Introduction: How to Carry Your Baby African Style

Picture of How to Carry Your Baby African Style

This way of carrying babies is very common in Mozambique, south eastern Africa. It is relatively comfortable and versatile. Plus, all you need is a rectangular piece of cloth (and a baby, or course).

The baby in this picture is 9 months old. I have been carrying him using this technique since he was 1 month old. As he grew, my back got stronger!

Step 1: Find a Rectangular Cloth

Picture of Find a Rectangular Cloth

The material should be sturdy but soft. Cotton works well. What is important is that it is rectangular and also big enough (about as wide as your arm span). The cloth pictured here is a Mozambican "capulana".

Step 2: Put the Cloth at Your Waist

Picture of Put the Cloth at Your Waist

Imagine you are going to wear it as a skirt. Just hold it like the picture and then lean forward with your torso parallel to the ground.

Step 3: Baby Goes on the Back

Picture of Baby Goes on the Back

Lean forward, grabbing the ends of the cloth. Have someone assist you by holding the baby and then putting the baby on your back, face down.

Step 4: Cover Baby's Bottom and Back

Picture of Cover Baby's Bottom and Back

In this leaning position, slide the cloth from your waist upwards towards your and your baby's shoulders.

Have the person assisting you adjust the bottom edge of the cloth so that it fits underneath the baby's bum. The baby's legs (from the knees down) must not be covered.

The top part of the cloth will go up to the baby's shoulders (older babies can leave their shoulders uncovered, younger babies need more support).

Take the right side of the cloth and put it over your right shoulder.

The left side goes under your left armpit.

Step 5: Tie in Front

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both ends of the cloth meet in the front, between the breasts.
tie it twice and slowly come out of your leaning position.

Step 6: Done!

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your baby should now cozily sit on top of your bum, with his legs wrapped around your waist. Now you can go around and take your baby with you.!

Do not worry; he will not fall down. He MIGHT start slipping if the cloth is not tight around him, but this will not happen all of a sudden.

It takes a while to get used to the sensation... You are going to think the baby is just going to slide down and fall. If you are feeling nervous, try walking around the house with someone following you and checking on your baby.

Step 7: Variation

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If you want to carry the baby towards the front, all you have to do is follow all the steps and then:

lean forward, raise your left arm and slide your baby towards the left so that he comes back and around you. the knot will move towards the top of your right shoulder.

This is a good carry if you are going to sit down and lean back. It is also a better carry for younger babies that do not yet have good head control.

In this carry, the baby's legs wrap around the side of your waist.

Step 8: Also Works for Older Babies!

Picture of Also Works for Older Babies!

Here I am using the same technique to carry my 2.5 year old. She loves it, but I can only do it for a little while since she is heavier!


cashl1 (author)2017-01-15

Culture vultures

mlevitt (author)2015-12-07

Had a Guatemalan family friend growing up who would do this for us with our baby dolls. Been looking for these instructions ever since! Thank you :) Great pics/directions.

Seguro de Hogar (author)2015-09-19

Thank you. We will try this with our baby.

TinyTraveller (author)2015-06-23

Easy peazy, thanks for the simple to follow instructions

piaferre (author)2010-02-19

 Why go to africa when we have these in our own continent. Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador. 

sufairlie (author)piaferre2013-07-27

I was not suggesting that people go to Africa, but yes this way of carrying babies is very common in many continents.

simsgoddess (author)piaferre2012-05-06

She i just showing one way of carring a baby in a sling the fact that it is african should not bother you. Perhaps she likes the tieing method and position of the sling and merely wanted to share :)
Whether it was Peruvian or Ecuadorean is of no importance

simsgoddess (author)simsgoddess2012-05-06


mee-mee (author)piaferre2010-08-28

nice... I mean: I live in Bolivia, and we call it "aguayos"... I knew how to do it,... but then I forgot, thank you for makin' me remember...

gneal (author)2012-06-04

Wow that is really cool! My sister is a nanny, and I know she is looking for more comfortable ways to hold her child. This would be an awesome thing for her. I'm going to send her the link to this instructables because I know she would like it. Quick question, do you have to use a certain kind of blanket?

sufairlie (author)gneal2013-07-27

Hi. No, the important thing is that it is rectangular and big enough.

Sarah.Couch (author)2013-01-12

I love this, but have some questions. Do you have to buy any special cloth? Or can I just swing by an arts and crafts store? Is there anywhere online I can go to buy the cloth? I've tried looking on Amazon, maybe I'm missing something...

sufairlie (author)Sarah.Couch2013-07-27

You can try it with any rectangular cloth that is big enough. Yes you can just buy a piece of cloth at an Arts and crafts store.

Silver_Kate (author)2013-07-27

Thank you I will try this soon. How heavy does the cloth need to be?

sufairlie (author)Silver_Kate2013-07-27

It doesn't need to be very heavy, just strong enough so that it won't rip.

sameotoko (author)2009-05-12

it actually is. the position of the hips allows for an optimal development of the hip joint. It's exactly the position used for treating developmental hip dysplasia, because it allows maximum contact between the femoral head and the acetabulum (hip socket), wich in turns makes the joint spherical. Just ask any orthopedic surgeon. It's probably not great for the mom's back, though!

sufairlie (author)sameotoko2009-05-12

Very true! I could not possibly do this for over an hour at a time.

simsgoddess (author)sufairlie2012-05-06

That is because your back isnt strong the longer you carry the child the stronger you get.

AfroMama (author)2011-05-11

I am also from South Africa and have read the research on gross motor development and related body, relationship and emotional development in babies who have been strapped to their mother's bodies for the first 6 months of their lives and the results are all highly positve. Obviously very, very young babies must take special strapping so that very little weight is borne by their bodies and neck.

The baby is being exercised by the mother's movement and this strengthens the muscles and skeletal structure. In addition, children carried in this manner exhibit far fewer signs of agression (obviously if a child is raised in a disfunctional family or violent area this benefit would be counter-acted).

The only downside is when much older children are strapped for long periods of time which then inhibits their gross motor skills as their bodies are ready to take over that task by then.

As the other viewers have said, carrying a baby in this way can be extremely helpful in freeing up your arms with no negative side effects. For people from a culture that does not strap babies to the body with a blanket, towel or cloth it can be very disconcerting but as advised in the instructions, hang around the house first to gain confidence and to ensure you have a good idea of your width.

clunymph (author)2010-09-16

fantastic! my friend just sent us a capulana and my nearly 4 mo old has pretty good head control.

SweetVioletsa (author)2010-06-28

I am an American living in South Africa. I've been here nearly 7 years. Some of the misinformation here is shocking. 1) babies do not stare at their mother's backs. Their necks work just fine and they turn their heads and take in the sights around them. Older children lean back in the slings and play with small toys while riding on their mother's backs. Additionally, they are warm, snug, and have the sound of their mother's heartbeat when they lay their heads against their mother's backs and sleep. 2) the road accident problem here has more to do with high alcohol consumption and excessive speed than depth perception. As far as head-on collisions go, the vast majority of drivers are white and they are not carried on their mother's backs as infants. Most black people walk (incredible distances, too!) or take public transport. I observe this baby-on-back thing regularly and close up. My maid lives in, she has a 3-year old whom she carries on her back daily. He walks well, is sturdy and healthy, and judging by his ability to kick a ball, rock., or piece of trash on the ground, his depth perception is without fault. Carrying a baby in this manner is helpful to the mother (her hands are free and the child is safe while she is working or cooking) and comforting to the child. Personally, I wish I had known about this when my children were would have saved me a LOT of trouble and afforded them snuggling opportunities they were denied due to my inability to hold them and hang out wash/cook/clean the bathroom etc, while holding them in one arm.

arizzle (author)2009-05-05

I lived in South Africa for several years where women carried their babies this way. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I have heard the theory more than once, that carrying a baby like this- constantly facing their mother/father's back may inhibit the development of depth perception, causing many black native africans to be hit by cars as children and adults. Again, nothing to back this up, just thought you might want to know.

visitken (author)arizzle2009-05-10

Sounds like an old wive's tale. Babies are/were carried on mothers' backs all the time in China, Korea and (I think) Japan before the current trend toward baby buggies caught on and the older generation isn't any more likely to get hit by cars than the current Gen! There's a lot of good knowledge regarding child-rearing being practiced out here in Asia. If more Americans and Europeans would widen their perspective a bit more, I think they could learn a lot...

Udon (author)visitken2009-05-11

I've heard that too. There was some evidence to back it up, plus lot's of anecdotal evidence, but it was never conclusive. If all you see for the whole day is nothing but somebody's back, it' not implausible to think that a developing child might end up having problems judging distances. And also considering that South Africa has such a horrific death toll on the roads, usually head on collisions when overtaking, most South Africans would agree that the possibility exists. I'm sure for a mother it would make life easier and this has benefit, but it would also make sense that the baby wouldn't be on her back the WHOLE day. That really should be the only disclaimer - it was a very well put together instructable.

makalove (author)Udon2010-03-25

If any baby, being carried in any position, kept their head still and looked only in one direction, this might be a problem. But since most people who wear their babies with slings, wraps, etc. do so while they are actively busy and moving around, there is much for the baby to see simply by turning his/her head. The scenery is constantly changing as the parent moves about, giving the baby plenty of opportunity to develop their eyes.

sunysol (author)2009-08-04

Love it - thanks! I've had people help me but never felt comfy doing my self. Now I have a step by step guide!

ANTQNUT (author)2009-07-28

awww your baby is so cute! :)

crzbuzz (author)2009-06-24

cute baby :-)

cynira (author)2009-06-04

Wow.. this is really KEWL, thanks for sharing.. blessed b~

animes25 (author)2009-05-13

why to use african style, when we have like millions indian styles :D

jdaley99702 (author)2009-05-13

ive seen 5 year old african girls do this all on their own with no help in under like 20 seconds!! its amazing to watch them

SeaSkyShore (author)2009-05-13

Just throwing in my two cents, I've carried both my children (7 months and 3 years) in this fashion and I haven't observed any hip or vision problems in either. My oldest didn't care for the slings after she learned to walk (A very independent critter) but the slings were a godsend with my new wee one. It helped so much with her colic. Also (I can't believe I almost forgot!) My father used to carry me in this exact same fashion when I was a babe. He grew up in Africa (Missionary family) and he saw mothers carry their children like this. He used a big sheet to wrap me. My hips and vision are fine. I don't know of any legitimate reason why a parent shouldn't use a sling or Kanga to carry their child.

evilgenius 398 (author)2009-05-12

Thanks. I've always wanted to know how to do that! It's so sweet.

gustercc (author)2009-05-11

looks great, will try with my 5 month old

canida (author)2009-05-10

This is an awesome Instructable - useful, and very clearly explained! I spent plenty of time in a sling as a youngster, and can't imagine how you'd deal with a child without being able to have your hands free some of the time. This just seems such an obvious way to go.

shirleywrite (author)2009-05-09

I used a ring type sling with both my kids from the time they were born until they were about 5. Most mothers carry their children on their hip, but with a sling, you can distribute the weight across the back and not get so tired. From backpack, to hip, to kangaroo pouch (when they are tiny) sling carrying is the best. Anyone who recommends it as "not safe" has never met an experienced sling user. My 8 and 5 year old would still use "feet in" if I let them. Thanks for spreading the word

abnor (author)2009-05-07

how much do you have to tuck it under the baby butt? for some reason i keep thinking that it would come undone and the baby would fall under

sufairlie (author)abnor2009-05-09

You don't really have to tuck the fabric under. It does it by itself... All I do is pull the ends and make sure it is tight and secure. Try it with a doll first and you will get a better idea.

arisecute (author)2009-05-08

I live in Africa, Nigeria precisely, where virtually every child is being strapped to the mothers' back before they start walking. So if this way of carrying babies would have any negative effect on children, then all Nigerian children should have some kind of hip problem. To me that's more than enough experiment.

don_juanila (author)2009-05-07

I was carried like this as a child (I'm half indian) I even have memories since I could hear my mums heartbeat and it would lull me to sleep. Good times! I love this if I ever have kids, I think I'll be doing it too! May I say you have the most adorable photogenic baby! What a cutie!

dimcl (author)2009-05-07

I was carried this way for at least 3-4 years by my Nanny. I still remember how comforting and comfortable it was. I am now in my 50's and have no hip, eye or any other sort of problem from being carried like this. I see women in my country still carry their babies like this on a daily basis. I highly recommend this way of carrying ones baby. I did with my two and was able to carry on with what I needed to do around the house. Oh, I am from Africa.

TehAwesome (author)2009-05-07

When I was in Tanzania, this was THE way to carry your baby. Good Instructable, brings back good memories!

lotsofglue (author)2009-05-07

Awsome!!! I wish I read this a year ago, it would have made yard work soooooo much easier..nad shopping and

jatoha (author)2009-05-07

You've explained the sling concept very well. I used one, too, and it can look like the child will fall, but when you're carrying him, you can feel how secure he is. Carrying your baby this way increases your interaction with your child as compared to just leaving him strapped in the car seat and toting that around.

bigD22 (author)2009-05-04

I wouldn't recommend this. I've heard from doctors that prolonged use of a Kanga (the name for this garment) has resulted in hip problems in the baby because the position and stress on the young, developing joints.

shaun (author)bigD222009-05-07

Oddly enough, I've heard exactly the opposite! I've used a commercially available sling with both of my children with no problems. Perhaps somebody can cite the results of a study? We need more mothers and fathers to get involved like this. It's an awful lot easier than prams and pushchairs too.

omnibot (author)bigD222009-05-05

I'd like to see a source (preferrably publioshed study) on this since I've heard plenty of gagga from individual medical staff, blindness if I don't use glasses, deafness in a hearing child and let's not forget my partners uncle now age 67 who would be dead by age 3. I'm not distrusting you, I've just never heard of this realtion before.

porcupinemamma (author)2009-05-06

My husband and I carried our babies in a snugglie made by moms from the La Leche league. (Baby number one turned 28 years old today) The snugglie was a life -saver. My babies both had colic and they were comforted by the closeness. I did wear the snugglie with the baby at the front, so that I was able to see them. I think the sound of my heart beat was soothing for them. Both babies, now adults are happy and healthy

goatgirly (author)2009-05-05

I think this is a great idea. I love your house btw.

formy1 (author)2009-05-05

Im afraid im with BigD22 on this one, It dosen't look safe from the pics, what happens if baby slips, or the Kanga comes 'loose'? - Admiration to those whom it has worked for, and for those who will use it- - not one I would advise on though - Sorry!

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