There’s no denying that learning to back carry is a nerve-wracking experience for many parents. I know I put it off for as long as possible, and still prefer front and hip carries with my petite toddler. But back carrying is the most comfortable option for many people once their babies get beyond a certain height and weight. It’s also the only way I can babywear and get on with housework these days.
I would never have had the confidence to put D on my back if I hadn’t been able to practice with a weighted doll first. I was taught to wrap by Julia at Carry Me Close, using her specially manufactured babywearing dolls. Once I’d got over the psychological challenge of chucking my precious child over my shoulder, a whole new world of carries was opened up to me.
Babywearing dolls aren’t cheap though, and so I was intrigued when a fellow delegate on my recent School of Babywearing course said she’d made one herself. I figured I’d have a go myself, and here’s how I did it.
You will need:
- A realistically proportioned baby doll – I got mine from Smyths, she is 51cm tall and cost £12.99.
- Two bags of aquarium gravel, weighing approximately 3.5kg in total. I tried both premium and value gravel, and have concluded that you’ll be fine sticking with the value type.
- Scraps of fabric for making the pouches for the gravel.
- Small strong plastic bags, such as sandwich bags
- A sewing machine or decent needle and thread.
Portion up the gravel into fist sized parcels, using the sandwich bags. Sew little pouches from the scrap fabric and pop the bags of gravel inside. Sew up the pouches, ensuring that all the seams are completely sealed so no gravel can escape. I made 6 oblong pouches to fill the body, and 4 sausage shaped pouches for filling the arms and legs.
Next take a seam ripper or scissors and cut open the crotch seam on the doll. Remove all the stuffing and put aside for later. You’ll be left with a very deflated looking doll.
Now you can begin stuffing your doll with the gravel bags. I tried to pack the gaps around each bag with the original stuffing, so she was not too lumpy and her body retained a natural shape, without being too floppy. Try to fit as much of the original stuffing as you can back in. This will help the gravel stay evenly distributed inside. I decided not to stuff my doll’s head, as I wasn’t confident I would be able to reattach it if I managed to get it off. I find having most of the weight in her lower half gives a better finish when wrapping anyhow.
My doll was so well stuffed I couldn’t gather the original crotch seam back together, so I patched her up with a piece of strong canvas. If I’d had time I could have fashioned her some fancy pants, but as I am always doing everything in a rush I just popped a pair of leggings over the top.
And there you have it, a DIY babywearing doll. She’s great for days when D doesn’t want to humour me practicing new carries, and for showing correct and incorrect positioning to people just beginning to use slings. As I’m on my journey to becoming a trained consultant I can try all kinds of slings and carriers that D is now too big for. And I hope she will enable people coming to our Cwtch-Up slingmeets to take that brave first step and start back carrying too.
(Common sense note: It goes without saying that since she’s been hacked open, stuffed with gravel and patched back up this doll is not really suitable as a toy anymore. D is endlessly fascinated by poking the doll’s eyes, but I always supervise her closely while she does so)