Positioning your Older Baby or Toddler in your Baby Carrier

How do you position your older baby or toddler in your baby carrier?  Here’s the good news!  Your baby already knows what to do.  Pick up your baby and notice how your baby likes to be held.

When you hold your older baby baby on your front or hip, your baby probably:

  • Likes to be held upright, chest to chest or on the hip
  • Keeps their head lifted, looking all around
  • Spreads their legs in a  spread squat position
  • Has knees slightly higher than bottom
  • Holds legs in an “M” shape

As a newborn, your baby rested their head againt you chest and held their legs in a narrow spread squat with knees much higher than their bottom.  As your baby grows, their head and torso will gradually become stronger. Their knees will still take a spread squat position, forming an M shape.  Their knees will still be slightly higher than their bottom (like when they were newborns), but they will spread a bit wider than they did when they were tiny.

In this image, you can see the M shape that baby naturally takes when you hold them in arms:

Your goal in babywearing is to shape the carrier around your baby without disturbing your baby’s natural position.

Positioning in a Woven or Stretchy Wrap

Here is an image of the same baby in the same position, but with a wrap being put on. The baby still has the same spread squat position as in the original photo.

This image shows the baby’s positioning just before spreading the passes out:

This image shows baby’s position after the wrap has been spread. Notice that baby’s position hasn’t changed. The only difference is that now the carrier is on the baby. This is your goal in positioning your baby for babywearing.


Positioning in a Ring Sling

Here is another image of older baby positioning, but in a ring sling. The baby in this picture is about 9 months old.  You can see that baby is snug and well supported. Baby’s spine is fully supported in its natural J shaped curve. Baby’s head is resting on the wearer’s chest, high enough that the wearer can easily kiss the top of baby’s head (but not so high that the wearer can’t look down). If you were to draw a line from the bottom of one foot, to the top of the knee, to the baby’s bottom, top of the next knee, and then bottom of the next foot, you would see the M shape.


A Note about Ring Sling and Wrap Positioning

In a ring sling, stretchy wrap, or woven wrap, the wrap should support the baby from knee to knee. The wrap or sling fabric should spread all the way from one knee to the other, supporting baby’s thighs all the way to the bend of the knee.


Positioning in a Meh Dai

Here is what infant positioning looks like in a meh dai.  This picture shows a doll, but the positioning is correct for an older baby. Notice that the baby’s head is uncovered. The panel does not come higher than the baby’s knee. The panel also allows baby’s knee to bend freely.


Positioning in a Soft Structured Carrier

This image shows positioning in a soft structured carrier with an older infant (about 18 months).   Notice that the panel does not extend higher than the bottom of baby’s ears.  If the panel came up any higher on baby’s head or extended any further past the bend of baby’s knees, this would not be a good fit yet.


A Note about Soft Structured Carrier and Meh Dai Positioning

Unlike a ring sling or wrap, a SSC or MD panel does not need to support baby’s thighs all the way to the bend of the knee. The panel should definitely not extend past the knee, but it is okay if it doesn’t go all the way from knee to knee. A soft structured carrier or meh dai panel can spread from about mid-thigh to mid-thigh and still be quite comfortable for the baby.

In the image below, my child is 18 months but off the charts for height. He is in a standard Tula carrier. The panel supports him from about mid-thigh to mid-thigh. It also comes up to his shoulder blades. The panel does not need to go all the way to the nape of the neck with an infant who has consistent and strong head control. As long as the panel comes far enough up the baby’s back that they cannot lean and supports comfortably to about mid-thigh, it fits.

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I hope this helps you figure out how to position your baby in your carrier!  To learn to use any carrier that you have, please visit my “Using your Carrier” page!

To find a babywearing group or educator near you for hands on help with positioning your baby, please see here.

Further Reading:
Babywearing Safety
Positioning your Newborn
How to Use a Stretchy Wrap
How to Use a Woven Wrap
How to Use a Ring Sling
How to Use a Pouch Sling
How to Use a Meh Dai
How to Use a Soft Structured Carrier
How to Tell if Your Child Fits in a Toddler Sized Carrier