In-arms carrying

This information is based on my thoughts and conclusions after the lecture by Mel Cyrille, during the Swedish Babywearing Conference 28th October 2017.


Babies are adapted to be carried directly after birth. They have inborn reflexes which make carrying easier for both parties. These reflexes can be traced back to the first humans and includes reflexes such as:

  • Carrying reflexes – spread-squat so that the baby fits to our body, up to around 6 months. However, babies that are not carried loose it faster
  • Palmar grasp
  • Plantar grasp & Babinski’s sign
  • Moro reflex (being close to us)
  • Stepping reflex (aligning adjustment reflex)

These reflexes are helping a baby to hold on to us (physically) and being a part of being carried, and not just passively being held, which can be very uncomfortable for the parent. I think that one of the first steps to help the baby to activate these reflexes is “the magic hour” directly after birth.
The baby needs to use search, palm, grasp, stepping and sucking reflexes in order to get to the breast and start to feed. Another step is to help their natural development, carry them in their natural position, and let them sit in their natural position, which fits to their age and development stage.
A baby’s natural position should be the starting point, when we want to hold and carry them.
We should not try to speed up the process. They will finally sit and they will finally start to walk. Letting them develop in their own pace, supports the motoric development, their balance and the development of the muscles. Reflexes gradually disappear and they are integrated with a child’s natural development, which is very individual. All of the hangings, balancing, clinging, climbing and carrying improves their motoric skills. Let them do that, let them be kids J.

Some years ago I got to hold one of my colleague’s one year old daughter in my arms. Her body was rather stiff and

in order to be able to hold her, I had to press my hip out and use all the muscles from my arm and side of the body. Anyway it was very heavy and uncomfortable. She wasn’t carried, like my children have been. That was the difference. My kids, especially my son, who has been carried much more than my daughter, are just sitting on me. When you pick them up, they make a spread-squad position automatically.

I also came to think about some kind of ongoing, unannounced competition among parents; “He is only 4 months old and he can almost stand by himself”. We put babies in the walk-in chairs, jump-swings, press them in the bumbo seats, almost vertical baby swing seats and make them sit up with the use of many pillows. Their bodies, bones and muscles are note ready for that. If they were ready they would be doing it by themselves. “But he likes to sit up, so he can see more”. Of course he wants to see more. Carry him, then he can see everything what you can see. All babies develop in their own peace – Let them do that.

My son  was my second child and of course he couldn’t get all of my attention, as my daughter did when she was born. With “lack” of time, “poor” Felix was just hanging around with us. That gave him a chance to develop in his own speed. He was “late” to sit. I didn’t “force” him or “rush” him to sit, go in a walk-in chair, and eat solid food. He did not start with solid food before he was 6 months, because he wasn’t interested. I didn’t even have time to teach him, the time flied by quickly enough anyhow. He started by himself when he was ready (see as well Baby lead Weaning). And then, when he started to crawl… You couldn’t stop him!

In the kindergarten and school I noticed as well, that many kids have problems with their feet, flatfeet, toes and knees are turned inside. One of the physiotherapists I met said; “Yes, that is the generation of walk-in chairs.”

Of course if our kids use walk-in chairs, baby seats etc., it doesn’t automatically mean that they will have problems with motoric skills, but it seems that the risks increase. My daughter used them more than my son and she developed great anyhow. But, why would we want to take the risk? Why do we want to speed up the process? Why are we in such a hurry? I know it makes our lives, parent lives, easier, to put children in all this inventions so that we have more time to do our things. Life put the pressure on us and we put the pressure on our kids.

Another scary development is neck problems in young children. The generation of mobiles and tablets, said another physiotherapist that I talked to. We cannot avoid everything, but being aware about the problems and the reasons can help us to avoid them as much as possible.


Our own ergonomics is also very important while carrying children. During mine and Linnea’s weekend events in Gothenburg at Likasens in 2015, Linnea used to hold a short introduction about our body posture and what we can do to improve it. Pregnancy can decrease our form, our buttocks disappear and the belly muscles open up. When a baby is born we often experience that we don’t have enough time and it happens that we easily forget about ourselves. But we shouldn’t. I don’t mean that we need to train a lot every week. Trying to have a correct body posture is one of the small steps, which we can easily take in order to feel better and take care of our bodies. Especially people, like myself, who has a sitting /standing office job.

Linnea gave the following tips:

  1. Imagine that your body is built from blocks, which need to align correctly
  2. Stand up on your toes and then put the heels down, shifting your weight a little bit to your toes/forefoot (we hold our weight too much on our heels and overload the lower back).
  3. Open our shoulders, so that the thumbs are on the outside
  4. Press our chin backwards. The head weighs a lot and most of us just lets it hang down, looking at our mobile, computer etc. We go around with lots of tension in our necks and shoulders.

Children’s innate reflexes, which is like carrying a blueprint,  makes it possible to carry them without pushing out the hip, pushing out the bottom, pain in the lower back or wrists. This can lead to further damage of our bodies. Just leaning forward, when picking up the kids, is one of the mistakes we do. Do the squat! One day when my son was around 3 years old, I got up in the morning, leaned forward, turning a little bit my upper body to the side and picked him up. My body was still asleep. I just heard a crack and I couldn’t straighten my back again. After a few days I was walking almost 90°, so I went to the chiropractor. He fixed me, but it was extremely painful. I heard as well that I was untrained, my posture muscles was not very well trained. I started with small changes and additions to my life: getting up by rolling to the side (look at the kids, they know how to do that!), squats and yoga. I can recommend the below stated “training” forms and apps.

  1. Basal body awareness – the training leads to increased body awareness and balance, a relaxed and well-coordinated movement pattern and a natural integration between breathing and movement. I am more aware of my posture muscles!
  2. Yoga is great for everyone! I do it almost every day, even if it is just few minutes. I use an app names Yoga Down Dog. However I really do recommend BirthYoga

Some more information from Mel Cyrille to consider, while babywearing:

Considerations with newly born:

  • Does the carry/carrier allow the baby to sit in their natural in-arms position without compromising them in any way?
  • If not, are you able to adapt to meet this need?
  • Does the carry/carrier mimic the support points used when in-arms? Does it also provide all-over support?
  • Are we respecting the changes in leg position as they grow, or are we manipulating them into a certain position?

General considerations:

  • If the baby doesn’t seem to like the sling, refer back to their favorite in-arms position/s. Can you find anything to make baby wearing more similar to this?
  • Are we changing how the baby is supported based on whether they’re awake and active or tired/asleep? If not, why?
  • Do we carry on the advice from others, on an universal “ideal” or tailoring it to the unique way using in-arms carrying as our starting point?

To conclude, babies are an active part of carrying, it helps them to develop. If we use a wrap or carrier, it is very important that they sit in their natural position. May said: “Hold your baby on you, so they will be in their natural position and then tie the wrap around, if you wish to use it”.

Read as well Att bära rätt – ergonomi

© Olga Rokicinska / Millame 2018