Testing the Tushbaby
My wife recently purchased a Tushbaby hip carrier for taking our daughter out on the town, to the zoo, etc. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Tushbaby is sort of a large fanny pack, designed in such a way that it provides a sturdy seat for an infant or toddler. When compared to other baby-wearing carriers, it is designed to put essentially none of the load into the wearer’s back and all the loading on the hips.
Well, we just got back from several hours at the zoo without a stroller. All we had for carrying our 1½ year old (who now weighs in at over 25 lbs) was the Tushbaby and our own muscles.
I don’t wish to be too hyperbolic, but I think it may be my favorite parenting tool/accessory we’ve tried, especially on the baby carrying front. As a fairly large man (over 6 feet and hovering around 200 pounds), I’ve long been frustrated by how few carriers are designed for someone like me and can even fit me at their most extreme adjustment. Most baby carriers are just made for females, or at the very least people much smaller than me. The Tushbaby has no such problems, because it’s basically just a fanny pack or hip belt. They even sell a waistband extender should you need it! It fit easily and comfortably, had enough room for a couple diapers and my phone/wallet/keys.
It’s worth mentioning how my spondylitis relates to baby carrying as well. Wearing Ruby on my chest or back inevitably leads to pain after more than about 30 minutes. Carrying her on my hip in the way my wife usually does just isn’t possible because of how inhibited my mobility is; my pelvis virtually can’t rotate relative to my spine in the frontal plane. Even strollers are less than ideal, as the handle bar tends to be too short, forcing me to bend forward slightly which further degrades my mobility. Which leaves carrying her in my arms (a heck of a bicep workout, and still causing back pain) or my shoulders (which is usually impractical). So needless to say, I was intrigued by a baby carrier that bypassed the back entirely and was eager to be the first to try it.
At no point during the day did my back feel like it had any sort of load, strain, or pain, despite carrying my daughter for at least half the time we were at the zoo. In fact, I preferred carrying her on my hip to carrying the backpack that just contained our water bottles.
However, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the load has to go somewhere. My legs definitely tired out faster than I’m used to, probably because until now I’ve been unable to carry her for that length of time. I was also surprised by how fatigued and sore my hips got. I suspect it is partially due to the load of carrying her. But by the end of the morning I could definitely tell that the Tushbaby was also encouraging/inducing some of the pelvic rotation that my body is not capable of.
As of this moment, I think that this is probably a good thing and may help me regain that mobility. On the x-rays I have it is very difficult to tell if my L5 and L6 vertebrae are fused or not, so I don’t know if the damage is still reversible. But this type of pain seemed like the good pain, so I am optimistic. I’ll update this post in a day or two and let you know how my hips feel as they get less sore.
As a dad with spondylitis, I consider the Tushbaby an accessibility and inclusivity win. For the first time since she was born, I was able to carry my daughter for a much of a 3 hour trip to the zoo without pain! And not only that, but now my wife no longer has to be the designated baby-carrier, and even when she is she benefits from the same ergonomic gains.
I think this will become one of my parent tips and I fully recommend a Tushbaby to:
- anyone with back issues but unaffected hips or legs
- anyone worried about developing back pain
- anyone carrying a baby more than an hour or two per day
- anyone who has trouble finding a baby-wearing solution that fits comfortably
If you do have issues with hip mobility, I still think it’s worth considering, with knowledge of how it transfers the load and how your particular body moves. I’d encourage you to work with a physical therapist to fully understand your needs and capabilities. As I mentioned, it seems to cause some pelvic rotation in the frontal plane, obviously with whatever side the baby is on being pushed downwards and the opposite side being pulled up as the belt transfers the load. I suspect it would also cause a similar motion in the sagittal plane if you carry your baby more towards the front, but I kept her strictly on my side. You also should be sure that you’re able to/comfortable with lightly supporting the child with your arm. My daughter instinctively grabbed onto my shirt and was pretty stable, but ultimately she is just balancing on a large fanny pack and there were definitely times when I needed to hold her in place (leaning over, running through the rain, etc).
I hope this helps you or someone you know find a better life with less pain!
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