How old is too old to carry your child in a sling?

Marie Claire Dorking
How old is too old to carry your child in a sling? [Photo: Getty]

Forget a buggy, for some mums the only way to carry their baby is in a sling or baby carrier. Not only does it help boost parent/child bonding, it is a quick and convenient way of getting your baby from A to B.

But what about when their little one gets older and is able to walk themselves? Well for some mums, the sling still remains their transport of choice even with their babies aren’t babies anymore. Because while many parents are glad to be able to pop their children into a pushchair when they start walking, there is a growing number of mums who are happy to continue ‘wearing’ their little ones well into the toddler years and beyond.

According to recent statistics there has been a boom in the ‘baby-wearing’ trend of late. ‘Sling libraries’ have been springing up all over the country, enabling parents to hire a sling from as little as £5 a week. But while you might think slings are only suitable for small babies, some experts believe certain types of baby carrier are able to be used for much older children.

“Most slings and carriers on the UK market are weight-tested to 4 stone, which covers the majority of children that people want to carry,” Emily Taylor, director of Coventry Slings C.I.C, a sling hire and consultancy service told Daily Mail.

“There are toddler and preschool versions, but you can comfortably carry most children in a “baby size” carrier, or slings like a woven wrap grow with the child.”

So what are the advantages of carrying an older child in a sling? Advocates of ‘toddler wearing’ site similar benefits to that of baby carrying including convenience, practicality, as well as offering quality one-on-one bonding time. Some parents also claim wearing an older child can also help dispel toddler tantrums, because they are not only distracted, but also feel soothed.

But not everyone is on board with the idea of ‘wearing’ a child once they’ve left the confines of babyhood. Mums who do carry their older children in slings report receiving criticism from other parents who claim carrying a toddler or older is impacting the amount of exercise their child is getting. While others say the practice is ‘spoiling’ or ‘mollycoddling’ children.

Back in 2015 Yahoo Style UK reported on the mum who was criticised by a jewellery store manager for carrying her five-year-old daughter in a baby carrier. Erica Kalnins was browsing the shop in Tampa, Florida when she was unknowingly photographed by the manager who then proceeded to share it to social media and shame the mum’s decision to ‘wear’ her five-year-old.

“This is the kind of ignorance that gets passed down to kids and ppl enable their children to be independent,” the manager captioned the photo. “This girl is at least 5, but what you don’t see in this picture is the 1 ½ yr old in the stroller. God People are f**king stupid!!! [Sic]”

The mum-of-two hit back at the criticism by explaining that her daughter wasn’t feeling well that day, before going on to receive support from other parents who are also advocates of carrying older children.

“It has nothing to do with being a lazy parent – it just has to do with us mums wanting to carry our babies close because they’re not small for long. We want to educate people that it’s not a weird thing to carry your baby, it’s totally normal,” one message of support read.

Some mums believe there are lots of benefits to carrying an older child in a sling [Photo: Getty]

But what about the impact on the mother’s health of carrying an older and therefore heavier child? Could toddler wearing or above cause problems for parents’ spine and back?

According to paediatric osteopath Coby Langford, from the Soothe Clinic in Gwynedd the spine is actually very strong. “Experiments have shown that the spinal discs can carry one ton of weight before damage when centrally loaded (that’s almost the weight of a Mini car!),” she told Daily Mail.

But that doesn’t mean carrying an older child in a sling comes without risks.

“The catch is that the moment you take the spine out of the central position (forward, backwards, sideways and, most dangerously, into a twist) and carry weight, you start to place strains through structures and tissues and risk injury,” she continues.

And the amount of time you spend carrying your child in a sling can also have an affect on a parent’s health.

“The longer you carry the load, the greater the strain on the tissues of the back and the greater the chance of back pain, neck pain and headaches,” she explains.

As far as the benefits of baby-wearing a child as opposed to a baby are concerned, some experts aren’t convinced there is enough scientific evidence to back up the plus-points.

“At three or four years old, children should be focusing on reaching the development milestones of making friends and learning language and play, and it’s difficult to see how babywearing can stimulate these types of things,” Professor Elizabeth Meins, of the Department of Psychology at the University of York, told Daily Mail.

She said there are lots of ways you can have physical contact with your child that doesn’t involve carrying them around. “These children are nearing school age and will have to make their own independent way very soon, so these are possibly more age-appropriate ways for a parent and child to connect.”

What do you think? How old is too old to carry a child in a sling? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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