I’ve been getting this question (and giving the following advice) for a while in-store now and have been getting GREAT feedback from happy parents on how well it works so I thought I should share it with you all too.
What do you do when your baby doesn’t like the sling? (Or carrier, Mobywrap, etc.) She fusses and cries when she’s in, but is happy when you’re holding her in your arms. She doesn’t want to be put down, but also doesn’t want to be in any carrier. What to do? My third child was like this. She did not like the sling and would fuss in it, though she did want me to hold her. When she was a few weeks old I told her, half-jokingly, “You are the THIRD child. You WILL be a sling baby. I just don’t have enough hands!”
If this sounds like your baby, first you want to rule out any physical discomfort. Make sure the baby is properly positioned: chin off chest, back straight and not hunched over, face clear of fabric, head high enough that you can bend YOUR head down and kiss the top of HER head. Make sure her legs are not too squished up, sometimes this can bother babies. (If you have any questions about proper positioning please come into the store or meet with your local babywearing group.)
Once you can establish that there is no physical discomfort, it’s time to look at why else your baby may dislike the carrier. If they are a baby who likes to look around, try to stand in such a way that they can see what you’re doing. In a front carrier this does not necessarily mean facing out. It can also mean facing you, while you stand sideways. For example, in my (crappy) picture you can see that I am not facing the person I’m talking to, I’m standing perpendicular to them and turning my head. That way the baby can also turn their head and see everything that’s going on. If the baby is on my back, I try to hike them up a little higher so they can look over my shoulder and also see everything that’s going on.
If the issue is not your baby trying to see stuff (which you can usually tell by the fact that they’re craning their head all around), and/or your baby is too young to want to look around but she’s still crying, chances are she is just unnerved by this new weird position you’re holding her in.
The temptation is to jump right into babywearing with all its benefits, like being able to stick your baby in the carrier and basically kind of forget about them and go about your business. And you’ll get to that point. But first you have to get your baby comfortable with this new thing.
Start having a “daily babywearing time” just for 10-15 minutes. Make sure baby is not wet/dirty, hungry, or tired. Put her in the sling or carrier and spend the next 15 minutes actively interacting with her in the sling. Talk to her, sing, walk around and look at interesting things, do the “mommy dance”, that strange hopping, swaying jig we all do that babies like. You want her to experience sling time not as “time that mom sticks me in this weird place and forgets about me” but as “special mommy-and-me time when I get her attention.” You’re also communicating by this constant calm interaction that you are fully aware of this new weird situation (the carrier) and you are okay with it, so she can be okay with it too. Do this for 10-15 minutes for about a week and your baby will grow comfortable with the sling, to the point that you will be able to stick her in and go about your business. Babywearing bliss!