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Education

Tandem Babywearing: Two birds, one stone

By Natalie Esguerra

Having children is a multi-talented, high demanding and physically exhausting job. Baby wearing is a way to enjoy, bond and love the parenting life. Tandem baby wearing is when one person carries two children hands-free. Parents can carry twins or siblings close in age. This is not a guideline but it is dependent on the parent’s strength to carry two children. I often get asked “When your babies are walking you will stop carrying them?” There is no formal limit of age or weight just on your abilities.

As a young mother (20) of twins I have found tandem baby wearing an essential tool to being a single twin parent. I learnt tandem baby wearing through my local baby wearing group (central coast NSW baby wearers). Local baby wearing communities are a great way to get started on your baby wearing journey or tandem baby wearing journey. If your local area does not have a baby wearing community there is amazing online support and resources such as; YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and baby wearing companies.

Tandem baby wearing has a lot of benefits. I started out my journey as a way to bond with my children. I had my twins Indiana and Tigerlilly 2 month premature. Their birth was traumatic and the big journey from birth to discharge took an emotional toll on my mental health. I felt distant from my own children and wanted more ways besides breastfeeding to bond with my babies. But how do you bond with newborns? Cuddling. Skin to skin is a great way of bonding with newborns. It controls and maintains oxygen and heart rates, it releases hormones and oxytocins.

Oxytocin is important when it comes to bonding. Babies just want to be close to their mothers so they can hear that familiar sound of her beating heart. Being a mother of premature babies I got told by nurses when, where, and how long I could hold my babies. I had a limit for cuddling my own babies. It sounds ridiculous but it was for their wellbeing. The amount and length of time I held them tired them out and caused de-stats in their heart rate and oxygen levels. When the magical day came when they were discharged and I got to say goodbye to the place where my babies spent the first months of their lives and called home, I knew I NEVER wanted to stop holding my babies. Tandem baby wearing was a way of me compensating for all the ‘missed’ time cuddling my babies.

Tandem baby wearing gets the job done! It helps mothers get on with their daily lives. Whether it be bringing home newborn twins, adjusting to life with a newborn and a toddler, or even just to quickly get two kids to sleep fast so you can watch one episode of “Greys Anatomy”! Tandem baby wearing I feel is a necessity. YOU NEED IT! I’ve lost count of how many times tandem baby wearing has saved the day. It helps me “kill two birds with one stone” putting two children to sleep at the same time and hanging the laundry. Parents are super heroes! What can you accomplish around the house tandem baby wearing?

Tandem baby wearing has made me the strongest and sexiest I have ever been. The physical benefits it provides to your muscles is a great reason to start carrying two babies. You can see the impact wearing two babies has done to my thighs, glutes, arms and core. It has helped me slowly tone my body. It might not be magazine body material, but I am very happy with the results baby wearing has done to my body. I would not recommend doing vigorous exercise while baby wearing, but while you’re tandem baby wearing don’t be afraid to go for a walk around a few blocks or do some slow squats and lunges.

Tandem baby wearing is a great way to be strong and confident out-and-about. For example: when you’re out doing the monthly groceries solo. The thought alone is dreadful but with tandem baby wearing it has made my life easier. I am able to push a shopping trolley and carry two babies. I know, I know I can put them in the trolley, but that causes meltdowns and crying to be held. It’s more functional if I carry both my babies.

I found when my babies were newborns that strangers do not have any concept of personal boundaries. Random people would come up and touch my babies. This was a BIG no no for me. Having my babies close to me keeps them calm the whole outing and also makes it easier for me to run away from touchy people.

I have used tandem baby wearing for many occasions out and about: getting my eyebrows threaded, going to lunch or dinner with family or friends, going to the beach or public pool, going to hospital when one baby was sick or the girl’s father broke his ankle. Having your babies calm or sleeping during everyday tasks makes you a real-life-superhuman.

There are many pros and cons to tandem baby wearing.

Pros:

  • Two sleeping children at the same time whilst getting chores and jobs done
  • Mobility; you move through crowds faster in comparison if you had a bulky stroller or two slow moving children
  • YOUR HANDS ARE FREE! As a twin mum my hands are ‘always full’ (as strangers like to tell me) but with tandem baby wearing I can freely have my hands not being weighted down by two babies.
  • You’re confident. Tandem baby wearing makes you look like a Queen (or king). I have lost count of the times strangers have told me “You make it look easy!” Believe me, twin parenting or parenting in general NOT easy.
  • Exercise and strength
  • Breastfeeding on the go. Baby wearing and breastfeeding go perfectly together. Make sure to wear an easy accessible shirt. And bottle feeding as well! I haven’t tried it but I’ve seen many bottle feeding whilst baby wearing!
  • Being close to your babies. Holding them and showing them that they are loved. Definitely one of my favourite Pros.
  • Settling children. From my experience twins often sook and cry at the same time. It is INCOMPREHENSIBLE, but with my carriers I can wrap them up and settle down their tantrums, ease their teething pain or help control that fever.
  • Acid reflux. With tandem baby wearing helped me maintain my daughter’s acid reflux. After milk feed I would burp each baby, then precede to gentle put them in my wrap slowly and steady. Then lay reclined on the couch hands free) so she would not vomit. This was great because it meant I could lie down and relax hands free to eat or be on my phone while settling acid-reflux and putting two newborns to sleep.
  • Baby wearing is a great tool to making multitasking faster, easier and cuddlier.

Cons

  • Heat. Tandem wearing compared to singleton wearing or the stroller makes the wearer and wearee very hot and sweaty. You can maintain this by; wearing in air conditioning, choosing breathable material for a carrier e.g. Bamboo/cotton, cotton/linen or by choosing what carrier combo you will use e.g. One baby in a ruck carry on your back and one baby in a SSC (soft structure carrier) in the front. So if you do get hot you can simply clip off the front baby.
  • RAIN. The amount of times I hated myself for tandem wearing and getting caught in the rain. If you parked your car and it is raining you have to wrap two babies up, get wet and following that they get sick. In this situation you can do many things. Have two people in the car with you, you grab the wrap and 1 baby and the other person carriers the other baby. Afterwards you wrap inside. Find an underground/covered car park or wait until the rain stops.
  • In some cases if you are tandem baby wearing if one baby cries and wants to come out for a feed it often results in disturbing one baby while taking care of the other. My system for maintaining this situation is I put my “less fussy” baby on my back and my “high maintenance” baby at the front. This way I can tend to my drama queen baby. Parents of close to age babes might use this system as well, but with running toddler/newborns I suggest a torso/or front wrap cross carry with a tula, onbuhimo or ergo SSC for the back for quick up and downs to meet a toddler’s needs. Or if you only have wraps, wrap the newborn babe first and ruck the toddler. I suggest having a spotter every time for this manoeuvre as it could be quite difficult. You can support the newborn’s neck by putting a shoulder pass over its head or having a “head holder” helper.
  • Fighting siblings like to poke, pinch and kick each other when they are being carried. Whether it is hitting each other in a back and front carry with mums head in the middle of the battlefield or hitting each other across her chest. For newborns it’s a safety requirement to have arms in, but for tandem wearing it’s more of a sanity requirement. I like to have arms if I possibly can, to minimize fighting and to stop them from grabbing items off shelves of shops. Best to have toys or snacks for them to be occupied instead of each other.

Tandem baby wearing is about finding your ‘perfect combo’. Whether it be a wrap, 2 wraps, a Soft structure carrier (SSC) and a wrap, two ring slings, two SSC, one ring sling and a SSC, a SSC and a stroller, one parent carrying one baby each - the combinations are endless. All families will wear different carriers in different styles and in different environments; it’s all about owning and rocking your perfect style and combination. The most important thing of tandem baby wearing is safety.

  • Does your baby have a deep seat? Fabric knee to knee and in an ‘M’ position.
  • Does your baby have a supported back? From neck to tailbone
  • Can you see if your baby’s airways clear? Chin off chest and no straps covering their face.
  • Is your baby visible? Can you see your baby?
  • Is your baby close enough to kiss? You can kiss your baby’s head
  • Is your baby secure and tied properly?

Wrapping comes in two different types of material: Woven and Stretchy. Stretchy wraps such as Hug-a-bub, Boba, Moby and Checko are a great way of carrying newborn and premmie twins. I say this because stretchy wraps have a tendency to become loose. When wrapping in a stretchy for singletons the maximum weight is usually 12kg and a comfortable weight of 7-9kg - with twins this is usually reached by the second or third month of life or adjusted age. You can do a single pocket carry. I love this carry because it can make up for some precious cuddling time and skin to skin contact that premmies love!

Wrapping with a woven can be a great and glorious thing because there is no end to the possibilities! A woven wrap can be used from birth - child. Your strength to carry is your limit. When wrapping two children in a woven wrap you will need a wrap texture that you prefer. I like to use wraps that are 100% cotton, raised texture and have grip. It’s good to have wraps with grip to act as extra help to hold the other baby in place while safely putting the other baby in the wrap. When tandem carrying in a woven wrap you will need a base size plus 1 because you will need that extra length to carry two babies. The term “base size” is a measurement of what length wrap is your size. To find a base size is the length you feel most comfortable doing a front wrap cross carry’ (the most basic beginners carry).

For newborn twins you can do:

Front wrap cross carry.

This carry is fast, easy and my favourite when my twins were small. For This carry you will need a longer wrap. This wrap has to be long because you need the extra length and material to ‘pin’ in-between your legs to safely hold one baby in place while putting in the other baby on the other side with two hands.

FWCC from Prairie Rebel: https://youtu.be/op0nF_w1vSI

Jasmine’s tandem hip carry.

This is a carry which you will need a set of large titanium baby wearing rings. You can buy a set from Angel Rock Baby online if you’re in Australia. This wrap carry is good because it essentially acts like two ring slings. You can take one baby out and keep the other baby safety carried and sleeping. That’s a little mum win! This carry also doesn’t have an age limit. You could put a 9 month old and a newborn on each hip but you might find yourself a bit lop-sided with their uneven weight distribution.

Jasmine’s Tandem Hip Carry: https://youtu.be/ImEJ_B-D1m0

Amanda’s tandem hip carry.

This carry is very like the Jasmine’s hip carry. The only difference is the absence of the steel rings. This carry is good for close to age babies and twins. You can use this carry for newborn twins but I prefer this carry for older babies that have established head control and can sit up independently. You can use a base size wrap for this because it is a short carry.

Amanda’s Tandem Hip Carry: https://youtu.be/xipA6fwk-c4

Short Back Carry + Front Torso Carry

When wrapping two babies in a single wrap, you can start this carry from when your babies have learnt to sit independently. This requires a lot of practise and skill. This carry is usually for experienced wrappers, so help is needed with beginners. Practising with toys and afterwards practising next to your bed for a safe ‘fall place’.

Short Back Carry + Front Torso Carry https://youtu.be/8qJsXFcB1is

Ring slings

Two ring slings are also a great way of carrying your babies, because you can take one off without disturbing the other baby. Ring slings are a fast and easy but with tandem carrying in two ring slings can be a challenge. It can be a bit restricting around the neck and bulky at the shoulders. But with practise comes perfect! Using pleated shoulder ring slings or gathered ring slings and folding it to become narrower makes the experience more comfortable. You can use this tandem technique from birth.

In tandem baby wearing you can combine the wrap and the ring sling. You can utilize both the wrap and a ring sling. You can put the ring sling first, and do a ruck back carry or a ruck back carry first then weave the ring sling in the front like you would weave a second wrap though the passes. But instead of tying a knot to secure it you would weave the wrap though the slings.

Soft structured carriers (SSC) are a fast and quick to learn baby carrier. It is a basic standard carrier that has buckles. Brands of single soft structured carriers include; Ergo, Lillie baby, Manducca, Tula, Baby bkay, Connecta, and Emi baby. There are a lot of brands all different from each other but they all have the same purpose to safely carry our babies.

You can tandem wear in SSC by first putting the back on your back and then buckle a baby on your front. You might find it a bit bulky at the shoulders if you are a small frame-petite woman or a slender man. This can be fixed by adjusting the shoulder straps and waist band.

There are special SSC for tandem wearing. They are called the Twingo and Twingaroo. They are two SSCs that only have one shoulder strap for less bulk. They both have built in back packs which I love! I would love to thank the creator of these carriers because they thought “Hey, you know what. She already has her hands full. The last thing she needs is to carry a backpack/nappy bag”.

The Twingo and Twingaroo can both be worn from when your twins are sitting independently or only a newborn in the front with a newborn insert and older child on the back. The only difference between them is that the Twingo can be used as two separate carriers. By unbuckling the front panel you add the attachment meh dai straps or normal shoulder straps for two people to wear one baby each. I like this feature of the Twingo because it doesn’t limit a family to a tandem dedicated carrier.

There is also a range of East-Asian baby carriers in the market which are great for tandem baby wearing. East-Asian baby carriers include;

Bei Dai (Bay-dye) / Meh Dai (Meh-dye) - China which are a carrier with a square panel and 4 straps. Two for shoulders and 2 for your waist.

Onbuhimo (Ohn-bu-he-mo) - Japan which is a waistless carrier. It is a square panel with metal rings for the straps to pass through; two long shoulder straps that finish under the baby’s bottom. There is also a buckle variation of this carrier, called a buckle onbuhimo. This is essntially the same concept but the rings are replaced by buckles.

The final east-Asian baby carrier is the podaegi which originates from Korea. I am personally not familiar with this carrier or used this carrier but I thought it was important to mention all East-Asian carriers. The Podaegi is a rectangle with a panel to indicate the top of the carrier and two straps.

Most companies make east-Asian carriers. You can find them in western material and traditional Asian patterns and designed.

When you start tandem baby wearing, the best thing to do is to TRY THEM ALL! Experiment and find the perfect combination to suit you, your babies, family and life style needs. Australian/New Zealand Brands of carriers include; Ankalia, Wrapture, Moondani and Aroha. There are so many brands, materials and types of wraps. Starting at home is a great place to begin.

Baby wearing has many emotional, psychological and physical benefits for both mother and child/children. It makes multiple children rearing easier and makes you a stupendous parent. Take your time when learning how to baby wear; it takes a great amount of patience and practice. I would suggest practising with dolls/toys to familiarise yourself with the carrier. Always practice above soft surfaces such as a bed or couch and have a ‘spotter’ nearby to watch you practising.

Enjoy your time with your children. Take the time to cuddle and bond with them because baby wearing is more than a convenient parenting tool. It is a window your child watches through. Your babies are viewing the world and how you interact with from your shoulders.

Special mentions: Prairie Rebel, also Facebook

Tandem Trouble on YouTube

Thank you for letting me use your YouTube tutorials.

Mummynatt

Ankalia respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and cultures. We acknowledge past, present and future Traditional Owners of the land that we work on.

DISCLAIMER

Ankalia’s online journal is written and edited by white Australian women. As such, our articles are written from our cultural standpoint.

To understand and improve our knowledge of the practice of babywearing across a varied dynamic, we may seek input from our friends and peers who identify as belonging to culturally and linguistically diverse groups, and groups who are marginalised within our society.

We aim to be insightful, meaningful and respectful of those who identify as belonging to these groups at all times. If we publish something that you feel is inappropriate or offensive, please bring it to our attention promptly. We are still learning and are mindful of our privilege.

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