Monday, December 8, 2014

DIY No Sew Babywearing Jacket

I wanted to throw something together quickly, but not pull out my sewing machine.  I found this jacket at Walmart.  It is fleece, so no fraying, no need to hem.  I wear a size S, and I bought an XL to accommodate for the baby on my back. 
 
The coat I chose has a yoke on the back.  It was super convenient because it is the EXACT place where a baby’s head would pop out.  For any jacket that does not have a yoke, measure down 5 inches.
 
I measured 3.5 - 4 inches in from the side seam on each side.  And cut along the seam. 
Tada!  Done.
 
 
See Angelique's DIY coat tutorial for a heavier coat/sewing version.
Posted by Angelique
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

To size up, or not to size up... THAT is the question

A common refrain in online babywearing groups lately is, "get a toddler carrier, it'll last longer."  Now, if someone has a 2yr old and is considering purchasing their first carrier to only use with the 2+yr old child, that is pretty good advice.  However, I regularly hear it referencing children under a year.  Many have tried to explain why a too big carrier is a bad idea including questions of comfort for the parent and child.  But I wanted a quick reference for what happens when baby has to overextend.  I borrowed my almost 5yr old (because she's compliant and follows directions), and took a couple pictures. 

When her legs are bent, she can open them about 12inches from the inside of one knee to the other. (I used the seam on the jeans as my consistent measure point).

This is open "as wide as you can, and with legs hanging off the edge of support... similar to a carrier that isn't quite knee to knee.

Now, I then had her sit on the floor, straight legs, and do the same thing.  She makes about 11inches.  She loses a full inch of flexibility by not being able to bend her legs.
Now in this position, she wasn't forced to fit into a carrier, or made to stay in that position for hours.  Imagine the child in a too big carrier. 

If she can't bend her knees, she is stressing her ligaments in the same way that my child did when straight legged which caused her to be unable to open them as wide.  But she would have no choice in a carrier. It is inherently less comfortable and less optimal.

Meanwhile, we can look at the child in a carrier that is "too small."

She can bend her legs as much or little as she wants.  She is old enough to likely want down within a fairly short time frame, or do long stretches maybe once a month?  She doesn't need the most supportive carrier ever made for a child her size.  But this carrier will serve her far better now on the short jaunts than the toddler size one that "fits" would have served for the first 2yrs of her life. 

So, the answer to the question, "to size up" has more to do with what your child needs.  Is an infant/standard size carrier no longer working for your child?  Why?  Is it just because she isn't perfectly knee to knee?  That is not a reason to size up.  There is a full 2in or more gap between fitting a standard carrier "perfectly knee to knee" and fitting the next size up carrier at all.  Most families will never NEED a toddler carrier.  They may WANT one.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But sizing up too early doesn't help you or your baby to have a comfortable babywearing experience.

Posted by Ann Marie

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Library Carrier! Madam GooGoo

We are excited to share our latest library carrier win!  During International Babywearing Week, we won this lovely from Madam GooGoo!


MADAM GOOGOO
 
And for an action pic, Angelique models with Q (21mo, 19lbs)
 

 
Thanks so much for this generous addition to our library.  It should tour each meeting before settling into it's final home.

Pelvic Floor and Babywearing

Before my second child was born I had a vague awareness that some women suffer from pelvic floor
dysfunction after childbirth, but I didn't think it would happen to me. After all, I had a strong core and my first child was born via cesarean section, so I assumed I wouldn't need to worry about this apparently very common part of womanhood.
After my second baby was born, I found myself suffering from a prolonged postpartum recovery, very heavy bottom, and what I now know as typical pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms. (Why hadn't anyone told me about this?!) My midwife referred me to a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor rehab. She also advised that I not lift weights, run, or do anything else to put downward pressure on my pelvis and abdominals until I recovered. What about babywearing? I regularly wear my 35-lb toddler in addition to my newborn, and as a Volunteer Babywearing Educator (VBE) I also teach babywearing on a regular basis. How would babywearing affect my pelvic floor recovery?

Luckily, Babywearing International’s network of volunteers led me to Jennifer Stone, PT, DPT, OCS. In addition to being a babywearing educator with BWI of Central Missouri, Jennifer is a board-certified physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor function and women’s health. She is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and an Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS). Jennifer has 2 children, aged 26 months and 7 months, and has been wearing since her elder child was born. Jennifer became interested in the pelvic floor after a traumatic precipitous birth (45 minutes from 1st contraction to baby on the outside) left her with what she jokingly calls a “shredded pelvic floor” and the need for both a repair surgery and physical therapy. Sadly, there were no therapists within a 100 mile radius of her who could help, so she decided to go get training. She feels her pelvic floor practitioner certification meshes extremely well with her orthopedic specialty and manual therapy focused residency program, and is passionate about helping women live healthy and full lives – free of pelvic floor issues! Jennifer agreed to be interviewed on the often silent topic of pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD), as well as how PFD interacts with babywearing.


Shannon: Hi Jennifer. Thanks for agreeing to share your knowledge on this subject. Could you briefly explain what pelvic floor dysfunction is, and how prevalent it is?
Jennifer: The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that line the internal base of your pelvis and surround
your vagina and anus. It functions similarly to a “sling” which works with your core to hold up and support your internal organs as well as the bony structure of your pelvis and lower back, providing a strong supportive base for movement. Pelvic floor dysfunction is extremely common in women-estimates in medical studies range from 25-40%, but we believe it is likely underreported due to the sensitivity of the subject and our culture’s attitude toward the area in question. Pelvic floor dysfunction refers to anything that causes those muscles to not work correctly. Symptoms can vary from pain to prolapse to incontinence, and many women have more than one of these symptoms throughout their lifespan. It can be related to childbirth, but in many cases it is not.
Shannon: What causes PFD?
Jennifer: In general, PFD can be caused by a variety of circumstances. Risk factors include: precipitous birth; very fast or very slow pushing stage in labor; genetics; lifestyle factors (e.g. heavy lifting, poor core strength); age; gender (female); hormone levels; and a variety of other things. Sometimes we can't narrow it down to one specific cause. For example, I have worked with women with vulvodynia or vaginismus (pelvic pain and pain with female exams or intercourse) who have never had children. I have also seen children and women who haven't ever had intercourse who have PFD issues. This is an area where a lot of research is still ongoing; we know a lot more about how to treat it than we do about what causes it (in some cases).
Shannon: Once diagnosed with (mild) PFD, I was advised not to lift or squat lest I aggravate the
symptoms. Was this sound advice? Will babywearing slow my recovery?
Jennifer: The concern that most practitioners have with lifting and squatting is that when your core and pelvic floor are not activating correctly to provide that stable base for movement, you end up putting a lot of downward pressure through your pelvic floor, which could exacerbate prolapse (i.e. organs protruding through the vagina-can be uterine, bladder/cystocele, or rectum/rectocele). Theoretically, the ideal solution would be “never lift anything until we get your pelvic floor back to normal.” However, most of us moms live in the real world where we can’t do that! So I usually suggest that women try to limit themselves to lifting 12 pounds or less as much as possible. Also, it is easier on your pelvic floor if you pick your child up close to your body (to your chest if possible) in a seated position, and then stand versus leaning over to pick him/her up. Babywearing a newborn should not slow your recovery-I would try to avoid prolonged wearing of a toddler or older baby if possible, and especially try not to do things such as stairs and hills while wearing the toddler. Again, this is advice for prolapse. If you are having pain (tight or spastic pelvic floor) the advice is different, and it is also different if you are post-surgical for any reason.
Shannon: Are there some carries/carriers that worsen symptoms more than other carries/carriers?
Jennifer: High and tight is more ideal. Basically, you are trying not to drop your natural center of gravity (which normally sits a little above your bellybutton). This is similar to advice that you would hear for low back pain-“try to carry books or heavy items close and tight in to your chest, not at waist level with arms extended.” Also, having the weight of the baby as central as possible and evenly distributed over your body is better-generally a 2 shoulder carrier is going to do that a little better than a ring sling. I am often asked about back vs front carries-I do not think back carries are going to be significantly better than front carries, and in fact a low/sloppy back carry will drop your center of gravity WAY more than a front carry (plus you have to factor in bending over to get the baby into a back carry).
Shannon: Is holding a baby in arms worse or better than babywearing for the pelvic floor? Why?
Jennifer: Generally babywearing is better! You will usually not be able to keep your baby as snugly in to your body if you are holding him/her in arms, nor will his/her weight be as evenly distributed. If you are lifting something, in general it is best to have that thing attached to your body and not moving around-just as in the example above where I said it’s better to pick your baby up in sitting and then stand vs bending over or squatting to lift him/her-it’s even better to get baby snugly tied on, because then your pelvic floor treats his/her weight as if it were part of your body (the difference between you gaining 8 lbs vs lifting an 8 lb object).
Shannon: Are there particular activities to avoid while recovering from PFD?
Jennifer: Always defer to the advice of your pelvic floor therapist if you have one! Keep in mind that
everything I have said here is a very general tip, but that the practitioner who has evaluated you and had their hands on you is going to be MUCH more knowledgeable about what will help you specifically – all bodies are different, and all pelvic floors are VERY different. I would also welcome people messaging me for more specific advice if they like. (email: jen.yasu.stone@gmail.com) In general, activities to avoid for prolapse or a weak pelvic floor are: lifting, squatting, carrying heavy weights up steps, anything where you feel you have strain (take stool softeners if you need to-it is important that bowel movements do not cause straining!), and Kegels. Yes, I did say avoid Kegels. Studies show that 80% of NONSYMPTOMATIC women do not do Kegels correctly when they are asked to-and in fact, they usually do a motion that would cause worsening of prolapse! So until your therapist has literally taught you how to activate your pelvic floor from scratch, doing Kegels is probably counterproductive. Products or advertisements that suggest that you can fix this issue by just doing Kegels in a certain position are likely incorrect as well. Typically, people need someone to actually teach them with a hands on approach and verbal and tactile cuing.
Shannon: Are there any other tips you would like to mention?
Jennifer: In general, I am a huge believer in listening to your body. If something feels like it isn’t right, it probably isn’t! You are probably going to have to be your own advocate in this area until you find the right practitioner (aka: you may have to convince your doctor to write you a prescription for pelvic floor physical therapy as many doctors aren’t fully aware of what we do or how we can help-or sometimes they think we only work with incontinence, or only with pain and aren’t aware of the full spectrum). Don’t assume that it will just go away, especially if you want to have more children-I know how busy we all are as moms and how we can end up being the last in an impossibly long list of priorities. However, taking care of your health is the best way you can take care of your baby in the long and short term!
Shannon: Thanks again for agreeing to share your knowledge and insights.

Jennifer’s suggested links:
http://www.ric.org/conditions/womens-health/womens-health-resources/
http://womenshealthfoundation.org/
http://www.womenshealthapta.org/patients/

Interview by: Shannon L. of Jennifer Stone, PT, DPT, OCS

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Love of Mom: Ellen's story

I was working on contributions to “A Meet the VBE” post.  I came to this question
Tell me a story of a time that babywearing made a huge difference in the outcome of a family outing.
And as I started to write, I realized this post had been waiting and waiting to be written instead.  Climb into the way back machine with me to late 2006.  Blondie was born in December, just 15 short months after the birth of her older sister.
  
My mom’s health began to decline just after the birth. I called Mom a month later.  It was the eve of her birthday and I wanted to make sure I wished her a happy birthday while I could just in case the day passed and I hadn’t called.  
Mom thanked me for calling, asked how I was and as the call was wrapping up casually mentioned that she was going into the hospital the next morning and could I email the family to let them know?  After smoking her entire adult life, artereosclorosis was damaging veins in her leg.
 Those first few months of Blondie’s life saw: my mom in and out of the hospital; failed surgeries; recovering in my home so I could assist with her care; a stint in a rehabilitation unit, and ultimately an extended hospital stay, including an isolation unit before she finally passed away in July of 2007.  Blondie was six months old.
This was also the time period that I didn’t just casually wear because it was a good idea, it was a time I wore for hours a day because my family needed it so much.   Typical First Child needed supervision during her normal if trying toddler antics.  Blondie was an immobile nursling, and Mom needed visits and care.  I practiced techniques daily, read online forums and attended monthly meetings.
During the meetings I got to sit, learn, chat with other moms and received support for a situation no one knew anything about and no one asked me for anything.  It was dare I say it?  Therapeutic to go to a place with kind people willing to teach me skills that weren’t just useful, but essential for the life challenges I was facing.
Outside of the meetings there were a myriad of tasks awaiting me. Once a week, I would load the kids in the car and trek an hour south to my mom’s home.  I would do the cleaning for her that she was unable to do and unable to afford to hire someone for.  Usually my mom kept a watchful eye and ear out for a sleeping little while the toddler stayed on my back.  We swept, vacuumed, dusted, scrubbed bathrooms, changed sheets and folded laundry for Mom.
Several weeks later, Mom was recovering from a surgery and could not live alone while in recovery.  Doctors, Mom and family all agreed that she would stay with me for a week.  She was installed in a bedroom with bathroom access across the hall.  I took the kids to the store to pick out a large tray and Typical First Child still remembers holding the napkins as she climbed the stairs to help deliver lunch.  I would have Blondie in a sling and a tray laden with tomato soup, a glass of milk, saltines, a spoon,  a sippy of milk, and a banana.  Typical would share a snack with Grandma every day  while I nursed the baby with them.  Then we left with the tray for the kitchen and everyone napped.
A few weeks later, even in home care was not enough.  Another surgery and then admittance to a rehabilitation center.
Seeing the children was very therapeutic –not only for my mom who got to see her grandchildren, but to the other women recovering on the ward, and even the nurses who spent hours upon hours tending to the needs of an aging population.  
During one visit to the rehabilitation center, my family was lined up in the hallway waiting for my mom to be ready for a visit.  A very jolly Blondie was in the same MT I mentioned earlier.  Another patient was sitting in the doorway of her room and tapped her cane on the floor.  Blondie let out a baby giggle.  Another patient quickly wheeled over in her wheelchair and commanded her roommate, “Do it again.”  Again tapped the cane, again laughed the baby.
The two women spent several minutes coaxing laughter out of the baby and coochie-cooing and remembering their own children as babies.  
We went inside my mom’s room for a visit.
As we were leaving, a crowd of patients was in the hallway.
“We were sure we heard a baby laughing.”
We spent several more minutes coaxing laughter out of the baby and she was happy to oblige.
During another visit to the same facility a nurse looked me up and down and let out a wistful sigh.  “We wear the babies in my country too.  When you’re ready, put her on the back.  You can do more.  It’s good because you’ll be busy.”
Another visit and a different nurse pointed out that we wouldn’t have been able to bring the children so often if we didn’t have them in carriers.  The kids couldn’t touch anything so they didn’t have to worry about the germs spreading and I could wash my hands before I had to touch the kids again.


The last time I spoke to my mom,  Typical First Child played in the waiting room with her uncle while a newly sitting Blondie sat in the MT.  
“Where’s [Typical]?”
“Ah [Blondie].  You are so beautiful.”  There was a pause as she took several deep breaths.  She continued “You have such beautiful children, Ellen.  I’m sorry I couldn’t hold them and be more of a grandmom to them.  I’m so sorry I couldn’t….” She was in tears.
I hugged her and kissed her and assured her they were happy to have her just the way she was as their grandmother.  Who else gave them straws to play with?  It occurred to me to ask if she would like me to contact a priest for the Annointing of the Sick, a sacrament available for the ill in our religion.  She consented.

It was time for me to go and I placed the call for the priest as I left the hospital.  He was able to visit that evening and provide the sacrament.  
She was in a coma the next morning.  
I am so, so  grateful that I could be attentive to my children and to my mother.  I don’t know that I would have managed without being able to carry them against my body and not still have the use of my arms and hands.  I don’t know that I have any great insight about carrying in general, but I can say every memory I have about doing something,  a carrier was a quiet, but instrumental part in being able to do.
 
Posted by Ellen


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

That's a Wrap!

“That” unfortunately, is my time living in Northern VA. We moved here just shy of three years ago, when I was pregnant with my now two year old. A few months before moving up here, we were briefly at Ft. Lee in Richmond, which is where we head back now to live. That was when I first met Ann Marie, who was president of BWI at the time, and doing my VBE test as I helped start a BWI chapter in Richmond before moving up here to join to DC.
Kit and Ann Marie met in Richmond
When we got up here, I had my 16m old daughter and a new one growing in my belly, and at my first meeting, I was SO overwhelmed by all the people. The group was huge! I remember walking in a few minutes late, after having gotten lost on the way to my first meeting (Burke) and Ann Marie stopping her talk to be like “This is Kit, she’s new. Say hi to Kit!” I wanted to run and hide. But I kept coming back, because even at that first meeting, I knew that this was the community I belonged in. I knew if I didn’t throw myself in to the meetings, we’d never leave the house, and in return my daughter got friends, and so did I.
After meeting lunches

   I had signed up to help with conference planning, and got support through my very hard pregnancy, including people showing up while I was on bedrest to keep my company and keep my little girl entertained. A few months later, they helped me through tandem wearing my two that were 2 and under while my husband went to training and then deployed. When my furnace went out in the dead of winter, it was the spouse of a babywearer who sent someone to fix it the same day so my kids and I didn’t freeze to death. When we realized that my youngest daughter had even more allergies than my first, it was experienced moms who were part of the babywearing group that walked me through the intricacies of navigating safe food, and even made me some! When I was driven to start a charity, it was a group member who said “Let’s do this!” and has been my better business half, and the group as a whole who have given us everything they can to support us, and even the husband of a group member who got his law firm to take on our nonprofit application! 

Mom's Night Out

    Whenever a military family moves, one of the first thing many do is look for social groups they think they have something in common with, just as a way to meet people. This was how I found my first babywearing group, and my second, and then my third up here. I expected to get outings; I did not expect to get life-long friends. People my children are in tears over leaving (and quite frankly, so am I, and I am NOT a crier).
BFFs forever
People that I knew would parent my children like I would, and love them like their own. I encourage everyone I know who’s moving with young kids to search for a community, because we all need one. This babywearing group became mine, and it was often my lifeline when things went awry. Help navigating diaper rash and croup and throwing up all night, but also girls nights and craft nights and “I’m bored. Let’s do something” and immediately having friends to see. There are many babywearing groups, but this one is mine, and while I love where I’m going, we will never ever forget where we’ve been, and who was with us. DC, you will be a tough act to follow.
Stupid adult-wearing tricks

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sharing the Adventure: Babywearing On a Cruise

It's International Babywearing Week!  This week we celebrate all of the awesome things babywearing does for us in our lives.  This year the theme is 'Share the Adventure.'  Join us for our activities this week and share the adventure with all of us!  Today, Raagen tells us about her adventure babywearing on a cruise!



When I thought about the cruise that my family was about to go on, I was a little overwhelmed at how to handle it with my three kids, ages 1, 3, and 5.  My youngest, M, wasn't walking yet, and my three-year-old, C, didn't have the strongest legs for long distances.  After talking to a few friends who had cruised without a stroller, my husband and I decided to ditch the stroller and wear our two youngest children.  My sister-in-law decided to do the same thing with her three-year-old.  

The hardest part in all of this was what to do with the backpack/diaper bag if my husband and I were both wearing kids.  It ended up not being too bad.  I actually wore it in front for a while without a problem.  (I have chronic pain that limits my ability to wear my kids on the front or hip  once they are over about 20 pounds so I rarely wear them in front unless I have to tandem wear or nurse my youngest.)


The trip was pretty hard on my three-year-old.  We had to get up at 3am to make our flight the first day, and it was hard to get naps in while on our trip without missing activities. C was able to nap on my back when she needed to.  I took a Kozy mei tai for her.  It's great because it could be folded into the backpack when she was ready to walk.
 

 


Overall, the trip ended up being fantastic.  We didn't have to wait for the elevators in order to debark, and we didn't have to worry about where to store the stroller when we weren't using it.  We were able to board tour buses easily without worrying about what to do with the stroller.  Babywearing allowed me to share this adventure of cruising with all three kids!