Back in middle school, I remember a lot of time in sixth grade gym class was dedicated to testing us for scoliosis. We had to lean forward while someone felt our spines, and all we knew was that they were "looking for a curve." Treatment usually doesn't occur for kids until they're fully grown, but what about adults? Does scoliosis affect pregnancy since you carry weight in your belly? And what about picking up your baby and wearing them after they’re born? Is it safe to babywear when you have scoliosis?
For the record, we were sort of right in middle school about the "curve," because scoliosis is a "sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty," according to the Mayo Clinic.
Mom to baby Jack Danger and occupational therapy student from Griffin, Georgia, Samantha Davis, was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 12 in middle school, and she says scoliosis didn’t affect her pregnancy, but it did affect labor and delivery.
"Labor and delivery was a slightly different story [than pregnancy]," Davis says to Romper in an email. "I planned on getting an epidural, but because of my scoliosis and the twist I have at the base of my spine, they put the epidural higher up, not directly into the nerve bed, and it didn't quite work as well as hoped … but Jack was born as healthy as could be and that's all that matters."
For the day-to-day with Jack after he was born, Davis says she felt like it was safe to babywear with scoliosis, as long as you invest in a good supportive carrier or wrap. "You might have to make special adjustments for it to fit your back specifically, but I definitely think you can."
As far as babywearing products she found helpful for someone who has scoliosis, she says she loved her Moby wrap when Jack was a baby, because she could tie him in "nice and tight," and it felt like she was wearing a tight t-shirt. As far as wraps that weren’t good for moms with scoliosis, she says sling wraps that go over your shoulder were a no-no, because it pulls on only the one shoulder and it could cause a lot of pain.
However, once Jack was bigger, the Moby became a bit harder to use, because according to Davis, "it's a pain in the butt to wrap by yourself when you have a larger baby, because they wiggle all around." The wrap in the picture is the one they had to switch to because of wiggling, and it was the Infantino Flip 3 in 1 Carrier — a cheaper option, and not as supportive as say an Ergo or Tula, Davis says.
Davis says that having scoliosis hasn’t totally inhibited her from picking up Jack now that he’s bigger, but she has to be very aware of where she’s bending when she picks him up. "It's like all those bulletins you see at work that are like, 'Lift with your legs,'" she adds. "There are certain things that hurt, like when I would have to carry his car seat with us when he was a baby or putting him into his car seat, but luckily he's older now and can climb into his car seat."
Dr. Dara DaCunha, a chiropractor, doula, and mother of two in Arizona, wrote an article for the Ergobaby blog about babywearing with scoliosis, and offered tips on finding the right baby carrier for you if you have scoliosis and want to practice babywearing.
She wrote to start by picking up your child and finding the spot on your chest that’s most comfortable to you and the most balanced. "This will vary based on the type, direction, and severity of your curve, so remember this spot," she added. After putting the child back down, "pick up the baby carrier and buckle the waist belt on your body so it will sit directly below where the child’s bum just was."
DaCunha said to next hold your child in the carrier against you in that sweet spot you found before, and tighten one strap at a time, remembering the straps may be uneven because of the "asymmetries as a result of scoliosis," because the shape of your body will require adaptations someone with a straight spine won’t need.
As long as the baby’s airway is open, and they are close enough for you to kiss, you should be good. And it doesn’t matter if the way they’re attached in the front is straight either, it all depends on what is comfortable to you.
If you’re a mom (or soon-to-be mom) with scoliosis, you’re not necessarily exempt from babywearing if that’s something you want to do. Just listen to your body and be in contact with your healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for you and your baby. Look for wraps that fit snugly and can be adjusted easily, and don’t wear one-shoulder wraps to prevent discomfort while carrying your love around. Be sure to enjoy that bonding time (and being able to get stuff done around the house) while holding your baby, too.