Babywearing | Carry Your Baby in Every Position: When & Why

If you’re looking into the option of babywearing, you’ve probably noticed that there are several different carrying styles – and figuring out when to use them can almost get your head as twisted as a baby wrap on your first attempt!

In this article, we go through the four most common carrying positions and share how they relate to the different baby development stages and babywearing products.

That way, when you’re comparing between products, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for, and when you start babywearing, you'll know how to carry your baby safely during every age and stage.

The four main ways to carry your baby are front inward-facing, front outward-facing, hip carry, and back carry!

Along the way, we will cover the following key topics, so feel free to jump ahead to what is most useful to you.

Common Carry Positions

M-shaped Seating Position

Newborn Seating Position: Front-fetal

Other Common Carry Positions

Carry Positions Guide

7 Safety Checks

Three-Part Guide to Carrying Positions – by Age & Stage

Common Carry Positions

The four most common carrying positions in babywearing are the front inward-facing position, the front outward-facing position, the hip carry position, and the back carry position.

M-shaped Seating Position

In each of the carrying positions (except front-fetal – covered below), your baby needs to be safely seated in the ergonomic M-Shaped position. This refers to the shape formed by baby’s "spread squat" legs and bottom, as shown in the diagram below and the photo further down.

The wrap, ring sling or carrier should always provide knee-to-knee support which ensures that:

The M-Shape position is the most ergonomic way to carry your baby when babywearing. 'M' refers to the shape formed by baby’s legs and bottom, as shown in the diagram.
  • Baby’s knees are supported to sit higher than their bottom and even with their hips
  • Baby’s weight is carried by their bottom
  • The base of baby’s pelvis is angled towards the direction they are facing (i.e. you, when they are front inward-facing)
  • Baby’s thighs are spread across your body and guided upward to then bend at the knee
  • Baby’s lower legs are hanging comfortably
Ergobaby Omni 360 - Baby is in the safe M-shape position

The M-Shape position promotes healthy hip development (by not putting too much pressure on an infant's hip joints) and is very natural and comfortable for your baby.

Newborn Seating Position

The Front-fetal / Fetal Position: 0–2 months only

Front fetal position for a newborn baby in a Moby Wrap. Belly Beyond.A front-fetal position is where baby’s legs are inside the wrap/carrier (‘legs-in’). This can be gentler on a newborn baby if they are still adjusting from being in the fetal position in the womb. 

Rather than an M-Shape, the recommended seating position for front-fetal is described as a frog-leg position, which is when:

  • Baby’s thighs bend up against the side of their torso, folding flat against their calves
  • Baby’s knees are only spread about as wide as their hips
  • The base of baby’s pelvis/hips is tilted towards you
  • Their feet are comfortably positioned

This position is recommended if your baby’s legs still naturally curl up in the fetal position when you hold them up to your shoulder. Babies grow out of this at different times, but when your baby’s legs naturally start to hang down, they may be ready to sit in the M position, with their legs supported to spread out.

Ensure your baby’s bottom carries their weight in this position – rather than their feet or ankles.

The front fetal position in a baby wrap is the best way to carry a newborn.For front-fetal in a wrap or ring sling:

Baby's feet can either peek out the bottom (as shown in the diagram) or be enclosed within the wrap, as shown in the photo of the caramel coloured Moby wrap above.

Position baby's feet in a way that is most natural to them, and spread the wrap to come under their bottom so that it bears their weight, even if their feet are tucked in. A newborn baby's arms should also be inside the wrap, and a good place to position their hands is up beside their face so they can self-soothe.

The front-fetal or (frog legged position) is the most natural carrying position for a newborn baby in a baby carrier.For front-fetal in a carrier:

To accommodate the front-fetal position in a newborn-to-toddler carrier, the seat panel needs to be in the widest setting.

Baby's feet may be most comfortable sitting flat on each side edge of the seating panel, as pictured. Note that for carriers made especially for newborn/infant size, there won't be enough room for baby's legs inside the carrier, so they must be out.

We endorse LÍLLÉbaby’s handy DIY tip (pictured) of rolling up a nursing blanket to create your own narrow infant pillow for your newborn baby’s bottom. This ensures their legs/ankles/feet aren’t taking their weight and also brings baby’s body up higher in the carrier so that their head is ‘close enough to kiss.’

 Roll up a blanket to create your own infant pillow for a newborn carrying style, front-fetal position.

No Infant Insert Required

Many carriers are marketed as newborn-ready, with no need for an infant insert, as those were previously the way to go but required an additional purchase. Usually this just means the seat panel can be adjusted narrow enough to seat a newborn baby in an M-Shaped position.

But as previously mentioned, some babies’ little curled up bodies may not be ready to assume this position, so a front fetal position in the wide seat setting with a pillow seat is a great option for supporting your baby's natural posture while they adapt. 

Additional Carry Positions

The Infant Inward and Toddler Inward are two seat settings available with the LILLEbaby Complete. Other carry positions you might come across – usually only for carrier products – are simply variations of the four common ones above, with customisations for different sized babies. These may include:

  • Front-Infant / Front Inward Narrow 
  • Front Inward Medium 
  • Front-Toddler / Front Inward Wide 

Multi-position Seat Panel - Lillebaby SerenityThink of these terms as subcategories of the front inward-facing position. Any customisable carrier that accommodates a broad age/size range will have a way to modify the seat width, so that your baby’s legs can comfortably be supported from knee to knee as they grow. 

Some brands draw attention to the narrow/wide (or infant/toddler) seat settings by calling it an extra carrying position, but all it means is that the knee-to-knee seat support can be on a narrow or wide setting (and Ergobaby Omni 360 and Omni Breeze also have a medium-sized seat, as does LÍLLÉbaby's Serenity carrier, from which the multi-position waist belt diagram is taken).

Carrying Positions Guide

Carrying Positions & Compatible Carrier Types 
The most common babywearing carrying styles are front inward-facing position, front outward-facing position, hip carry, and back carry. This table shows which babywearing products they can be done with and at what ages.

NOTE: Not all wraps, hybrids, ring slings and carriers will have all the functions shown in the table. This just gives a general indication of what those product types are likely to offer.

Browse related collections: All Wraps, All Hybrid Wrap/Carriers, All Ring Slings, All Carriers

*Please note: The front outward-facing position should only be used:

  • Baby outward-facing in the Ergo Embrace - Belly Beyond
    When baby has developed strong neck muscles to support their head independently (approx. 4–6 months).
  • Until approximately 1011 months old, due to their weight becoming too heavy to carry them this way (as it is naturally a less ergonomic position for carrying than the others).  
  • When baby is tall enough for their chin to sit above the top of the baby carrier, so that their airways are clear.
  • For shorter periods of time (1015 minutes to begin with is advisable) to avoid overstimulating baby. Longer periods of time are suitable for older babies.
  • When baby is alert and not drowsy.
Please see our outward-facing guide for more information on this position.

As an alternative to front outward-facing, the hip carry position can offer many of the same benefits listed above.

7 Safety Checks

In all carrying positions, our seven safety checks below are the most important things to remember. We have created this diagram to demonstrate how they can be remembered both visually by thinking down the baby’s body and verbally with their catchy phrases.

See our Babywearing Safety Guidelines for the full explanations of each safety check.

Belly Beyond's 7 Safety Checks for Babywearing

Once you have been wearing your baby for a while, all of these safety checks will become like second nature to you, but they are really good to learn for the early days when you are starting out. 

 

Three-Part Guide to Carrying Positions – by Age & Stage

Stage One: 04 months

The key developmental factors to consider when babywearing from newborn to 4 months.

Recommended carrying position

  • The front inward-facing position is optimal at the newborn and young infant stage (0–4 months) for several reasons. This position best meets your baby’s need for great amounts of physical closeness with you and helps with forming a strong attachment.

    Mum and baby Front Inward-facing with the Moby Wrap - Belly Beyond
    In addition, front inward-facing supports your baby’s hips to grow healthily (from 2 months up, baby’s bottom and legs should always be in the ‘M-Shaped’ position, and from 0–2 months baby can be in the front-fetal position, if suitable).

    And finally, a young baby’s eyesight and brain focus best on sights (such as a parent’s face) at close range. Some experts even suggest that this position is optimal for the first year of a baby’s life.

        Tips for recommended products

        Lots of time spent around the home during this stage means that wraps are a popular choice, due to their cosy material feel.

        When going out, a handy tip is that it helps to put your wrap on before you leave the house and hop in your car. That way, when you arrive at your destination, you are all ready to place your baby in, with no fuss! Alternatively, the easy wrap reduces the wrapping ‘admin’ considerably.

        Many carriers have been designed with customisation that safely accommodates newborn babies if you are wanting something to last you all the way through to toddler years that will be suitable for outdoor adventures.

        Browse related collections:

        Instructional videos or pages:

        Stage Two: 411 months approx.

        Developmental factors to consider when babywearing from 4 to 11 months. Belly Beyond NZ.

        As your baby’s neck muscles and eyesight develop, you will notice that they become more engaged with their surroundings, and they may even grizzle when put in an inward-facing position. This may be the time to try the outward-facing positions, as well as continuing with front inward-facing.

        Carrying positions

        All four ways to carry baby - Belly Beyond

        • The front outward-facing position can be used from 4–6 months, provided that baby has built up their neck muscles and can hold their head up unassisted. 

          It is also recommended that you stop when baby is between 10–11 months old, as this position is naturally less ergonomic for carrying than the others and becomes more difficult, the heavier baby's weight is.

          Experts also advise on using the front outward-facing position for shorter periods of time, especially to begin with (10–15 minutes), after which you should alternate to another position. This is because a busy world-facing view can be overstimulating for a young baby; they need to adjust to taking in so many new sights all at once and be given the ability to retreat to the safe and restful comfort of their parent by facing inward again.

          A baby also can't sleep from this position, so it is good to allow them to rest their head in case they become drowsy. In addition, being a less ergonomic position, the forward-facing style may cause the wearer strain after an extended period of time or when the baby becomes too heavy.
        • The hip carry position can also be used from between 4–6 months and up, again, provided that by this stage, baby has built up their neck muscles and can hold their head up unassisted. Hip carrying is a great way to engage your baby in the stimulating sights around in a balanced way, as baby is still able to see you and snuggle back into you if the outer world gets too overstimulating for them.

        • The front inward-facing position is a great staple carrying style in the infant stage (first 12 months of baby's life). It is also suitable all the way up to toddler/preschool age, although the back carry position tends to be favoured as baby gets heavier. 

        • The back carry position can be used when your baby is 6+ months. Baby should be able to support their neck independently and will enjoy turning their head to see the sights all around. This is a very ergonomic position for carrying your baby as they grow bigger.

        Tips for recommended products

        With many parents venturing out more confidently and frequently during this age and stage, and with carriers offering multiple easy carrying position options, multi-position carriers are a popular choice.

        We suggest you go for an All Seasons style if you want the temperature regulation they provide; or for a breezier option, we recommend an airy mesh material; but if your climate is cooler, a cotton carrier will provide you and baby with warmth. You can also wear a large jacket over the top of your carrier (or wrap) if braving the cold.

        Browse related collections:

         Instructional videos or pages:

        Stage Three: 12 months to toddler age

        Developmental factors to consider when babywearing from 12 months to 3 years. Belly Beyond NZ.

        Recommended carrying positions

        • Dad carrying baby on his back with BabyBjorn One Air. Belly Beyond.The back carry position at this age is a leading choice for many parents. Not only is it ergonomically optimal for your back to carry a heavier load, but baby is usually tall enough to easily see out the top and look around to their heart’s content.

        • The front inward-facing position is still popular as babies enter their toddler years, but more so for shorter lengths of time, as your child gets heavier and the position becomes less ergonomic than the back carry. A benefit of this position is that it's perfect for those times when your child desires some comforting cuddle time but you are on the go.

        • The hip carry position is also continued through this age and stage, but just note that it becomes less comfortable for you the bigger your child grows, as their weight is not evenly distributed across your body. Switching sides from time to time is a good way to relieve either of your shoulders from doing too much of the work.

          Tips for recommended products

          When looking for a carrier, check the product specifications for what the maximum kg measurement is, but also be mindful that your baby may outgrow it when weighing several kg less than the maximum weight recommendation.

          The seat needs to be adjusted as baby gets bigger so that they are always supported knee-to-knee, and carriers that best accommodate this are ones with three seat width positions (Narrow, Medium & Wide) like the Ergobaby Omni 360, the Omni Breeze, and the LÍLLÉbaby Serenity. Alternatively, wraps can adjust to fit your baby at any size, which is a great benefit.

          Your child's legs should always form an M-Shape position, with their knees higher than their bottom. The seat panel (or wrap fabric) should be fitted to give support all the way across both outstretched thighs and then stop at the knee for your child's lower legs to hang down. This is important for every stage of growth (besides 0–2 months when the front fetal style is appropriate) and every carrying position the carrier offers.

          If you would like to wear your baby for several years, you may like to invest in a newborn to toddler carrier that does it all from day one. Carriers like the Ergobaby Omni 360, the Omni Breeze, and all LÍLLÉbaby carriers allow up to 20kg.

          If you are unsure how long you will be babywearing, you may like to start with a more infant-only style one (many of which are at a lower price point) and wait to decide whether to purchase a second carrier once your child outgrows their first. 

          Browse related collections:

          That’s a wrap!

          That's it for babywearing carry styles! For more informative articles to assist you in your babywearing journey, please check out the following:

            Mother wears the MOBY T-shirt wrap.

            If you would like some more support from one of our friendly team, please don't hesitate to contact us. We're happy to help, wherever we can!

            You can also join the LÍLLÉbaby Love group, which is a supportive platform on Facebook for checking your fit with other babywearers and experts and also getting advice on any questions you have. 

             

            “I might only carry my baby inside me for nine months, and in my arms for a few short years, but I will forever hold them in my heart no matter how big they get.”