely or where I can watch him.  Wearing him allows me to easily walk our dogs every morning (and a bonus workout for an extra 25 pounds on board!), and it’s still our favorite way to wind down before bed.  Wearing comes in handy when he’s cranky and just wants to be near me, but dinner needs to be made.  Even when we go places that Callum will mostly be walking (like our local children’s museum), I always have a carrier just in case.

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Callum taking a break from the action at our local children's museum

It isn’t surprising that people wonder at the comfort of wearing a toddler.   Most of the mass market carriers that people are familiar with (like the Bjorn or Snuggli) would be horribly uncomfortable if not impossible to use with an older heavier child.   The Ergo is one mass marketed option that can work for older children, but even though it’s a great carrier and rated to 35 pounds, it is not as comfortable for older, heavier toddlers as other options.  In the past, if you wanted to wear an older child, you were often left with few options but the bulky external frame hiking packs.  I can see why one wouldn’t want to haul one of those around town.

The good news is that there are an increasing number of options on the market that allow toddlers and even preschoolers to be comfortably and safely worn.  Until recently, many of the carriers were difficult to find as they are produced by small businesses (frequently WAHMs) and not marketed beyond the babywearing community.  In the past few months two carriers – the Babyhawk Oh Snap and the Boba – have been introduced.  Both carriers are designed for toddlers (they are not for small infants) and both are widely available online.  Hopefully, these carriers and others that may follow will make it even easier for parents to wear their children beyond the first year.

If neither of those options tickle your fancy, there are still lots of smaller companies that produce soft structured carriers, mei tais, ring slings, and woven wraps that are suitable for toddlers.   A good source of information on these smaller manufacturers is The Babywearer.com (check out the forums for the latest news on what’s hot and available).   Toddler friendly mei tais and SSCs produced by smaller manufacturers are released in limited quantities on certain dates; if you find a carrier you are interested in (again TBW’s forums are a good way to figure out what those might be), join that manufacturer’s Facebook page, yahoo group, or website to stay up-to-date on their releases.  Of course, the For Sale or Trade forum on TBW is a great place to find these carriers as well.

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Bedtime Snuggles

So what makes a good toddler carrier a good toddler carrier?  Here are some things to keep in mind about toddler wearing and toddler carriers:

  • What worked great for the first year, might not be such a great option for toddler wearing.  But the same is true for many types of baby gear like car seats and strollers.  As your child grows, you will need a carrier that can accommodate a larger body and provide support for more weight (the opposite is also true; many great toddler carriers won’t work for little ones).  If you are finding that your old favorite isn’t working for your toddler, try a toddler friendly carrier and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised and how comfortable toddler wearing can be.
  • Even though toddlers weigh more, they are actually easier to wear.  Toddlers are longer so their weight is more evenly distributed on the wearer’s body.  It’s actually harder to wear a 20 pound 6 month old than a 30 pound toddler (although I wouldn’t say either is “hard” with the right carrier!).
  • It’s pretty common for toddlers to go on a “wearing strike” as they learn to walk.  But don’t sell off those carriers just yet!  Most children quickly come back around and even begin to ask to “go up” as they get older.
  • Toddlers like to be up and down a lot as they explore on their own two feet.  You’ll want a carrier that you can use quickly.  Ring slings are a nice option for short trips.  Many parents like soft structure/buckle carriers for ease of use.  I prefer woven wraps with an occasional mei tai thrown in the mix.
  • Back carries are your friend!  Ideally, you want a carrier that you feel comfortable using for both front and back carries.  Most wearers find back carries to be more comfortable for long term wearing (and many toddlers prefer the wider view).  But even big kids sometimes want front snuggles icon wink Toddler Wearing or Why, Yes, I Do Still Wear Him!
  • For ring slings you’ll want a sturdy fabric (linen and wrap conversions are popular options) and a wider width to provide proper support.
  • If you are interested in a mei tai or soft structured carrier, look for ones that have taller bodies and more padded straps.  Most wearers find that a padded waist on a mei tai or a structured waist on a SSC is a must when carrying a toddler.
  • Woven wraps work well for all ages although some brands are known for being more toddler friendly (see our guide).  You may find yourself using different carries with a toddler than you did with a younger baby.  Ruck under the bum is a great quick option for toddlers.  The double hammock is great for longer periods of wearing as it distributes the weight across your entire torso.
  • Whatever carrier you chose should support your child out to his knees and keep his knees slightly higher than his bum – another reason you may need to “size up” as your child grows.
  • For all carriers make sure you are buying from a reputable manufacturer.  Safety is important at any age, but the extra weight of a heavier child can make short work of shoddily sewn seams.
  • Finally, if you are looking for the perfect fit for you and your toddler, trying before you buy is a great idea.  As toddlers get older, they often become quite opinionated about which carrier they’d like to use.  Your toddler might hate one carrier and love another.  A babywearing group can be a great place to try out some different options to find something you both love.

Toddlers are busy little people but they still want and need the security of snuggles.  Toddler wearing can be a great way to fill that need as well as an easy way to keep your toddler safe and happy when out and about!

If you are a toddler wearing mama, we’d love to hear about your favorite carrier – leave us a note!

This post is part of Babywearing Videos‘ Babywearing Blog Carnival – check it out!!

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26 comments to Toddler Wearing or “Why, Yes, I Do Still Wear Him!”

  • Amanda

    Yay for toddler wearing! I hope Joshua still wants to be worn as he gets bigger :-)

  • Tonya

    You can definitely wear a preschooler too- my son asked to be worn in a wrap a few months after our daughter was born, even though I hadn’t had him in a baby carrier since he was a baby. He loved it!

  • Love it! That first picture is so sweet. :)

    Totally agree about different carriers for different stages… I loved my stretchy wrap and front carry for the first six months or so, then the back carry and the mei tai quickly became our favorite. :)

  • Dana

    Love this post! I have started getting more & more “isn’t that uncomfortable?” comments when wearing Ari. One thing I would add – if you decide to go with a ring sling, double layer linen or silk is your best option (besides a woven wrap conversion). Many single layer linens are not recommended nor comfortable for little ones over 20 – 25 pounds. Kaela & pslings single layer linens are wider, so they an exception to this rule. I can wear Ari (who weighs 23 lbs) for a few hours comfortably in my double silk Sakura Bloom or psling.

  • great post – and perfect timing for us. we did the whole bjorn, sling, ergo in the first year but i sold them all off eventually as each seemed to pass it’s prime. but my now 26 month old has just developed a fascination with kangaroos and is always asking to go into my “pouch” so i made a simple sling today. it was the best feeling, baby wearing once again!

  • Meghan

    great article.
    we have a 4 month old, and we use a MANDUCA. it is similar to the ergo, kind of like the german version of the ergo. the limited edition ones are made in czech republic which is great, (and also where my partner is from!) we use it with her for hours, and she loves it. i look forward to being able to wear her well into her toddler years.

  • Awesome. I’m glad to have found your post. My son is 14 months old and I’m wanting to start wearing him again! I wore him all the time when he was smaller. I didn’t know even if it was still possible for both of us to get used to again. thanks for the post

  • I actually miss wearing my toddler who is now 5… I wore him in a sling on my hip until he was about 4 years old (he finally got to long and it became too ackward…) And yes I got the weird looks, but let me tell you, it makes it a lot easier when you have a tired kid on your hands to grab the ring sling and head out knowing you can slip it on and tired kiddo will usually fall asleep or at least appreciate the one on one time…

  • Tania

    Thank you for the great article! I’ve worn my youngest since she came home from the hospital. I’ve used a sling, wrap, and Boba carrier. She is now 27 months old and still asks to go in the carrier, especially when in need of extra snuggles. Just recently a friend saw me wearing her in the Boba and made the comment “You’re too big to be in there.” But she’s not! At 23 pounds, she is not too heavy or too big for me to wear her, and we both love the extra cuddle time. She is getting more and more independant and wanting to walk all the time, so I savor the moments we do have in the carrier. Plus, it is a lifesavor when traveling through the airport! Toddler on my front and backpack diaper bag on my back and we are all set! No need to take child out at security either…bonus!

    • Meredith

      I think as long as a kid wants up, they aren’t too old to be worn :-) Kiddo is 22 months and I still wear regularly – and I’m sure there will be situations for some time to come (the airport being a perfect example) when wearing really is a lifesaver!

  • Little Peanut

    I wore my 1st DS right up until the 2nd was born. At that point he was 38 months and 30 lbs. He loved being worn and it was amazing how easily I could carry him even when 9 months pregnant. He still asks to be carried when crowds get too busy or he feels tired and I try to oblige, knowing these days are coming to a close. I know my days of BW with him will soon end but I do hope to carry my now 20 m/o at least as long as his older brother.

    We used made by me pouches and ringslings for DS1. We now use those same pouches and ringslings but frequently use/used a stetchy wrap, a woven wrap, a MT (BabyHawk), a SSC (Two Mommas Designs) and an Ergo. He loves them all, as do I!

    • Meredith

      I’m always glad to hear of mamas wearing into their 9th month – I’m 18 weeks pregnant now and hoping to be able to carry kiddo the whole time as well!

  • Lili

    I totally agree! Great article, 5 stars! Babywearing and breastfeeding rule! I found one WAHM site where I got a beautiful hand made designer mei tai, we love it.

  • […] information on our favorite newborn carriers.  Just as some carriers are better suited for toddlers, there are some carriers that provide a better fit and support for a newborn.  There’s no […]

  • Julia

    what kind of ring sling is in your photo? It’s beautiful!

  • Jo

    I’ve worn my girl from dot. First in the moby, then in a fairly basic mei tai, but from the age of about three, I needed more padding on my shoulders, so invested in a BabyHawk mei tai. I still wear her intermittently now, at four and a half, when the distance is just a little too far for her wee legs and a push chair is inconvenient (like the beach, busy markets et cetera).

    It’s about convenience for me, as well as comfort for her :o)

  • Tam

    I’ve been wearing my son since he was born and went from the Moby to the Ergo. He’s almost 16 months now but still small ~21 lbs. I still wear him a lot around the city but would love to find something a little more comfortable.

    Can you recommend a ring sling that is good for toddlers?

    • Meredith

      There are lots of good options for toddlers. Most ring slingers like something wider with a bigger kid; wrap conversions, linen, and silk are popular toddler options. Sleeping Baby Productions has the most affordable options – she has BB Slen wrap conversions right now which are great for toddlers. Kalea Baby has super wide linen slings which are great for toddlers. Comfy Joey has some too. Sakura Bloom has double linen slings and silk slings. And P-slings (which are a bit different than regular ring slings in that they are designed to “set” and not adjust often) are nice and wide and supportive too. We have links to all on our ring sling page linked up at the top!

  • silverspringmama

    Great article mama. I still wear my just turned two year old in wraps, SSCs and ring slings! Two is a tough age and she frequently likes to be up. We do get the occasional, “shouldn’t she be walking comment” (clearly from people who’ve never walked with a two year old). She’s happy, I’m happy, its all good!

  • roxy

    I have not been wearing my son, but he did love it when I did!!! I an looking into wearing him now at 18 months old…. good idea?

    • Meredith

      Sure – why not! Many toddlers love back carries when they get tired or when they are in a place you don’t want them running around (in other words, any time you might use a stroller). The view is better from a back carry too which many enjoy. Most find buckle carriers to be the easiest/fastest with toddlers who want up and down a lot, particularly if you haven’t been wearing for a while.

  • This was a great post. I have been looking for other articles on wearing toddlers and yours is really thorough. You have some gorgeous carriers too. I just got my first ring sling to carry my 2 year old while pregnant and I love it. I recommend it to everyone I meet that is thinking about babywearing.

  • […] Toddler Wearing or “Why, Yes, I Do Still Wear Him!” – Meredith at Becoming Mamas A mother gives her reasons for still wearing her 18 month old and some recommendations for carriers.  Adorable photos. […]

  • Love this post! It always makes me kind of chuckle when people leave comments on my youtube channel like “isn’t that kid a little big to be in a baby carrier?!” Babywearing is about more than being able to hold your baby hands free :)

  • Hi Meredith, I love ‘Becoming Mamas’! I’ve been reading it since my daughter was born and I’ve learned a lot of useful things, many thanx!!!
    I have a question for you. I’m using a didy size 6. My daughter is almost 20 months old and for easy ups and downs I mainly do hip carry and rucksack TIF but I have quite a lot of extra fabric to wrap around my waist (I measured around 150 extra cm in Rucksack TIF. I’m quite thin 170 cm tall and 48 kg). What size shortie can you use for rucksack TIF for a toddler or even a preschooler? Given my size, do you think size 3 would be enough or is it better a 4? (I would like to continue carrying as long as possible).
    And by the way, what’s your favorite shortie size?
    Thanx again!

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