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The Downside to Baby Sling-ing: My Shoulder Injury and Natural Anti-Inflammatory Treatment Plan

While I’ve owned and used several different strollers of the years, I’m definitely a babywearing mom, too.

Sadly, I’m currently not doing much babywearing though.  Instead of snuggling and nursing my baby while wearing her, I’m stuck nursing a sore shoulder. I’ve got some sort of strain/tendinitis/bursitis and it’s been causing quite a bit of pain lately, even without babywearing.

After seeing a holistic MD and a physical therapist though, I’m confident that I’ll be back at full strength and out of pain in the near future. When my doctor gave me two options: an immediate steroid shot or a longer path of holistic treatment, I obviously (knowing me) chose the second option.

So I wanted to share a little of my story, treatment and babywearing plan for the future.

My Story

With babies number one and two, I mainly stuck to symmetrical baby carriers, such as my custom-made mei-tai, a Moby wrap, and an Ergo carrier. Growing up I was a gymnast and cheerleader and have had my fair share of back injuries over the years.

It just made sense to me to wear my baby in a carrier that distributed the weight of the baby evenly.

With baby number three however, the wrapping, tying and clipping was sometimes a hassle, with two more little ones underfoot. So I borrowed a couple of slings and I happily used them, mostly at home, for several months.

Hallee loved being in the sling and I loved the freedom of motion and the ease of putting it on. Being able to nurse her in it easily was a bonus.

For my body though, I think I should have listened to my intuition about symmetry. I started noticing some tightness when I would take the sling off my shoulder and eventually, I had to stop using it because my pain had become more chronic.

Of course for me there could be even more at play– genetics– as my dad and both his brothers have had shoulder surgeries and my physical therapist recently commented on my scoliosis (which to be honest is so slight, I hadn’t even considered it before).

So here I am, stuck with an injury that I cannot completely rest (that baby must be lifted out of the crib after all!)… not to mention a desire to get back out in the ocean and start surfing again, now that Hallee’s getting a bit older.

My Treatment

I was so excited to hear my doctor’s holistic plan for me. While I am not opposed to western medicine, I love trying out all the other avenues before pursuing something more invasive.

I think the physical therapy is going to be the biggest help for me, as I definitely have some strengthening to do in my upper body in addition to dealing with the inflammation. I’ve also been using a topical anti-inflammatory cream (although I may try some even more natural alternatives to that, such as calendula or arnica cream).

But the part that was a bit revolutionary to me– the girl who has broken six bones and had numerous muscular injuries over the years in sports and seen my fair share of orthopedics and PTs– was the anti-inflammatory diet my doctor recommended to me.

I had never before been advised by a doctor to add foods with anti-inflammatory properties to my diet. Since I’m nursing, my doctor stayed with food-based recommendations, rather than herbal. She gave me a list of things to start making sure to incorporate into my diet.

I’m such a visual person, so I was glad to also find this pyramid graphic of anti-inflammatory foods from Dr. Weil.

The main things my doctor wanted me to be ingesting were green tea, three times a day, omega-3s, and the spices turmeric and ginger. Time for us to start developing a love of curry!

And my own research has shown me the flip side: to fight inflammation, I need to also avoid pro-inflammatory foods such as refined sugar/grains, trans fats and other stuff I already try to avoid and I strive for a more-real diet.

Babywearing: Am I done for?

As a mom of three little ones, sometimes babywearing is a necessity. The good news is, babywearing does not have to be passé for me.

My doctor did however recommend using my Ergo on the back, now that Hallee is big enough, since the Ergo allows a lot of the weight to go to my hips, and having her on my back will not pull my shoulder down to the front which would further strain my supraspinatus muscle.

I have pretty much retired my Moby already, as I prefer it for newborns, but she also recommended a woven, non-stretchy wrap, such as Ellaroo, which I have yet to try. Again, stretchy wraps, she said, would pull down on my shoulder too much.

In the meantime, it looks like Daddy will be doing as much of the lifting, carrying and wearing as possible until my shoulder is more on the mend.


I’m curious– have any of you experienced shoulder pain from baby sling-wearing? How about other injuries– have you tried a dietary approach to healing inflammation?

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  1. Heather

    I never used a sling with either of my babies, instead I used the moby and the ergo. I think I had the same thoughts as you, make sure to have the weight distributed evenly. It is great that your dr. gave you a list of foods to try. I had never thought about that, but it is something that would obviously be a great place to start. I have been trying to think more about diet as a healer, and this list of foods will definitely be going in my binder! Thank you!

    • Marlo

      My wife used to use this things also, and it’s quite really effective.

    • Nicole

      You’re welcome! Yeah, even after my shoulder is healed I’m definitely going to keep trying to include these anti-inflammatories in my diet.

  2. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Sadly, this is timely for me. I’m dealing with what my dr. thinks is probably a pinched nerve, and he said I was especially susceptible because of my years toting a baby around on my left hip, and with a sling over my left shoulder. (Yes, always on the left. It was the only way that was comfortable!)

    I’m doing PT, and I try to avoid inflammatory foods, but I never considered proactively introducing the foods (and green tea) you mentioned above. But I’m definitely going to give them a try. I need all the help I can get!

    Thanks, Nicole–I’m grateful for the timely advice.

    • Nicole

      I’m so glad my story came at the right time for you! I always used my sling on my right shoulder- alternating probably would have helped the situation.

  3. Lori

    I had severe tendonitis in my shoulder years ago and I healed it with a theracane. You can find one on amazon. You have to find all the tender spots around your shoulder blade and message them every couple of hours. As the tender spots get less tender, the better your shoulder will get. Also, ice a lot!!! 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off all day long. Lots of bags of frozen peas is what I use. This is the site that helped me a lot ~

    • Nicole

      Thanks, Lori. I’ll look into that.
      And yes, ice– that (and massage) is part of my PT regiment.

  4. Simple Living with Diane Balch

    So sorry you had to go through this pain. I didn’t realize that green tea was an anti-inflammatory. Great list of others to use too. My kids are older and I don’t carry them around anymore… but inflammation just gets worse for many other reasons. Thanks so much.

    • Nicole

      I didn’t either! I never drank it regularly but now am really giving it ago. And you’re right, there are so many ways inflammation can bother us over the years– eating anti-inflammatory foods is really a lifestyle change.

  5. Kathleen K

    Years of toting heavy briefcases on my left shoulder, then carrying 2 heavy babies on my left side (slings only worked the first few months before the boys got too heavy) left my spine so crooked the chiropractor thought one leg was longer than the other. With child #3, I ALWAYS carried him on my right. Somehow, it managed to balance out, now the back pain is gone and my legs appear the same length. The boys are more than old enough to carry themselves now. My suggestion to those who aren’t in pain (yet): alternate carrying sides (no matter how awkward it feels at first) and try different slings/carriers. Your muscles, nerves, and joints will thank you, if not now, then down the road.

    • Nicole

      I wish I would have alternated with the sling- I wonder if that would have helped avoid all this.
      I guess this all just goes with the mom territory– someone has to carry those babes around! 😉

  6. FishMama

    This hit me on many levels. As a scoliosis girl, too, I had trouble wearing my ginormous (9+ lb) babies in a sling. I could do it for about a week before it hurt.

    2nd, hubs has had a lot of back, shoulder, foot, and knee issues. Love the chart to make sure we’re eating the right stuff. Though, I’ll pass on any soy that’s not fermented. 😉

    • Nicole

      It still astounds me that I didn’t consider the scoliosis before using the sling (mommy brain?!).

      You know, I should have mentioned it, but I thought the same thing when I saw soy on his pyramid. I skip unfermented soy as well.

  7. Shannon

    One thing I would also recommend is to avoid all vegetable oils. I was eating all of the real foods – butter, broth, lots of greens, etc. and thought I was fine. Then when I made the move to cut out every last bit of vegetable oil, including canola and cooked EVOO, it made a world of difference in my health.

    • Nicole

      I have never heard cooked EVOO included in the “bad” vegetable oils!! Do you still eat it uncooked? Does it become pro-inflammatory when cooked?
      Do you just stick to butter & coconut oil for cooking then?

      Thanks for your insight, Shannon!

      • Shannon


        Yes, I try only to cook with saturated fats – coconut oil, lard, tallow. Saturated fats are much more stable in the face of light and heat than the mono or polyunsaturated fats, which can break down in the face of heat and cause inflammation in the body. We love EVOO for salad dressings, though!

  8. shana

    holy cow! you could have written that about me (except I was never a gymnast and haven’t broken any bones . . . and the baby I’m currently wearing is my 6th . . . but other than that we’re like shoulder twins!). my left shoulder has been giving me trouble for years, but has become really bad the past 6 months or so. some of those insights were new and I’ll be excited to see if they help at all. thanks much and speedy healing to you.

    • Nicole

      I hope something I mentioned helps you Shana! Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this, too.

  9. Kate S.

    Do you practice yoga? It’s my go-to treatment for any kind of back or shoulder pain and it works beautifully. Plus, it has the added benefit of actually strengthening your muscles at the same time, helping to prevent future injuries.

    • Nicole

      My physical therapy uses some yoga, so I will be soon!

  10. Alissa

    My first was a total sling baby for the first 8 months. So much so that I had a sling made for my husband (camo fabric!) because one of us was always wearing the baby to sooth the colic and reflux. We laugh (now!) at how many pictures we have of just his head poking out the top of a spit-up stained sling. I couldn’t believe other people didn’t LOVE their baby slings until I had my second. Same size baby, same issues, same two parents who are clearly sling experts, and yet… the sling really didn’t work for Josh. For him, we have dozens of pictures of his head poking out the top of a spit-up stained moby wrap. =) I suppose the moby probably saved my shoulders, but now he’s a 2-year old always on my left hip… good motivation for more core work and preventative strengthening!

  11. Steph

    Physical therapy has helped me a ton with my lower back problems. My husband has a lot of shoulder and arm issues so we’ll have to work on our eating in regards to inflammation.

  12. archer

    Yeah — I love the Ergo, but I actually developed tendonitis in my shoulder from clipping and tightening it in the back with my baby worn on the front. I had to give it a rest. I can use it now by myself, but if someone else is around, I have them clip it and tighten it to help avoid the strain.

  13. Emily D

    I have loved my sling for 6 months or so with my 2nd and 3rd babies, then I’ve always gone to a mei tai. I do alternate sides and while I wear them a lot when out and about, I limit sling time at home to fussy times as tummy time and sleeping in one’s own bed are pretty sacred in our home: ) I’ve noticed many friends going ergo now.

    Thanks for this info. I will try to be careful as we anticipate baby #4.

  14. Beth@redandhoney

    I love my Ergo. And I loved my sling, but I also only used it on my left shoulder and oh how it would ache when I took it off! My first baby only wanted to be in there to sleep – for the first year almost! And I’m not exactly a muscular build – I’m 110lbs (non-pregnant) and a very slight frame. The Ergo was a fantastic addition to our family, and now that number 3 is due in a couple of months I’m seriously considering the infant insert. Not sure if it’s worth the money though.

    • Nicole

      My baby didn’t really like the newborn insert, so I used the Moby until she was big enough to just the newborn pillow in the Ergo. 🙂 Do you have a friend you can borrow one from? That’s what I did. Didn’t want to spend the money since they only need it for a few months.

  15. Beth@redandhoney

    Oh, and I was going to say – I echo the comments above to avoid unfermented soy and canola oil. Saturated fats are the best! (Including pastured/organic animal fats!)

  16. Heather :) :) :)

    I don’t have kids, but I”m definitely got problems with inflammation in my shoulder, due to a neck out of alignment…and I notice that when I eat certain foods, it hurts. I’m going to take a closer look at this list!!! Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂 🙂 🙂

  17. Miranda

    Another ‘snap!’ here. I’ve got long-standing back trouble and a sling-loving 5 month-old. And slight scoliosis, which I had no idea about until the osteopath pointed it out a few weeks ago! I use a kari-me, which is exactly like a moby in distributing the weight, but I still get some issues. I used to use Naproxen to take care of inflammation, but now I’m nursing I’m avoiding all that sort of thing. I hadn’t thought of looking for anti-inflammatory foods, so thank you so much for this! Very timely for me, and lots of others, it seems! Good luck with your healing.

    • Nicole

      Good luck, to you, too Miranda!

  18. Katelyn

    I used a sling a lot once my son could be held in an upright position in it. I also used a Sleepy Wrap and a mei tai. I never had any problems with the carriers. Although once he was big enough (close to 20 lbs) the sling would make my shoulder sore so I stopped using it. I developed wrist problems from cocking my wrist at an angle to hold his leg to keep him hitched on my hip (without carriers.) New mom’s need to remember that the loosening of the ligaments that helps them to give birth doesn’t magically go away the second the baby is here. We still need to pay attention to how they hold/pick up heavy objects. Six weeks of twice weekly physical therapy helped my wrist, but I still have to be careful when I carry him on my hip.

    • Nicole

      Good point, Katelyn! My PT totally mentioned the loosening of the ligaments. It especially hangs one when nursing, too, she said, although by now (my baby’s almost 10 months) it should start being less of an issue. It was something I hadn’t thought of before though.

  19. Jenika

    Just had to pipe in…I didn’t have shoulder trouble, but I do have significant back problems. I am pregnant now (#4!) and I AM going to use your ideas for natural anti-inflammitories…SO thankful for your article as I am sure it will prove beneficial in the future.

    Oh, and I just can’t wear this baby when he/she comes…for me the trouble is improper body mechanics when trying to get things done around the house. I wouldn’t have any issues if we were going on a walk and I wasn’t required to bend over…

    Thanks again!

  20. Clipping Path

    thanks for this wonderful article. its help me to know something new.

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