Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Babywearing 103: Carriers

Carriers are structured baby-wearing contraptions.

Pros: The structure of a good carrier balances baby's weight over mama's hips and shoulders, so mama can wear baby comfortably for long stretches of time (hours and hours at a time). The structure of a good carrier places baby in a natural seated position, so that baby's spine and hips are not compressed. (Baby's bum is naturally lower than his knees when in this position.) A good carrier leaves mama completely hands-free, even when baby is nursing. A good carrier provides support (often a hood) to prevent baby's head from bobbing or jerking while asleep. Baby fits comfortably in most carriers from the newborn stage through toddlerhood (and beyond). Carriers are adjustable so that one size fits all adults. Many carriers come with instructional DVDs, which make learning how to use the carrier easy.

Cons: Carriers are more expensive than slings or wraps. Some carriers are only designed for baby to be facing in, not out. Some modern carriers are not designed for babies under four months (when they cannot hold their head up on their own). You can usually buy an "infant insert" for use during the early months, but these inserts aren't consistently easy to use.

Note: The popular Baby Bjorn and other similarly styled carriers do not provide most of the benefits listed above and are actually bad for mama's back, baby's back, baby's hips, and baby's genital area. When purchasing a carrier, it is important to make sure the carrier is structured so that baby is sitting in the carrier (not dangling unsupported), such that baby's bum is lower than baby's knees.

Variations: The waist band and shoulder straps of modern carriers connect with buckles. The waist band and shoulder straps of Asian back carriers connect with tied sashes.

Recommendations: For a modern carrier, the Ergo Baby Carrier (aptly named because it is designed to be ergonomically correct) consistently rates higher than all other carriers. For a less gear-like look, try the Beco Baby Carrier, which is currently rated second highest on For an Asian back carrier, try the Kozy Carrier. The Ergo can be worn on the front (facing in), on the hip, and on the back. The Beco can be worn on the front (facing in) and on the back. The Kozy can be worn on the front (facing in and facing out), on the hip, and on the back.

I wore my baby in an Ergo Baby Carrier on and off from the time my baby was about six weeks old until. From birth until about 10 months, we used the Moby Wrap as our go-to carrier. But at 10 months I switched to the Ergo because my baby was gaining weight rapidly and I felt the Ergo provided the best support for my back. To be honest, my baby disliked the Ergo for the first week or two of constant usage because he was used to being worn facing out. But he soon adjusted and loves it now. In fact, I think he has said the word "Ergo" this week more than any other word!

Front Carry

(Kozy Carrier)

(Beco Baby Carrier)

Side Carry

(Ergo Baby Carrier)

(Kozy Carrier)

Back Carry

(Ergo Baby Carrier)

(Beco Baby Carrier)

Two Babies at the Same Time

(Kozy Carrier)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Babywearing 102: Wraps

Wraps are basically long pieces of fabric wrapped intricately around your body. The sight of 6 yards of cloth piled in your hands may at first be intimidating, but don't despair! With just a little practice you can master this superbly comfortable way of wearing your baby. First, practice wrapping and tying the cloth around your body. Once you've got that down pat, practice placing a stuffed animal or rolled up bath towel into the wrap. After you feel semi-comfortable doing that, place your baby into the wrap. While it is more difficult to learn than other ways of carrying your baby, it is well worth the effort! The Moby Wrap quickly became our favorite carrier and faithfully served as our go-to carrier for my baby's first 10 months of life outside the womb.

Wraps are unbelievably comfortable for both mama and baby. Baby's weight is evenly distributed across both of mama's shoulders and her back, giving mama hours of comfortable baby-wearing time. The fabric is more comfy than a favorite t-shirt and hugs mama and baby perfectly, regardless of size or shape. And wraps are also fantastic nursing covers. If mama is wearing the wrap (empty) and nursing her baby in her arms, the folds of the wrap naturally fall to cover baby's head and mama's entire chest area.

Wraps are especially beneficial for premature babies and babies with breastfeeding challenges. Both groups of babies need lots of skin-to-skin contact and "kangaroo care" is an easy way to provide that contact for long stretches of time (hands free). Mama takes off baby's clothes (except perhaps a diaper) and places baby into a wrap directly on her bare chest - the wrap covers mama's torso, so a casual observer would never suspect she was not wearing a shirt. Skin-to-skin touch regulates baby's heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones, and body temperature. Mama's chest temperature actually changes to meet her baby's needs, and research shows that kangaroo care is more effective at keeping baby warm than a traditional preemie incubator!

The downside to wraps is the time it takes to put them on. A mama can partially compensate for this by putting the wrap on when she first needs it and leaving it on throughout the day (whether or not baby is in the wrap).

For a comfortable fit and no back strain, baby's bum should hit at or just above mama's belly button. And baby's bum should always, always, always be lower than baby's knees. This protects baby's spine, genital area, and hip alignment.

Click here to watch a great video demonstating how to wrap a Moby Wrap around your body and place your baby in the wrap in the hug hold.

Click on the pictures below to see step-by-step instructions for each of these holds. Of course, this is just a sampling of the great variety of ways you can wear your baby in a wrap. Next on our agenda is figuring out the hike hold on my back.

Cradle Hold

Twin Cradle Hold

Newborn Hug Hold

Hug Hold

Lotus Hold

Sling Hold

Baby K'Tan
The Baby K'Tan is like a wrap without the wrapping. It takes only 5-7 seconds to put on, so is a great alternative to a sling for easy, around-the-house wear. Because baby's weight is distributed on mama's shoulders and back, it is also great for short jaunts out and about. However, it's not as comfortable as a regular wrap for long stretches of time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Babywearing 101: Slings

Slings are basically strips or tubes of fabric worn over one shoulder and down to the opposite hip. Slings' best selling point is their ease of use: mama only needs about 2-5 seconds to put one on. They are fairly compact, so mama can easily stash one in an otherwise full diaper bag. And many sling styles have built-in pockets that fit a set of keys and small wallet, or even a diaper, for baby wearing on the go. On the downside, slings can become uncomfortable when wearing baby for a long stretch of time. And while bending down or actively working around the house, mama may need to lightly support baby with one hand, rendering the sling not entirely hands-free. Because most slings come in different sizes for different sized adults, mama may not be able to share her sling with another adult.

Because slings are so quick and easy to use, I like to wear my baby in a sling for short periods of time around the house. For a comfortable fit and no back strain, a sling should feel snug (almost as if it might be just a tad too small) and baby's bum should hit at or just above mama's belly button. Virtually all retailers have helpful sizing information, detailed wearing instructions, and great return policies. What works for one mama may not work the same for another mama - it's helpful and a lot of fun to buy a variety of baby carriers, try each one, then keep the one(s) you love the best.

Last, but perhaps most important, baby's bum should always, always, always be lower than baby's knees. This protects baby's spine, genital area, and hip alignment.

Types of slings

Basic pouch sling

(Cute Slings Baby Sling in the Cradle Carry position)

Pros: No adjustments necessary. Folds up tiny for stashing just about anywhere.
Cons: Cannot be adjusted, so some mamas may have trouble getting a perfect fit.
Variations: no padding vs. light padding (just where a toddler's legs hang)
Good brands: For a sling with no padding, try a New Native Baby Carrier. For a sling with light padding, try a Cute Slings Baby Sling.

Adjustable pouch sling

(Kangaroo Corner Adjustable Fleece Pouch in the Tummy to Tummy position)

Pros: Size is adjustable to accommodate weight loss/gain or clothing layers.
Cons: The snap or zipper adds just enough bulk that it is tough for narrow-shouldered adults to make the adjustments necessary to prevent the sling from sliding down the shoulder.
Good brands: My friend Ginny loves the Kangaroo Korner Adjustable Fleece Pouch! They also carry other fabric types, including a mesh pouch for water use.

Ring sling

(Zolowear Ring Sling in the Tummy to Tummy position)

Pros: Size is adjustable to accommodate weight loss/gain or clothing layers. The long tail can serve as a built-in nursing cover.
Cons: Because there is a limit on how much padding can fit through a ring, extra small women may not be able to completely tighten a fully padded sling.
Variations: no padding vs. light padding vs. full padding (along the edge of the fabric)
Good brands: For a sling with no padding, try a Zolowear Ring Sling. For a sling with light padding, try a Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Sling. For a sling with full padding, try the Balboa Baby Adjustable Sling.

Sling positions

Cradle carry - Baby is inside the pouch, cradled in the fetal position. This is a great position for newborns.

(New Native Baby Carrier)

Tummy to tummy - Baby is inside the pouch, upright and facing mama. This is a great position for babies of all ages, but especially newborns who prefer being upright (not horizontal).

(Zolowear Ring Sling)

Kangaroo carry - Baby is inside the pouch, upright and facing out. This is a great position for babies who can hold their heads up.

(Maya Wrap Lightly Padded Sling)

Hip carry - Baby is straddling mama's hip and the sling fabric forms a seat under his bum, holding baby tight enough to mama's body that she can be hands free. This is my favorite position for toddlers.

(Cute Slings Baby Sling)

Back carry - Baby is straddling mama's back and the sling fabric forms a seat under his bum, holding baby tight enough to mama's body that she can be hands free. This is a great position for toddlers, but is also a popular position for newborns in African cultures.

(Kangaroo Korner Adjustable Fleece Pouch)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Why I Wear My Baby Part 2

A baby spends the first nine months of his life inside his mama. Giving baby another nine months outside (but on) mama is a gentle way to introduce him to life outside the womb.

Baby hears mama's heartbeat, feels safe and nurtured, easily develops a strong emotional bond and secure attachment to mama, has a bird's eye view of the world, interacts with others in mama's surroundings, and enjoys an increased amount of quiet alert time. According to the famous pediatrician Dr. Sears, "sling babies" cry less, learn more, are more organized, get "humanized" earlier, and are smarter than non-sling babies.

On the flip side, mama is inherently more available and responsive to baby, and can carry baby comfortably and hands-free. Mama can cook, clean, do laundry, go grocery shopping, take a walk, care for other children, nurse discreetly, and on, and on, and on, all while wearing baby. Baby wearing is especially helpful for mamas of high needs babies (babies who have a greater than normal need to be held and nurse - often virtually nonstop).

My baby is now 18 months and I still wear him throughout the day - when he wants to see what I'm doing in the kitchen, when I want to take a walk or go hiking, when he needs a little extra calm cuddle time, when we're in an area that's not safe for babies, when I think he's getting sleepy... ... ... In fact, his newest word this week is Ergo!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why I Wear My Baby Part 1

I read this article by Serene Allison before I was pregnant, and it revolutionized the way I viewed motherhood. It was originally printed in the November 2005 edition of Above Rubies. (You can find other great articles at

Plastic or Natural?

"So you're almost about to pop! Do you have everything you need for the new arrival?" a sweet lady asked a day before my due date. I'll have to admit I did not have a beautifully painted nursery, a lovely wooden crib with matching bedding that harmonized with the pastel of the walls and curtains. I had no perfectly folded piles of blue or pink layettes and outfits. I didn't have a cloet full of baby paraphernalia... walker, swing, bouncer and playpen. I didn't have a set of baby monitors, a package of pacifiers, or the latest vented bottles in case of supplemented feedings. I had a couple of yellow onesies and a pair or two of yellow socks. So what did I repl to the earnest soul who looked so eager to help out. Yes, I've got everything I need!"

"What?" you may shriek! "You've got nothing!" "Why didn't you drop a few hints her way and snag some of these necessities. You're not prepared at all!"

Raw and Unadulterated
You see, I didn't need all that fad-dangled cluttering stuff that complexifies my mothering. I had everything I needed to nurture my sweet babe through its early childhood. I already owned the top of the line designer baby equipment. God designed my body with what I needed to nurture my baby while on the inside and He also designed it to have everything I needed to mother on the outside.

God gave me breasts, comfy pillows which are not only baby's favorite nest but which bring complete satisfaction to his every sucking need. Breastfeeding goes far beyond its main function of filling their little tummies with warm nutritious sweet milk of perfection. There is no need for me to worry about pacifiers that are always getting lost or bottles you have to fill, warm, clean and sterilize. Why would I want this bothersome stuff?

He gave me, as a woman, a tender voice my baby has grown to love. No need for lullaby tapes and musical toys or teddy bears with recorded heart beats - all dust catchers! I love to watch my baby, as he nurses at my breast, be calmed and sedated by the sound of what is most beautiful to him. As I sing to this captivated audience of one, his eyes begin to roll back and his lids grow heavy. As I continue to hum, the warm breath that carries his favorite tune blows a gentle breeze of love across his sleepy face. These are the joys of motherhood ... raw and unadulterated ... uncluttered by plastic mechanical objects that can never come close to what a baby really wants.

Mothers Are God's Perfect Design
Swings and things that chime and vibrate with colored flashing lights and recorded tunes are man's design. Mothers are God's perfect design for the job. I am not saying that these things are all bad and that a mother can't benefit from popping the baby in a contraption so she can go to the toilet by herself, take a shower or fix dinner, but they are not the necessities our modern world has made them out to be. They should never take the place of mother.

The sad fact is there is now an imbalance of "thing mothering" rather than "human mothering". There is nothing wrong with a few inventions to assist us. The problem is when we let them replace us!

This brings me to my next point. God created us with arms and hands with dexterous ability. He designed them to be used. Proverbs 31:17 tells us that the virtuous woman "strengthens her arms." God does not want us to let our arms get fat and floppy. Let's bench press that baby and get a good workout and a few giggles and goo-gahs to boot!

Plastic Mothering or Human Mothering
I have seen some babies who are hardly ever out of a plastic contraption. It's so sad. I call it plastic mothering. They get wheeled around in a stroller, plopped in a plastic swing and then into a car seat from which they are hardly removed except for a diaper change. Mothers are more often seen lugging cumbersome car seats around with their babies inside instead of simply holding them skin to skin. Some are even fed their bottle in their car seat. They bring their car seats inside everywhere they go. They are no longer car seats but "everywhere seats."

Babies are happiest being worn on your body. I say "worn" because I believe my baby is the most beautiful part of my appearance. I hate being out in town or in church without my gorgeous chubster beaming a huge smile from within the security of my arms.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to wear your baby but still be free to be the "mummy on the go" - to run (I mean literally) after a bunch of rowdy children, get a toddler out of a tree, go grocery shopping, or even speed walk four miles up and down hills, all the while wearing your baby snugly and comfortably next to your heart. Imagine if there was an invention that made carrying a toddler feel like a featherweight, even for extended hours of "baby wearing." Or, nurse a fussy babe, even while shopping, with discreet coverage and arms completely free.

Wouldn't it be nice if there were such an invention to prevent my shoulders and back from screaming out for mercy after an hour of wearing my baby like most carriers? It would be perfection if there was such an invention that could be used from birth to late toddler hood - front, back, sideways or whichever way I fancied.

Well, I've found it. Christmas has come for all mothers who love to "wear" their baby but have tried the slings, back packs, front packs and ordered many fad-dangled baby carriers that down-right hurt and give you a headache.

Personally, I am an avid baby wearer. I collect slings and baby carriers from around the world and have tried the whole gamut. I have used the many yards of material that you fold in strange configurations and wrap you and your baby up like mummies. I've owned an excellent hiking backpack, with a very light alloy frame, but the baby wasn't close to my skin. I couldn't nurse the baby and I had to wear a beanie on my head in the middle of summer as the baby sat high enough to pull my hair out in tufts.

Slings are wonderful and I was somewhat content with a very top brand a friend bestowed upon me. Yes, I still had some troubleshooting. My shoulder and upper back ached fiercely after an hour and I still wasn't hands free. I had to support my baby when I bent down to dress a toddler or load the washing machine. It grew very painful on strenuous exercise walks but it was all I knew. I didn't complain and enjoyed wearing my baby...UNTIL I discovered the "Ergo" (named appropriately because it is designed to be ergonomically correct for you and your baby's back and chiropractic recommended.)

Pot of Gold
ALL MY CHRISTMASES CAME AT ONCE! I can now wear my baby on a four mile hike, come home and clean the house, vacuum, reach high and low, do all the laundry, dance around the lounge with my little ones, go picking blueberries or hunt for insects with my boys, cook (or uncook) dinner and do the dishes. I can nurse free-handed and keep on trucking, even go to the restroom, all while wearing my baby in the Ergo. My back and shoulders don't need a rest and I can forget I even have the baby. 

Attachment style mothering has now become as easy as toting around a feather.

My sister-in-law is petite in stature but has a huge heifer of a baby. We call him "Harry Hamhock" as his thighs are good 'n meaty. He didn't like her to put him down and I could see her tired arms at the end of the day. I told her about the Ergo and she is now as happy as her sweet baby. She wears him all day and never grows tired.

My sister, Pearl always fretted when taking her baby to the grocery store, as she would suck on the rail of the shopping cart, the worst place for babies, toddlers and children to pick up germs. Her baby often brought a cold home from the store with her. 

Slings make you want to scream by the end of a long grocery trip and you still are not completely hands free to fill your cart and keep toddlers in tow. Pearl always dreaded grocery day until the Ergo.

It sounds too good to be true. I did not believe it until I tried it for myself. In my search for the best baby carrier, worldwide, I always felt a little dissatisfied. My husband would say, as I begged him into buying yet another sling or carrier, that I wouldn't be content until it felt like I was carrying a feather and not a baby. He thought my search would never be through. But I have found my pot of gold and I am finally satisfied.

So, when that sweet lady asked me, "Are you prepared?" and by the world's standards I was not so, I could reply with a resounding and confident ...

"Yes, I've got my set of milkers and an Ergo - and that's all I need!"

Serene Allison
Primm Springs, Tennessee

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Resolution

For my soul to prosper more than my physical health.

"Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers."
-3 John 2

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Month in Our Life: December 2009

Our one and only vacation in 2009 was a fantastically relaxing two week trip home to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Oh, how I miss the gray, cloudy skies and the green, green, green everywhere you look! We spent lots of time outside hauling tree branches, taking lots and lots of wheelbarrow rides, jumping off tree stumps, stepping on mole hills, and visiting the three black sheep next door to my mom's house.

My baby's new favorite game is playing "where is...[mama's eye, ear, nose, arm...the bunny rabbit, zebra, birdie, goldfish]." His vocabulary virtually exploded in the two weeks we were gone. The most often uttered word while in the Seattle area: Great Gran (pronounced goo-tee). Take a listen!

Visiting with Great Gran

Relaxing with Grandma

Playing with Auntie Amber and my baby's new favorite toy: Great Gran's walker

My two brothers had to work Christmas (in Las Vegas and Grand Rapids), so we didn't get to see them or their families. However, there were four packages from out of town to open, including the new set of dishes/silverware featured below. My baby won't have to eat off my plate any more!

Thank you everyone for all the thoughtful gifts! We love you all!!