Monday, August 18, 2014

Babywearing in the Garden

Summer vegetable gardening season is starting to wind down, but hopefully your garden is still producing tasty tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and maybe a late crop of berries. For those without a garden, U-Pick farms are still producing fresh peaches and blackberries for you to harvest.

Gardening (or harvesting) while wearing your baby is a wonderful way to bond while enjoying the great outdoors together AND providing nutritious food for your dinner table. Any style of carrier can be used while gardening, though some carriers (and types of carries) have unique advantages to allow for range of motion for the wearer and comfort for the baby.

 Let’s explore some of the major carrier types and their advantages and disadvantages.
 
SOFT STRUCTURED CARRIER (SSC):
SSCs are wonderful no-fuss carriers. They allow for quick ups and downs, which may be helpful for a toddler who wants to participate in harvesting, but who may also need some snuggles or help walking to and from the garden. Two-shoulder front, hip and back (for infants that can sit upright) carries are possible. Back carries are advantageous for keeping baby comfortable during frequent bending. However, some may find that SSCs are not ideal for long periods of gardening, as baby may tend shift with frequent bending by the wearer (SSCs are the least-customizable carriers from a fit perspective).

MEI TAI:

 
A more customizable fit for wearing while gardening.  As with SSCs, front, hip and back carries are possible with a mei tai. For back carries, wearers have the option of tying backpack-style straps or crossing the straps in front. In the second photo below, the straps are crossed high on the wearer’s chest. This may not be comfortable for everyone, but he found that it afforded him greater range of motion for picking, weeding, etc. As a bonus, baby often falls asleep while being worn this way in the garden. Similar two-shouldered back carries may also be accomplished with a woven wrap (discussed below), podaegi, or onbuhimo. However, some may find that range of motion is still compromised when gardening with a two-shoulder carry, and there may still be fit/shifting issues with a mei tai.


ONE-SHOULDERD CARRY (RING SLING / REBOZO CARRY WITH WOVEN WRAP):
Provides for full range of motion with one arm, which can be especially useful for harvesting. As with SSCs, ring slings and pre-tied rebozo carries can be used for quick ups and downs, which may be helpful at U-Pick farms. However, some may find asymmetrical carries uncomfortable, with the weight-bearing shoulder tiring quickly.
 

WOVEN WRAP (TWO-SHOULDER FRONT CARRY):

Front, multilayer carries with a woven wrap are very secure and (arguably) easiest to execute, because the wearer has good control of the wrap placement on the baby. The two-shoulder carry distributes the weight evenly and the woven wrap allows for the most customizable fit. However, a front carry may be uncomfortable for repeated bending by the wearer, as baby’s weight hangs downward on the wearer’s chest – this may also be uncomfortable for baby!
 

WOVEN WRAP (TWO-SHOULDER BACK CARRY):

Woven wraps allow for high back carries, which can provide baby a better view of the garden or farm, and may even allow them to reach up and help with harvesting! Baby may also fall asleep easily despite repeated bending by the wearer, as the back provides a supportive surface for a snooze. Again, some wearers may find that a two-shoulder carry restricts range of motion, but using a carry that pulls the straps away from the shoulders (e.g. front wrap cross carry or ruck tied Tibetan) can help with this. Back carries with woven wraps may also be challenging to accomplish for less experienced, or physically limited wearers.


 WOVEN WRAP (TORSO CARRY):

This type of carry provides the greatest range of motion, with both shoulders unrestricted to harvest, weed, etc. more efficiently. Note that a torso carry can be accomplished in front or back (though back may be more comfortable), and can also be done with a woven wrap or mei tai, podaegi, or onbuhimo. Some may find a torso carry uncomfortable, or not as supportive as a one or two-shoulder carry.
As always, we encourage you to join us in person at a Babywearing International of DC-MD-VA meeting, so that our leaders can provide you with more specific help.

 Hope you’re as excited as we are about the fall harvest season!

 

(Thanks to Shannon, Pamm and Rosemary for the gardening photos.)

 

 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

From Auntie to Mama - a wearer's journey

Our VBE, Cynthia, recently visited her sister on the birth of her new niece.  It's a great story of learning about babywearing as an aunt, and then relearning to wear upon becoming a new mom. Thanks for sharing your story.
 
I recently had the privilege of traveling back to my hometown to spend a week with my sister, Chenika, a new mom of a 2-week old baby, whom I’ll call Baby C.  I brought my daughter, Ziona, with me.  The four of us spent some time at home and some time out doing errands and having fun. Chenika has four types of carriers, so at the end of the week I interviewed her about babywearing and about life with Baby C.

 
Cynthia:  Firstly, how does it feel to be a new mom to Baby C?
Chenika:  It’s mostly joyful and sometimes challenging.  She’s so sweet and small.  I’m in love with her.  But it gets tough when she cries inconsolably at night.
Cynthia:  Most parents definitely understand that.  Now, will you tell me about how you first learned about babywearing?
Chenika:  I first learned about babywearing from seeing your Facebook pictures of using carriers with Ziona.  The first time I used a carrier was when I visited you in D.C. when Ziona was about four months old.  Babywearing made it a breeze to maneuver around D.C.’s Metro system.
Chenika with her niece, Ziona, four years ago
Cynthia:  Tell me about your first experiences with using carriers with Baby C.
Chenika:  Babywearing did not come easily to me even though I was excited about all the carriers I had before Baby C was born.  I learned from you that the both the pouch and the mei tai were too big for my little peanut.  I was too nervous to try the ring sling and the wrap by myself.
 
Cynthia:  During this week that we spent together, when has babywearing come in handy the most?
Chenika:  The carriers were helpful whenever we did errands.  They were really helpful when went out to lunch—you or I could keep her calm while having our hands free to eat (and talk on the phone).  At home the carriers help Baby C to calm down quickly when she gets upset...especially if she’s on the front porch.
Baby C with Aunt Cynthia and cousin Ziona

Cynthia:  Do you want to talk a bit about your first “real” day out after she was born?  When we went to the Missouri Botanical Gardens?
Chenika:    It was definitely helpful to have her in a carrier as we visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens (MOBot).   Baby C’s pediatrician recommended that I don’t let her get too close to many people right away.  When we were in the lobby of MOBot one boy form a large school group on a field trip was overly interested in Baby C.  I was able to engage him in conversation while putting some space between him and my baby.  Also, we had to walk a couple blocks since the parking lot was full.  It was easy to maneuver without a stroller.

Snuggling with mama while waiting in line

Ziona and her Aunt Chenika with Baby C at the MO Botanical Garden

Cynthia:  What made you go out with your newborn?
Chenika:  I thought it would be good for all of us because.  Baby C often gets calm being outside on the front porch—so I thought it would be good for her to get some fresh air and vitamin D.  Also, we had our big kid, Ziona, who needed an outlet for some of her energy.  Plus, I’d been cooped up inside for 2 weeks.
All the beautiful ladies

Cynthia:  When has Babywearing been the least helpful?
Chenika:  So far it has only been helpful.  I accidentally went out one on Sunday without any carriers at all and immediately knew that it was a mistake.  I held her throughout the entire church service while she slept.  Then there was no convenient place to put the car seat while she slept when we went out to lunch after church.



Chenika can eat out with Baby C

Cynthia:  I’d like to hear about your experience using your various carriers.  Can you talk a bit about your pouch?
Chenika:  Before you arrived I tried the pouch several times, but I couldn’t figure out why she disliked it so much.  It was helpful to learn that the pouch I have was too big for me.  I didn’t realize that she shouldn’t be so low on my torso.  I noticed how the pouch was a better fit for you.  I’m going to exchange it for a smaller size.  I think I’ll enjoy having something that I can pop her into quickly.
Aunt Cynthia shows how the pouch fits her better than her sister

Cynthia:  What about your mei tai?
Chenika:  I really like having an easy-to-use, two shouldered carrier.  It has really come in handy.  She’s still a bit small for it, but the modifications that you taught me really help.



The mei tai was a versatile option for both mama and auntie



Cynthia:  What do you think about the ring sling?
Chenika:  I like how small it folds and how snug she is in it.  I’ll keep practicing how to adjust it properly.

Aunt Cynthia could snuggle baby AND do her hair
Snuggles with Aunt Cynthia








 Cynthia:  Will you talk a bit about the wraps you have?
Chenika:  I’m looking forward to learning how to use them.  I love the versatility, though.  I have the woven wrap that you used with Ziona, as well as a hybrid stretch/woven.  I’m happy that I have something that I can pre-tie and then pop her into.
Aunt Cynthia demonstrates the stretchy wrap

Cynthia:  It was fun spending the week with you two.  Thanks for trusting me with your baby!  I am excited that there are carriers that these two cousins will have both been carried in.
I’m also proud that I was the second person to hold Baby C—and the first to wear her…within hours of her birth. I love you two, sis!
Cynthia with a Baby Ziona, 4yrs ago

Aunt Cynthia and her beautiful sister with brand new Baby C

 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wearing a Happy Camper!


 

As summer gets into full swing, it’s a good time to talk about yet another leisure activity during which babywearing is very useful:  camping. My older son was almost two the first time we took him camping. I didn’t wear him much around the campsite, but when he was too excited about being in a tent to sleep, putting him on my back for a walk around the campground came in handy, and of course he rode there for portions of hikes when he was tired or drop-offs were nearby.



Because her brother had already developed a deep and abiding affinity for camping, our daughter’s first camping trip occurred the day she turned four months old. When my husband and I began camping with two children, I really began to see the benefits of babywearing in a camping setting. In no particular order, here are some of those advantages:

1. Babywearing gives you somewhere to put the baby while doing all the things camping out requires— erecting the tent, preparing food, tying up hammocks, gathering kindling for the fire. Aside from the tent itself and baby carriers, we bring no baby-holding devices on our camping trips—no stroller, no bouncy chair, no portable carseat. This not only cuts down on the amount of paraphernalia to squeeze into a car already full of camping gear but also gives the baby a close-up view of all the action

 
2. Babywearing at the campsite keeps older babies and toddlers safe from potential hazards. Although our daughter is not quite mobile yet, I can see this being a huge advantage in our near future. Wearing the baby can keep him or her safe from darting into the road or crawling too close to the fire.

3. Babywearing allows you to interact more fully and easily with older children. If the baby is secured in a carrier, the parent has both hands free to help an older sibling roast marshmallows, play a twilight round of hide-and-seek, catch fireflies, or read a bedtime story.

4. Babywearing allows for more adventurous activities at your camping destination than might be feasible with a stroller or a free-ranging toddler, such as hiking on uneven terrain, wading in streams, or taking in the view from scenic (but potentially dangerous) overlooks.

5.  Babywearing allows the baby to feel safe and secure in a setting away from home. Even at an early age, infants are observing the world around them, and camping out has many differences from eating and sleeping at home.  Being close to his or her parents while experiencing new things, such as listening to birds, peering into a campfire, or swinging in a hammock, can of course be accomplished without baby carriers, but they do make it more convenient. Wearing can also help babies settle down and fall asleep more easily, despite being in an unfamiliar setting.
All in all, we continue to love camping and hiking with our children, and babywearing greatly contributes to the ease with which this can be accomplished.

 
 Posted by Genny
 


 



Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's HOT!

IT’S HOT
by Shel Silverstein
It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade.
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky.
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ’lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

This poem is often what comes to mind when people ask about wearing in the heat.  To some degree, you can do a million different things to try to make wearing cooler, but at the end of the day, on a 95 degree high humidity day in DC, strapping a little heater to yourself isn't going to make you cooler.  I consider this my personal reminder system to take regular water/nursing/bottle breaks for you and baby.  It is also a good reminder that breaks in the shade or AC are a good plan.  Baby in a stroller is just as hot, but you might be less aware because YOU aren't as hot. So, no matter how you transport baby, when taking baby out on a hot day, pay attention to hydration and sun exposure for both of you.

There are some things you can do to mitigate (but not eliminate) the heat.  Some people find that it is helpful to use a mei tai or soft structure carrier.  They seem to allow for a little more air movement between parent and baby.  With twins you can wear both a mei tai AND a soft structure carrier!

 
Some prefer to use a mei tai or SSC that has a mesh panel or is made from a tech fabric like a  performance nylon or with a mesh interior for increased air movement. 


 
A few such carriers are even labeled for use in the water!
 
Some wearers have found that exercise cooling towels can bring a little relief on a hot day.  These work through water evaporation, but apparently once wrung out they don't get you wet.  Many put these between themselves and an older baby or toddler, or between the child and the carrier.  I don't recommend putting it against a small baby, but you can still drape it around your neck for cooling.  You can see K has one hanging out from between them.  Even a low tech wet wash cloth can be used, but you'll feel much wetter... I'd reserve that for an all day festival where you're going to feel wet and gross no matter what.
 
One popular brand of the high tech towels is Frogg Togg, but many have found cheaper versions at discount stores.
 
Other wearers prefer to stick with the comfort of wraps on a hot day.  They feel the support of a wrap overshadows any minor increase in warmth.  However, certain carries can feel cooler on a hot day.  Single layer carries can relieve a little heat, especially if you dress baby in little to no clothing. In general, as long as baby is big enough for back carries, most people find back carries to feel cooler than front carries. 
 

 
 
When working in the house or garden, you can even remove your shirt.  A double hammock carry can be done shirtless to give you the least extra layers.
 

 
Another carrier style that is popular in the hot summer months is a ring sling.  It is one layer of fabric all the way around and it can come in a variety of fabrics including linen and a mesh that works in the water or out.  This can be a great option for a newborn that isn't ready for back carries.
 


 
Whenever possible, it's a good idea to help keep baby out of the sun.  Large sun hats (with a chin strap) are a great option.  Some families use an umbrella as a parasol, but another option is a carrier sun cover.
 
 
Finally, when all else fails, get wet!
 
 

 

And when you're finished in the pool, that water sling will help get a slippery baby showered off!




Other accessories that can help with cooling include those little personal fans or a misting bottle (or those combo fan/misters).  Hopefully some of this will help with making babywearing a great way to transport baby to every summer activity your family wants to enjoy!