How to carry a baby on your back in Senegalese style!

Carrying 6-week-old bébé Ndeye on my back at Kermel market
Carrying 6-week-old bébé Ndeye on my back at Kermel market

Get a piece of cloth that’s a little longer than your arm span in length (so 7 feet or so) and from your armpit to your knees in width.  Pareo/sarong wraps, large scarves or soft cotton sheets work well since the fabric is lightweight.

Pape mbott
Carrying Pape on my back a couple years ago. (I know. They’re twins.)

For beginners, have a friend put the baby on your back with its neck level with your armpits. Have your friend turn baby’s head gently either left or right.

Baby’s arms should be down by her sides if you want her to sleep.

Place the cloth covering the baby and hold one top corner in each hand (like wrapping a towel around yourself). The top edge should be at baby’s neck and covering arms so that just her head is showing. Tie the two top corners tightly around your chest. Don’t be afraid to make it snug! It’ll be more comfortable for both you and bébé.

Using a pareo wrap I bought in Kenya in 1998
Using a pareo wrap I bought in Kenya in 1998

Gently pull baby’s legs out so that one foot sits on each of your hips. Pull the cloth so that it is tight under baby’s tush and tuck a little under to make a seat for her. Let baby’s feet stick out.

Tie two lower corners of the fabric like you did the top ones, lifting up to chest level as you do so the baby is well supported and not droopy.

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Ready to ride!

A tighter tie will be more comfortable for both mom and baby. Once baby is secure, get moving. Walking or bouncing will help calm the baby, and sooner than you might think…. Zzzzz…

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…or nap.


What age should babies be before carrying on your back?
Around two or three months. The sooner you start, the faster your baby will get used to it and start relaxing and loving it.

What if my baby cries right away?
Get moving. I’ve found walking works better than bouncing in place. (I do a couple laps of the living room.) If you’re just starting off, it make take a couple tries. Walk with your baby on your back 5-10 minutes. If she calms down, just go about whatever you need to do. If she doesn’t, try again tomorrow. By the third or fourth time, it should noticeably better. By the tenth you’ll be wondering why on Earth anyone ever uses a stroller unless they are jogging. 😉

When can I start carrying with arms out?
Once they are older (six months) and have really good control, you can carry them with arms out and the cloth under their armpits. This is for awake time. For sleeping, arms go in.

How do I get my baby back there by myself?

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Solo loading 😉

Once you’re at ease with tying and your baby has head control, you can try putting your baby on solo. Both options can be a bit scary at first, so do them with a spotter until you’re comfortable.
Option A : hold baby seated on your hip then scoot her around as you bend over at the waist.
Option B: hold baby out in front of you with your thumbs hooked under her armpits. Lift her up and over your head and onto your back.

Did I miss anything?