The Etiquette of Babywearing

Some thoughts on how to babywear, and how to do it nicely.

1. Courtesy:
If you see a mama on transit and she's wearing her baby, offer her your seat. It's like she's pregnant, but on the outside. If you see a papa on transit and he's wearing his baby... same thing.

Too Hot For Stroller!
2. Superiority:
No babywearing method is better than any other. You might have one you like. This doesn't mean it's OK to tell an exhausted parent that their forward-facing carrier is harming their child. Have you ever tried one of those things on? Baby will be out of that carrier in two hours, max. I promise. Bouncing baby boy will survive the bouncing baby Björn.

3. Gender:
Men wearing babies is sexy. I get it. That doesn't mean you can follow my husband around with drool hanging out the side of your mouth. No, he doesn't do it just to turn you on. And no, he doesn't need to provide a free therapy session to you about your unsupportive ex and your breastfeeding and feminist birth practices. He saves all the good stuff for me, bitches.
On a similar note, I don't appreciate leering comments about how, "I wish I could be carried around like that," or "I'll have what the babie's having." No, sir, you won't.

4. Sharing:
If you borrow a friend's carrier, return it in the same condition. In the completely hypothetical scenario that it's become coated in a funky-smelling fluid, hand wash it in water without soap. Hang it to dry. Anything else will compromise the carrier's fabric. If you're two people sharing a carrier (like, say, a husband who's 6'2" and a wife who's... not), your partner has every right to adjust it to their measurements.

5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T:
When babies are being carried they go into the 'quiet-alert state'. This is the best mental state for learning, and it's also the most passive. If you greet a baby and she responds with a blank face, don't take it as a cue to shout louder. She's not deaf, she's ignoring you. She's not ignoring you by accident, she's ignoring you because it's good for her.

6. Sleeping, part I:
Is that baby sleeping? Don't touch it. DO NOT TOUCH IT DO NOT TOUCH IT DO NOT TOUCH IT.

7. Sleeping, part II:
Is that baby sleeping? Don't expect his mama to stop and chat with you. She has better things to do, like go to the bathroom without being stared at from less than a foot away.

8. Carrier Making:
Kamika, of Oh Sew Serendipitous, weight-tests her fabric
at over 35 pounds for hours on end, and you should too.
This could be a post all to itself. Don't steal someone else's carrier design. Don't sew carriers that can't hold up to 30 pounds (yes, some babies are 30 pounds before their first birthday, no they are not all bottle-fed infants in Idaho), or if you do, make sure it's clearly labeled. Use good fabric and good construction: if you wouldn't carry your baby in that thing, why should someone else?

9. DO NOT TOUCH IT (again):
Lots of parents use carriers because they don't want strangers trying to pick up their babies. Don't be that person they complain about at the La Leche League meeting.

10. Nipple Confusion:
Babies can be nursed while they're in carriers. You might see a nipple if you're hanging out with a babywearing mama. The nipple might even have milk coming out of it. That milk might even be spraying around like a garden hose turned up full force. Deal with it. It doesn't mean you have to look the other way, stop talking to her, or that she needs to hide in a dark corner (she is not a teenage couple at a makeout party). If mama was uncomfortable with you seeing her nurse, she would make sure you didn't.

11. Development:
Babies carried develop at the same or faster pace than babies who are not. Comments like, "I'm surprised she can walk, you carry her all the time!" or "It's going to give him a twisted spine!" aren't just silly, they're offensive. And ignorant. And rude. And... ugh.

12. Cultural Appropriation:
My father showing us how to use the cradleboard he made
and in which he once carried me. Cradleboards
are used by indigenous people in North America
(including the Iroquios, Panobscot, and Navajo) as well
as the Saami (once called Laplanders) in Northern Europe.
We all know babywearing has been done in some form at some point of time in almost all 'traditional' societies. But which society does the kind of babywearing that you do? What do they call it? Show some respect and know the history of your carrier. And for goodness sake, don't buy a carrier with a racist name ('The New Native', 'papoose', etc.) and don't pretend it makes you some kind of 'authentic' something. There is no such thing as an 'authentic' anything.

13. Baby carriers count as clothes, part I:
A baby in a diaper in a baby carrier is fully dressed.

14. Baby carriers count as clothes, part II:
A mama in pyjamas with a baby in a diaper in a baby carrier is fully dressed.

15. Safety:
If you know something about babywearing and you see a baby being carried in a seriously unsafe way, by all means go up to the parent/caregiver and politely tell them what you see. Bear in mind that many carries look uncomfortable and downright precarious from the outside; only the person wearing the baby can feel where the baby's centre of gravity is, and that, for example, baby can lift her head on her own, and won't suffocate from resting it on mama's boobs. Mama's boobs are the best pillows.


  1. Thank you so much for linking up to my "weight test" photo! This is a great post!!!! I will be sharing it on my page for sure

  2. although I do make some carriers that only go up to 25 pounds....however I CLEARLY mark them and promote them as so! I also think something that needs to be said more is the importance of NEVER EVER using a stretchy carrier for back carry. Sadly I see so many manufacturers, big and small, not explaining this to their customers.

  3. Definitely. One of the sad things is that the big manufacturers (ahem, Moby) used to provide instructions for the back-carry with their (stretchy) wrap. So people started to think that it was OK. But babies can fall out from stretchy back-carries, and when they do, they land on their heads...!