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Kid Carrying and the Shoulder

Q: Katy [Bowman] has a video showing how to carry a baby (baby sits on her forearm, not hip) and while I’m amazed at how much more I can carry this last baby after giving up on baby carriers, I could not do it the way she says. She is really tall. My short arms don’t fit the baby the same way. I end up using my hand to grip their thigh. I want to know more about carrying babies and toddlers.

First of all, Katy is not really tall. I’m 6’1.5” and she’s about 5’8” or so. So tall yes, but not really tall. Some large mothers will have large babies and some will have small babies and sometimes small mothers have small babies, and sometimes small mothers have large babies. If you are small and you have a large baby, how do you hold him/her?

Some people have short arms it’s true, I’ve had clients with proportionally short arms. According to the Vitruvian Man, the length of the outspread arms is equal to the height of a man, from the elbow to the tip of the hand is ¼ the height of a man, from elbow to armpit is 1/8 the height of a man. So you can do your measurements and see if your arms are indeed shorter proportionally. It’s not something to worry about, just a fact, like having one leg shorter than the other; it’s going to have an effect.

But, it’s also possible that your shoulders are just tighter than they should be, and you can not access the total length of your arms! Remember from the scapula blog (LINK), your scaps should have a fair amount of movement in all directions which essentially adds to the reach length of your arms, so you can be struggling to wrap your arms around something because the scaps aren’t moving much, or the shoulder muscles themselves are short and don’t yield or there is a “bunching up” of tissue in the front when you go to move your arm across your body. The position of your ribs can also sabotage your arm functions, so re-read the rib cage post (LINK) before you test your arm length.

Try this test – take one arm and hold it straight out from you to the side. Then reach that arm out as far as you can; this will move the scapula out too. Then start to reach that arm forward and keep bringing it forward until it starts to move across your body’s midline and eventually the inside top of the arm will be on your chest. Now bend the elbow of that arm and wrap your hand around to your back. What can you reach? Can you touch the scapula? The outside edge or the inside edge? Test the other arm. You can do both at the same time and give yourself a hug!

Now, raise that arm straight up and when it’s reaching to the ceiling, check your rib cage. Did you lift it to get the arm that high? Then bend the elbow and reach it down behind you. Do your best not to let the elbow drop out and away from your ear. Can you touch your scapula now?

Also, there are many ways to carry a baby and if you are going to carry your infant/toddler, you will want to mix up the positions they are in, and your arms are in, a lot. That way, you get different positions for joints, muscles and your strength profile will be broader. Your baby will also be challenged in many ways that contribute to his/her development, turning the head in different directions, holding on with different hands and arms, leg and body positions will vary.

And remember, I’m not trying to shame mothers into carrying their infants. There is nothing wrong with using a device if you need it, but always relying on a device means neither you nor the baby get those “nutrients.” Just do what you can, when you can. When you need the stroller, use it. You may need to transition to this the same way you did to wear minimal shoes. However, if you read this (or Katy’s blog or books) and decide to start carrying your 6 month old everywhere, your strength may not be a match for your baby’s current weight, and the transition time will be longer. It’s easier to start when your baby weighs 8 lbs and as your baby grows, your strength will keep up. So keep that in mind.

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