I want to try the African style back carry. Can I do this with a piece of fabric? I searched a bit and couldn't find a specific type of carrier but found some cool on line video tutorials showing how to do it with a towel or piece of fabric. I have a maya wrap and a mei tai but want to try something with straps. Straps seem to cut into my body and/or shoulders so I thought the African style looks like something different and I like the simplicity. How young a baby can go on the back with that style? Just curious...
My Kenyan friend uses a pretty stiff cotton fabric with very little stretch. I didn't use this method personally when my three were young, but I did find that carrying styles where the fabric crosses over the front don't get the strap feeling. I used an very long fabric in a basic, kangaroo style pouch front carry and spread the fabric out when they were little, and an Scandinavian style back carry (middle of the fabric in back, cross under arms and criss-cross over chest in front, criss cross over baby in back, tie in front) very comfortably with no strappy feeling. Used the mamatoto.com site at the time, which I think might now be called baby-wearing.com
There are several different kinds of back carry used in different regions in Africa. I can't speak for East or Southern African carries, but West African (esp Senegalese) carry is accomplished with two pieces of fabric
1: a heavy muslin fabric (NOT the 'muslin' of an aden + anais swaddle, but the firm muslin we are familiar with from e.g. quilting and embroidery). This is cut into a panel with salvages which will be the top and bottom 'rails' and then a tapered cut on the ends creating two 'points' at the salvages and a kind of 'scoop' cutaway about 6" deep between them. (It's kind of a really fat / puffy "H" turned sideways. This forms the structural base of the wrap.
2: a heavy panel of fabric that is at least the size of a beach towel. Ideally, at least in Senegal, this is a piece of very stiff handwoven fabric. Some people use actual (second hand, European) beach towels, but this is generally frowned upon.
- standing over a soft surface, lean forward so back is parallel to ground.
-place baby on the high middle of back, to the head rests between your shoulder blades. 'frog' the legs.
-place fabric #1 over the baby, tucking the bottom rail under the baby's legs and bottom creating 'shelf' of a few inches. pull the bottom points to the bottom of your rib cage, tie firmly. spread the fabric up the baby's back, over the shoulders and tucking around them. pull top points to the front and tie firmly in the front, under the armpits. baby's head should be free, or gently supported by the fabric (depending on age). This carry is ONLY good for babies with strong head control.
- slowly stand.
-take fabric #2 and place one salvage around the body, under the armpits, kind of like a beach wrap. wrap it firmly around the body, with the end of the bottom layer by the left armpit, and the top edge tucked in near the right armpit. Pull this fairly tight, so that it provides a second layer of support to both baby and person carrying baby.